Firewood: To Burn it Clean, Don’t Burn it Green

The Golden and District Air Quality Committee discuss how to choose and store your firewood.

Annette Luttermann

Golden and District Air Quality Committee

As we mentioned in our last article on wood burning and air pollution in Golden, one of the possible reasons for the non-stop smoke coming from your chimney is firewood that is not dry enough.  When first cut, softwoods such as Douglas fir and pine may contain up to 60 per cent moisture. In order to burn efficiently, your firewood should have less than 20 per cent  moisture and ideally less than 15 per cent.

Soggy wood will smoulder and smoke up the neighbourhood. You will be using part of your fuel to evaporate water rather than heat your home.

Choose Your Firewood Carefully

If you buy your wood from a local supplier it will generally be sold per cord which is measured 1.2 x 1.2 x 2.4 meters (4 x 4 x 8 ft), or 128 cubic ft. Hard and soft woods produce variable amounts of heat depending on their density. See the chart below for some tree species available in the Golden area.

Other convenient options for folks who find that stacking and splitting firewood is a chore, are products such as North Idaho Energy Logs are available here in Golden. Made from highly compressed 100 per cent waste wood with no chemical binders, they have only 5-6 per cent moisture content, produce less emissions and less ash. Use adequate kindling to first build a good hot coal bed before placing energy logs in your stove.

How do you tell if the wood is dry enough?

1. Look for checks or cracks across the end grain.

2. Wood that is good and dry is much lighter in weight and makes a bright crack if banged together rather than a dull thud.

3. Dry wood ignites quickly in less than a minute and burns easily without smouldering.

4. You can use a moisture meter on the split surface to get an accurate idea of how dry it is.  Ask the Golden and District Air Quality Committee if you would like to borrow one.

Firewood Storage

Firewood must be split in order to dry well. Even trees that have been dead for some time can still hold far too much moisture to burn well. To ensure that your wood is dry enough to burn in time for the heating season, you should get it in the spring, split it and store it under cover. Softwoods split and stored in a dry place can take 4-6 months to season. Hardwoods may take much longer.

Your fire wood should be stacked outdoors, up off the ground, and covered on top with good air circulation all around if possible. A wood pile that is on the damp ground and completely enclosed in tarps will accumulate condensation. You could end up with more moisture than you started with.

For more information on air quality in Golden visit