By: Jenna Nees, Purdue Extension ANR Educator – Putnam County
With the cold weather we are experiencing and the cold weather certain to come this winter, it is important to discuss home heating related to fireplace safety. In the past, houses have burned because of soot collecting around the top of the chimney catching fire. That soot then rolls off onto the roof catching the roof on fire. Therefore, it is extremely important that you inspect and clean the chimney and stove or fireplace prior to starting a fire.
There are numerous products on the market to help clean your chimney. However, there are no good substitutes for properly cleaning the chimney with the correct sized brush and doing a thorough inspection for cracks or other problems. Besides having this done prior to starting a fire, you will also want to clean your chimney after you burn any “green” wet wood. Therefore, it is best to avoid these types of wood (this would include pine).
If you haven’t had a chance to cut enough wood for the upcoming winter or are realizing you are going through your wood faster than you anticipated, then you have a few options available to help relieve your stress. The first option would be to find some downed trees. One tree to look for is Ash since it is a heavy wood that burns good and has low moisture content. If you would like to burn trees that are known to have a good fragrance, then try to cut down apple, black cherry, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, osage-orange, and eastern redcedar trees. If you do not want to search for fallen trees or harvest standing trees, another option may be to purchase firewood.
Purchasing firewood can be a confusing task if you do not know some of the terminology. A cord is a volume measurement of 4’x4’x8’ or 128 cubic feet wood, bark, and air space. Value is greater for the better stack with the larger amount of wood and lesser amount of air space. A rick differs as it is a “face cord” or stack that is 4’ high and 8’ long. However, the length of the firewood may vary and would not sum to 4’ like in a cord. Purdue Extension publication FNR-79 titled “Wood for Home Heating,” provides information on a variety of wood species and their weight per cubic foot. A copy of this publication can be obtained from your local Extension Office or by going to: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-79.pdf
Due to the poisonous nature of preservations, treated wood should not be used in a fireplace. You can find value in the wood ash left in your fireplace if you use it as fertilizer. This is because native Indiana woods often have 50% to 70% calcium or lime which is beneficial. If using a fireplace, keep the fire screen in place to prevent unwanted fires.