DCP: Advice on Choosing, Buying and Storing Firewood

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October 5, 2010


Department of Consumer Protection’s Advice on Choosing, Buying and Storing Firewood

HARTFORD, October 5 – Despite this year’s warm spring and summer, colder weather is undoubtedly on the way. As more people turn to firewood to supplement their primary heating fuel, Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell has advice for anyone planning to buy wood this year.


“When shopping for firewood, remember that some types of wood are naturally smoky, others are hard to split, some throw a lot of sparks, and a few are great for burning,” he said today. “Generally speaking, hardwoods make better firewood than softwoods, and because of this, are often priced higher.”


Below is a list of woods commonly available in this area, along with a description of how they burn.


Ash burns at medium to high heat and very easily. Emits very little smoke or sparks, easily split; excellent firewood.

Oak burns at a high heat level. Emits little smoke or spark but not easy to split. Still an excellent firewood, because it produces a lot of heat.

Black Birch burns at medium to high heat levels and burns fairly well.  Easy to split, does not smoke much nor release many sparks. Overall, an excellent firewood choice.

Maples burn at medium heat levels. They are easy to burn but not easy to split. Do not smoke or spark much.

Walnut burns at medium heat level, is easy to burn and does not throw sparks or smoke much.

Elm burns at medium heat levels, not as easy to burn and somewhat smoky. Not ideal as firewood.

Chestnut is the worst of the hardwoods for firewood. It burns at low heat and although easy to split, smokes somewhat heavily and throws a good amount of sparks.

Softwoods – can create creosote, but less so if well seasoned.

White Cedar, Western and Eastern Red Cedar all burn at low heat; very easy to burn. Easy to split but emit some heavy smoke and lots of sparks.

White Pine, Sugar Pine are easy to burn at low heat levels.  Easily split though they smoke some and spark a bit.

Hemlock burns at low heat levels, is easy to burn, but will spark.

Spruce is a poor firewood choice because it burns at low heat, smokes somewhat heavily and sparks.


Commissioner Farrell offers these additional buying and storing suggestions for firewood:

  • For safety’s sake, if you burn wood, particularly soft wood, have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year.
  • “Seasoning” firewood is drying it out so it burns at its best ability. Some wood has almost half its weight in water when first cut.  For example, freshly cut Red Oak can be a very “wet” wood. If wood is burned when it is still too "wet," the fire will be smoky if it burns at all.
  • Seasoned wood shows large cracks and makes a distinct hollow sound when two pieces are knocked together.
  • Check with your community to see if there are any restrictions about where firewood can be placed on your property, how close it can be to adjoining properties and how much you can have.
  • Know the length of wood that your stove, fireplace or fireplace insert can burn. The standard length for firewood is 16 inches, although some larger units can take wood as large as 20 inches or more. Be sure to ask for the length you need when ordering firewood.
  • Buy Connecticut-grown. Bringing in firewood from other parts of the country could easily import invasive pests like the Asian Long-horned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer. The Connecticut Agricultural Station has information about identifying these pests and others at www.ct.gov/caes
  • Know how to measure a cord of wood. A standard cord is tightly stacked wood that measures 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and totals 128 cubic feet in all. Regardless of the length of wood you order, once it’s delivered and stacked, a full cord will still measure a total of 128 cubic feet.
  • Wood prices vary by type of wood and whether or not it’s seasoned. For this winter, you must get seasoned firewood.  Green or fresh cut wood will generally not burn well.
  • Check prices with multiple wood dealers in your area and ask friends, family and neighbors where they get their wood and how much they pay per cord. Currently, seasoned firewood in Connecticut sells at about $220 a cord.
  • If possible, go to the wood seller, check out the wood, load it and take it home yourself. 
  • Firewood should be stacked where sun and wind can help dry it out or keep it dry. This winter’s firewood should be stacked on pallets or cinder blocks to prevent ground moisture from seeping into the wood, causing rot. 
  • By the same token, don’t lay a tarp directly on the wood, as that increases the chance of moisture getting trapped underneath and rotting it.
  • If you have firewood delivered, be home when it arrives, pay a little extra to have it stacked upon delivery, and then measure it. If you ordered a full cord and it isn't 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long or a total of 128 cubic inches, don't pay for it until the full cord is provided. 
  • In general, two full-size pickup truckloads or four compact pickup truckloads will stack up to about one cord of wood. However, only by stacking it can you be sure you got the full measure.

If you have a dispute with a seller about a firewood delivery that you can’t resolve, please contact the Department of Consumer Protection at 860-713-6160 or 1-800-842-2649.