Preparing your firewood for winter
An open fire has to be one of the nicest and cosiest ways to keep your house warm. The crackle of the logs, the gentle flicker of the flame; surely there is no greater cure for a winter frost! It's all very romantic, and whilst we are not seeing them in more modern housing, they are making a bit of a comeback as a living room feature. I certainly know some people who choose this method to heat their homes over winter, and I'm sure there are many more out there.
Getting the most of your wood is key if you want to get maximum efficiency from your fire. You certainly don't want to be out in the cold chopping wood more than you have to be! Seasoned wood burns hotter and is also safer to use. It deposits less carbon in your fire and chimney - so less time spent on your knees cleaning out the fire and having your chimney cleaned, and a great reduction in the chance of a chimney fire.
Making sure your wood is well seasoned is the key. Work a season-ahead - ideally you should be felling fresh wood the winter before you need to it, and longer if you can. This will give it plenty of time to dry out for an optimum burn. Aim for a moisture content of 20% or less - it's worth taking a moisture meter to your wood every so often and be sure to split the wood to test the center where the moisture will be greater. A good way to see whether your wood is seasoned, or not, is to look for cracking in the end grain. The wood will begin to crack as it contracts as the moisture dries out - the more the better.
If you do fell and chop your own wood ready for the store, it's worth while keeping your axe or chainsaw sharp, as this will make preparation much easier. Using a log splitter is a safe way to chop wood and will also help reduce any unnecessary work, helping you keep your wood tidy and easy to manage.
If you buy your wood pre-cut, as I'm sure most do, storing it correctly is key to keep the wood in a good condition. It's worth investing in a well-built wood store to keep the wood in its prime. Ensure that your store is dry and able to keep the rain out. Build it in a well-ventilated area to help keep the moisture down and avoid keeping the wood inside where possible, as the humidity will prevent seasoning.
All this will help maintain your wood that in turn will reward you with a better burn and more time to spend cooking those marshmallows.
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