In the same way that bread does not grow in farmers’ fields, quality firewood doesn’t simply grow on trees. Before a fresh cut log or windfall becomes firewood it needs to be processed to a condition suitable for burning. A fresh cut log simply will not provide the heat or flame required from firewood.
The first step, and one of the most important, is to split the logs as soon as possible. Moisture does not escape easily from round logs and splitting reveals the inner wood to let the moisture out. A good supplier will ensure that this is done before stacking his products for seasoning.
Freshly cut wood should be carefully stacked, off the ground and under cover from rain, in a way that will let sun and wind pass over and through the stack. Fresh cut wood in the west of Scotland has a moisture content of 50% – 60% and this needs to be reduced to below 25% before the log can realistically be called “firewood”.
Check with your supplier before ordering that the wood is truly seasoned and is under 25% moisture. Also be sure about the quantity of wood to be delivered and the species if possible. A builder’s or ton bag is not one cubic metre but generally .73 of a cubic metre (90cm * 90cm *90cm) and when taken from the bag and stacked will be about .44 of a cubic metre. Softwoods will be bulkier and give less heat for any given volume where hardwoods will be heavier, slower burning and hotter. Ideally, invest in a moisture meter (about £15 – £20.00) and check the moisture content before the wood is unloaded.
For assured quality, consider kiln dried firewood where the moisture content should be under 20% and the wood is more likely to be tightly packed in nets with a given volume. Packed nets give a true indication of the stacked volume of wood so multiply the nets by the volume for the total stacked cubic quantity.