Wood stoves are in the same category as stove-top percolators and charcoal barbecues—they take a little work to use and maintain, but their old-school appeal is well worth the effort. If you’ve just installed a wood stove, here are the things you need to know.
Make sure your wood is dry
Ever tried to burn water? That’s what you’re doing when you burn wood that’s green, which can be up to 50 percent water. If you cut your own wood, give it at least one summer to dry out or “season” (although leaving it for two summers is even better). If you get wood from someone else, make sure it’s been dried properly. An ideal moisture content for stove wood is around 15 to 20 percent.
Choose the right wood
Hard, dense woods like oak and maple are great for high-heat fires in the depths of winter. Softer woods, like willow, pine, and poplar are better for warmer days in the spring and fall. These woods light more easily and burn more quickly.
Store your wood properly
Don’t leave firewood on the ground. If you do, it can get damp, attract bugs, and even mould. Stack wood on rails in an open area exposed to the wind and sun (not in the shade or in a shed) while it’s seasoning, and cover just the tops of the stacks. Once it’s seasoned, move it into a storage area that’s sheltered. Also be careful not to keep a lot of wood inside your cottage, since mould and moisture will affect your indoor air quality.
Build a better fire
Small, hot fires are far better for efficiency and the cleanliness of your stove and chimney than long, smouldering ones. To build a stable fire, follow one of these two methods:
- Place two logs parallel to each other with space between them. Fill the space with kindling ( newspaper and smaller, lighter pieces of wood). Place heavier kindling crosswise over the logs and light the newspaper.
- Place a layer of firewood, then a layer of heavy kindling, then lighter kindling. Roll up four or five pieces of newspaper and place them around or in front of the kindling. Light the paper.
Keep things clean
Creosote, which forms when flue gases condense, is highly flammable once it dries. Keep creosote formation to a minimum by building small fires with well-seasoned wood, and by getting your chimney cleaned regularly.