Don't Get Burned: Tips on How to Buy Firewood

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Woman reading by fire, for tips on buying firewoodFew things are as comforting as a fire in the fireplace on a cold December night. Unfortunately, this romantic vision and an unfamiliarity with firewood has led some consumers to overpay or pay for a poor-quality product. How to buy firewood need not be a knotty problem, though; just follow this checklist.

Look for Well-Seasoned Wood
What you want is wood that was cut and split six to 12 months earlier and has had time to dry down. This wood will appear gray and feel surprisingly light in the hand. Good firewood will have moisture content of 20% or less.Know Your Wood Types
Soft wood, such as pine, is commonly available, but it may not be what you want. Hard woods, such as oak, hickory and walnut, burn twice as hot and last longer. Be aware that you'll pay more for hard woods, though, at least $150 a cord in the Midwest.

Know Your Quantities
The gold standard unit for firewood is the cord, which is a stack of wood precisely 4 feet high, 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The cord is the only unit of measure recognized by the Weights and Measures Division of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

You can buy wood in fractions of a cord, such as half or quarter of a cord. Other quantities, such as a truck-full or a pallet, have no legal definition, and can make it easy for an unethical seller to charge you more than he could when dealing with a standard cord price.

Stack to Measure
When your firewood is delivered, have it stacked in cord form to make sure you're getting full measure for your dollar.

Stack it to Last
Make sure the stack is at least 6 inches off the ground and partially cover it with a tarp if it is exposed to the elements. Order a year's supply at a time to avoid losing wood to rot.

Don't Stack the Wood Against Your House or Garage
It could provide a dandy home for insects that might also munch on your house. It can also trap moisture against your home, which can lead to damage.

Know Your Use Pattern
A cord of wood is a lot of wood for a decorative fireplace, but not all that much for a stove used as the primary heat source in an abode. Knowing how much you typically use can keep you from buying too much.
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