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

Sacie Lambertson sacie.lambertson at gmail.com
Tue Dec 13 08:22:25 PST 2011

Thank you for the excellent details Reuben and Corwyn.  I too remember some
wonderful exchanges with Norbert and this group but don't recall the
specifics.  I think it is from you Reuben however, I learned of the top
down method, kind of a magic trick if anyone is watching.  My difference is
while I too might put several pieces of thoroughly scrunched newspaper on
top of my larger logs, these rest over the twigs, which rest on the heat of
the overnight burn--in other words, my stack is conventional, except for
the paper on the top.   Top paper works only if there is existing real heat
at the base.

(The ashes---- most of which I discard to my ash pile outdoors when I clean
out the stove in the morning--I used to scatter it in the woods but always
had to be careful to make sure the ashes were cold before I did and that's
hard to do bec. the ashes retain their heat--anyway, last year I started a
distinct ash pile which I will wheelbarrow off next spring, so much easier
now to just dump ashes, hot or not).  It is funny how one learns new
lessons even after many years of making fires.

I have a totally fabulous stove that is surrounded by ceramics--bought it
in a great sale before we began to build our house, made by Austroflamm.  I
am completely sold on stoves that retain heat, which I presume soapstone
does as well.  Mine has a small firebox, holding a max of four pieces of
split wood, preferably no more than 18 inches long, 16" better.  Burn only
hard wood, all from our land.  I was tickled to read Corwyn speak of many
cords of wood because each year I get fussed about mid-summer thinking we
don't have sufficient wood; this year my partner did an exact calculation
of our resulting efforts, which we bettered over previous years by a good
bit, ending with 6.5 cords mostly uncovered stacked wood, some of it rather
old.  Enough for several years ahead.  (And we have a cabin on our land
which also uses wood when it is occupied, as now).

This is one of my more favorite around-the-land jobs---splitting and

Wood is various oak, hickory, bk walnut and best of all Osage Orange
(Hedge).  I don't fuss with sizes of the kindling, though most are the same
length.  I just throw in a small handful, maybe three pieces of crumbled
newspaper and a couple pieces of smaller diameter wood with a couple splits
on top.  (Newspaper is on top of all if there is real heat in the ashes at
the base).

I leave the door ajar and the damper at the base of the stove open.  Within
10-15 min I have a good fire going, after which I close the damper and the
door.  I need to fill the stove in about an hour, feeding it throughout the
day when I think about it.  We used 1.5 cords of wood year before last,
closer to 2 last year when it was colder.  This year I am carefully
measuring what I use.  I am profligate in my use of wood and our house is
therefore warmer than the others mentioned--at least the main room where
the stove is located is.

Open and very contemporary in style with very high ceilings, the house is
3x+ the size of Corwin's in a 5300 HDD climate.  Wood stove heats about
1700 sq ft, but doesn't reach the 700 sq feet in the walk-out basement
which is an office and inner TV room, nor a large bathroom on the main
floor all of which uses radiant floor heat.  We never heat our 200 sq ft
bedroom, indeed open the windows there throughout the winter (put gaskets
on a sliding door that leads down to the rest of the house.)

As for insulation, I have never had a blower test done and I am pretty sure
we are a bit leaky.  (For sure not only would I not construct another house
the same way but I also would detail it differently if I did).  We should
have R36-40 in the ceilings, R 24 in the walls.  And yes, I too would use
more insulation--ours is entirely EPS.

Some of you must have a much larger fire box than do we, given the fact I
keep our fire going all the time but use about the same amount of wood each
winter (as does Reuben who lives in a warmer place)  Our stove pipe is
clean year after year, thanks to hot never-smoldering fires.  Burn from
about the middle of Oct to middle of April.  This year started a bit later.

I think it very important to burn dry wood.  I bring ours indoors, a very
large armload every day, to acclimate to a drier place before I begin to
burn it.  I never burn wood from stacks less than two years old.

Let's hear from more of you who burn wood please.  There are obviously many
ways of doing it right.  I love heating with wood but it *is* messy.  Our
floors are concrete however with rugs out of the traffic and not near the

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