[Greenbuilding] firewood moisture content - a question for Norbert perhaps

Corwyn corwyn at midcoast.com
Tue Dec 13 09:08:06 PST 2011

On 12/12/2011 11:19 PM, Sacie Lambertson wrote:
> Since we heat our home primarily with wood, this is most interesting to
> me (though possibly better for another forum).  What is the stove you or
> Reuben use and what is the space you heat that allows just one or so
> burns a day?  I am presuming good insulation.
> And what is it you do to create a very hot fire from the
> beginning--would appreciate the specific times involved in each step
> when you describe your process.  Starting from coals of the night
> before....or from scratch...

I have a Hearthstone Phoenix (one of the first in the beautiful 
semi-gloss blue black) 
It is rated at 60,000 BTUs (per hour).  Any modern stove with an EPA 
rating, with a glass door, should be fine.  I would recommend not 
getting a catalytic version, as they do wear out, and can be costly to 

I burn wood that I collect of my land, which means that I generally end 
up with either what needed to be cut, or what happens to fall.  Mostly 
this means oak, quaking aspen, cherry, beech and pine.  I am not as 
conscientious as, say Bill Copperthwaite ("The richest man in Maine" 
with 5 years worth of cut-split-stacked wood).  I do make sure to get 2 
cords stacked in the basement before winter.

My theory of fire-building is that all other theories about 
fire-building get it wrong.  People will talk endlessly about what 
materials they use, the order the stack it, even the shapes they make. 
I think only two things matter: surface area and gaps.  To start up a 
fire you need a lot of surface area (tinder, kindling).  The gaps 
between any two pieces should be as consistent as possible, and around 
1/2" to 3/4".  No more, no less.  I generally start with some paper, 
perhaps a fire starter (single egg carton section with sawdust and 
melted wax), then some kindling (either sticks or small splits), then 
some logs.  I often just build the whole things and set it ablaze 
(especially in the winter when I am in a groove).  I burn with the stove 
door ajar until things are burning well, then close it.  I regulate the 
air to get a nice hot burn, and almost never close it all the way down. 
  It is important to remember that the control is like a tuning knob not 
a volume knob; adjust until you get a proper burn.  A proper burn should 
have lots of translucent purplish flames, not opaque yellow ones.  If 
you have a downdraft stove, make sure that the air from above is igniting.

I never expect there to be coals remaining by the time I am ready to 
build another fire; a box of matches is $1 for a years supply, and I am 
ensured of getting flames right away rather than producing tons of smoke 
trying to get coals to reignite.  That said, I did light a fire with the 
coals from a fire roughly 60 hours previous once.  It was a fluke.

I have a larger house than Reuben, with a footprint of around 864 square 
feet, and two floors above ground, and a non-isolated basement
below.  The house is technically a high-post cape, but the second floor 
extends all the way to the peak of the roof.  Insulation is around R-40 
on wall and roof, R-20 basement walls, R-10 slab.  NOTE: This is NOT 
what I would do now.  I would use more.  For more information on the 
house see: http://www.greenfret.com/house/house.html

Last night, the temperature in the house was around 65F and I was (for 
some reason) feeling cold.  I lit the fire around 9:00pm when the 
outside temp was 25F (and got down to 22).  The wood was a bit wet, and 
I filled the stove only the once.  This morning the house bottomed out 
at 64F before the sun started warming it again.  We get around 7500 HDD 
here on the coast of Maine.

Thank You Kindly,


Topher Belknap
Green Fret Consulting
Kermit didn't know the half of it...
topher at greenfret.com
(207) 882-7652

More information about the Greenbuilding mailing list