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by Wendy Stackhouse · October 18, 2013

Guest Blog: Smart Firewood Tactics for Avoiding Mold and Termites

Firewood

There’s a good reason “hearth” is all but synonymous with “home.” Families have gathered around the hypnotic flames and welcoming warmth of fire since time immemorial. But if you have a wood burning fireplace, you want to be sure you are not bringing mold, termites or invasive species into your home as you carry in logs for your fire.

Buy Firewood from Reputable Local Dealers

Insist on locally cut firewood. Transporting firewood over long distances can spread invasive species such as Emerald Ash Bore.

A reputable dealer will be selling hardwoods such as elm, beech, maple, oak or ash instead of softwoods like pine or spruce for firewood. Pine firewood produces excessive creosote build-up in the flue when it burns, requiring more frequent chimney cleanings to avoid the hazards of a chimney fire.

Why Firewood Needs Seasoning

Burning firewood that has not been properly dried (“seasoned”) is a waste of energy and can create an unpleasantly smoky fire. Hardwoods take about a year to season while softwoods can take about half that.

Split firewood dries more thoroughly than logs, so split your logs into wedges before you stack them. Create wedges no larger than 6 inches wide.

How to Stack Your Firewood to Deter Mold and Termites

The way you stack your split firewood can not only hasten its drying but also deter mold from developing on the firewood and termites from invading it.

Select a sunny spot for your firewood stack. The firewood stack should not be touching your home, outbuildings or fence.

Build your firewood stack on a metal firewood rack that keeps the firewood off the ground. Using wooden rails or pallets under the firewood can provide a direct path for termites from the ground into your wood.

Each piece of firewood in your stack should have its split side facing downward. Line up the bottom layer with all the firewood pieces parallel to each other with the ends facing outward. For the second layer, turn all the pieces 90 degrees. Continue alternating each layer in the opposite direction of the layer below it.

Cover only the top row or two of your firewood stack with a tarp to protect it from rain and snow. It is important to leave the rest of the woodpile uncovered. This allows the air to circulate freely, not only drying out your firewood but also preventing the growth of mold. When you need firewood, by taking it from the top row, you are always assured of wood that has been protected from precipitation.

You’ll know that your firewood is ready to burn when it passes these four tests:

    • Is it darker, grayer, and less weighty than fresh wood?
    • When you knock two pieces together, does it make a hollow sound?
    • Do you see cracks on the ends of at least some of the split wood?
    • Is the bark getting loose or starting to fall off?

Preventing Animals from Entering Your Home through the Chimney

One more entry for unwanted pests is your chimney. If it is not covered with a chimney cap, birds, squirrels, raccoons, snakes and other unwanted critters can make their way into your home via the chimney flue. If bees or other flying insects are a problem in your area, consider a Lyemance damper. It fastens to the very top of your chimney flue, seals with a gasket when your fireplace is not in use, and opens from inside the fireplace with a cable when you are ready for a fire.

By buying your firewood from a reputable dealer and by properly dying it, you will reduce the risk of bringing termites or mold into your home when it’s time for a fire in the fireplace.

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