DEEP: Goodwin Conservation Center Provides Tips For Buying Firewood

August 6, 2008

Goodwin Conservation Center Provides
Tips for Buying Firewood

Good old fashioned firewood may be a viable alternative
for heating your home this coming winter

As more and more homeowners are looking at burning wood as an alternative to the high cost of heating oil, the Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center offers some suggestions on how to buy the best and most efficient wood.

BUY LOCALLY: A listing of Connecticut Certified Forest Products Harvesters is available at, for the convenience of purchasing firewood near your home. Moving firewood from long distances can spread insects and diseases that kill trees. Buying locally helps the local economy and promotes good forestry.

LOOK FOR THE RIGHT WOOD: Hardwoods (from deciduous, leaf-bearing trees) are generally denser and can have up to twice as much heat value per cord as softwoods (from coniferous, needle-bearing trees). Softwoods are also harder to burn without forming dangerous amounts of creosote in stovepipes and chimneys. Connecticut is in a region whose forests are over 80% hardwood, so this is rarely a problem, but it makes sense to ask from where the wood is harvested.

GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: Firewood sold in Connecticut must be sold either by weight (not advisable for stove wood) or by the "standard cord" or fraction thereof. A standard cord is "one hundred twenty eight cubic feet of compactly piled wood," which works out to a stacked pile 4 feet high, 4 feet deep and 8 feet long. Selling wood by any other measure, such as a truckload or face cord, is prohibited by law. Be sure to specify the piece length you need, so you donít get wood too long to fit into your firebox.

BURN SEASONED WOOD: Burning freshly cut "green" wood is dangerous. Up to half the weight of green wood is water, which must be heated to steam and driven off before the wood can reach temperatures required for combustion. The result is a fire that is hard to start, hard to keep going and provides far less usable heat for the home.

Burning green wood is also more likely to result in a creosote problem. Creosote forms when temperatures drop too low in the stovepipe or chimney, and unburned but volatile gases in the smoke condense on those surfaces. Once enough creosote has accumulated, a hot fire can cause it to ignite, creating a dangerous chimney fire.

Seasoned wood is defined by law as having been "cut and air dried for at least six months." Whether or not a load of wood is seasoned may not be obvious to the untrained eye. Here are a few clues:

  • Because wood shrinks when it dries, seasoned wood will have cracks or "checks" on the ends, and bark will be loose on at least some of the pieces.
  • Seasoned wood is lighter than green, and banging two pieces together can produce a type of popping sound rather than a dull thud.
  • The ends of at least some of the seasoned pieces will have a grey, weathered look.

DONíT DELAY: Consumers who wait until the first frost to purchase their wood may have trouble finding wood, will often pay more and are more likely to end up with green wood. Buying wood early and stacking it is the best way to ensure a seasoned wood supply. When stacking, keep the wood covered and leave at least 6 inches of air space between each pile for maximum drying.

BURN SAFELY: To keep your home both warm and safe, proper installation and operation of your wood stove, furnace or fireplace is essential.

The Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center is a Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection facility operated jointly by DEP, the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and the UConn Cooperative Extension Service.


Eastern Connecticut

Sherwood Raymond
Goodwin State Forest
23 Potter Road
Hampton, CT 06247
(860) 455-0699 (voice and FAX)

Western Connecticut

Larry Rousseau
Western District Headquarters
230 Plymouth Road
Harwinton, CT 06791
(860) 485-0226 (voice)
(860) 485-1638 (FAX)

Stephen H. Broderick
Senior Extension Educator,
Forestry & Natural Resources
Extension Center
139 Wolf Den Road
Brooklyn, CT 06234
(voice) (860) 774-9600
(FAX) (860) 774-9480

Central Connecticut

Robert Rocks
Eastern District Headquarters
209 Hebron Road
Marlborough, CT 06447
(860) 295-9523 (voice)
(860) 344-2941 (FAX)