About Buying Firewood
We get many calls from people either with questions about buying their seasons supply of firewood or what they can do after recently purchasing wood they were less than happy with. There are a few things you should know about wood and the laws regarding selling firewood that will help you make the best decision when making your firewood purchase.
Selecting a Firewood Dealer
When selecting a firewood dealer you should take several things into consideration.
Are They Licensed?
If the dealer is in the firewood business, they shall have a Forest Products Operators License issued by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Forest Service. The Maryland Forest Service can provide you with a list of licensed operators in your area. If you have found a potential dealer, you can easily check if they are properly licensed by calling (410) 260-8531 or by using this link: www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/fpo_search.asp, select "firewood" and your county.
If you haven't worked with a particular dealer before, they should be willing to offer you references of customers they have delivered wood to before. If they're not willing to offer you a list of customers, those customers may not be happy ones.
Problems with a Firewood Dealer
Maryland law states that firewood must be sold by a cord or a fraction of a cord. This is enforced by the Maryland Department of Agriculture's - Weights and Measures section. If you have a concern about the volume of wood you have paid for you should contact them at (410) 841-5790. Note: they only handle matters where the volume of wood is in dispute.
Know What You Are Buying
Be smart when you talk with a dealer and know what kind of wood you need before you make the call. Some things to consider:
So, what is a cord?
A cord is a measurement of wood that when neatly stacked and rowed equals 128 cubic feet. This stack measures 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long or its equivalent (which means stack it neatly any way you like as long as it equals 128 cubic feet).
Not all wood is created equal!
Different woods have different qualities. Oak creates a lasting fire and splits easily. But oak may be expensive and other woods may work just as well. Some woods are less dense and have different splitting and coaling qualities.
Here is a short comparative list.
Species Ease of Start Coaling Quality Ease to Split ash fair good yes beech poor good yes cherry poor excellent yes dogwood good good yes elm fair good no gum fair fair no hickory fair excellent yes locust, black poor excellent no maple, sugar fair excellent yes oak, red fair excellent yes pine, white excellent poor yes
Firewood Species Based on Air-Dried Standard (4'X4'X8') Cords
Species Btu/Cord black locust 26,500,000 hickory 25,400,000 hophornbeam 24,700,000 beech 21,800,000 hard maple 21,800,000 red oak 21,700,000 yellow birch 21,300,000 yellow pine 20,500,000 white ash 20,000,000 white oak 19,200,000 soft maple 19,100,000 black cherry 18,500,000 white birch 18,200,000 sweetgum 18,100,000 elm 17,700,000 yellow poplar 15,900,00 hemlock 15,000,000 red spruce 15,000,000 fir 13,500,000 white pine 13,300,000 basswood 12,600,000
Species Relative Amount of Heat Ease of Burning Ease of Splitting Production of Heavy Smoke Production of Sparks General Rating ash, red oak, white oak, beech, birch, hickory, hard maple high high high low low excellent soft maple, black cherry medium high high low low good elm, sweetgum medium medium low medium low fair basswood, yellow poplar low high high medium low fair yellow pine high high high high low good white pine medium high high medium high fair spruce low high high medium high poor
Is the Wood Dry?
The more moisture in your wood, the less heat you will get from it. It takes energy to burn the water out of wood (it may make a hissing sound). This is energy that should be used in warming your house. Generally, the dryer the wood, the more you'll pay for it.
Some indicators of dry wood:
What Size Do I Need?
- Color - look for grayness
- Bark - a sure sign that firewood is dry is bark that is falling off the wood
- Checks - as wood dries it will begin to split on the ends
- Touch - fresh cut wood may feel wet on the end
Know what sized wood your woodstove or fireplace can use. Most dealers will cut wood into certain lengths (for example 18"). To get special lengths you may have to special order it early or pay a premium.
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Questions, comments, and suggestions can be directed to Maryland DNR.
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