As winter approaches, many of us are either using or preparing to use firewood as a way to chase away the chill of the season. Fuel wood can be an economical and enjoyable way to heat our homes, but it must be used with a few precautions in mind.
When cutting and hauling firewood, it is important to know how much wood weighs, as well as the load capacity of the truck or trailer hauling the fuel. It is not unusual to see overturned trailers or trucks due to overloading. Common species used for fuel wood can weigh as much as 75 lbs. per cubic foot when cut and it is very easy to exceed a truck’s weight capacity by loading based on volume.
If purchasing wood from a vendor, it pays to know how firewood is measured. Firewood is generally sold using a volume measurement. A cord is a neatly stacked pile of wood measuring four feet by eight feet with each piece of wood four feet in length. In Kentucky, wood is often sold by the truckload, which allows for quite a bit of variability.
One should also be familiar with the density of the wood purchased. All species of wood have similar energy content per unit of weight. The problem is that wood is purchased on a volume basis. Therefore, a cord of yellow poplar will yield far less warmth than a cord of red oak.
Once the firewood is home, it should be dried for optimum burning. Freshly cut wood can easily contain close to half its weight in water. If not dried prior to burning, much of the energy released will go toward drying the wood. In other words, a very cold fire will result from burning wet wood. This can lead to problems such as smoldering and creosote buildup and poor draft up the chimney.
Stored firewood is often a good hiding place for a number of kinds of insects.
Most insects in firewood won’t harm people or their homes. But insects emerging from firewood can concern homeowners.
Some pests such as termites, wood-boring beetles and carpenter ants tunnel into firewood and feed within the logs; others simply hide or overwinter underneath the bark. These include centipedes, spiders, scorpions, wood cockroaches, ground beetles, sowbugs and pillbugs. The only harm these hibernators typically cause is annoyance as they crawl or fly around the house upon emerging within a few days after the logs are bought indoors.
Mike Potter, an extension entomologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, offers these tips to keep firewood insects out in the cold:
— Store firewood outdoors away from the house and off the ground. Stacking logs off the ground increases air circulation for drying and helps prevent moisture problems. One way is to stack firewood on poles suspended between concrete blocks or on old pallets.
— Burn older wood first to reduce the length of time insects have to become established in the logs.
— Before bringing firewood inside, shake or knock logs together to dislodge insects clinging to the bark. Check the bottom of log carriers because insects often crawl into them when logs are brought indoors.
— Bring only enough firewood indoors to be used immediately or within a few hours. Pests emerge from firewood kept indoors for an extended period of time. This wood also can become a nesting site for rodents.
— Use a broom or vacuum cleaner to eliminate the occasional insect emerging from firewood.
For additional information, please contact the Clark County Extension Office at 744-4682.