Who doesn't love the crackle of a warm, lively fire? For many, it is a soothing sound that brings back fond memories. Some fire sounds are not quite so endearing, though. What does it mean if your campfire starts hissing, sizzling, or steaming?
Firewood that retains too much moisture will steam, sizzle, and hiss as the liquid inside heats up from the fire and escapes as steam. With larger deposits of water or sap, the heat can cause vapors to expand rapidly, sometimes cracking wood and throwing dangerous sparks or debris out of the fire.
Unseasoned firewood is typically harder to start a fire with, struggles to stay lit, and expends its energy drying out the excess moisture, resulting in less radiant warmth. Damp firewood is also particularly smoky, sending out great billowing clouds of creosote that burn eyes and lungs. All around, it makes for a much less satisfying fireside experience.
The best way to ensure a satisfying campfire is to use well-seasoned firewood. This process gives firewood time to dry enough to leave a moisture content of around 15-20%. Usually, it takes six months to season greenwood. You can also find kiln-dried firewood, but this process is more labor-intensive and comes with a higher price.
There are firewood companies you can source seasoned or kiln-seasoned firewood from directly; often, they provide the most consistent product. You can usually find bundles of seasoned firewood at your local grocery or hardware store, though this is often the most expensive option. Another good source of seasoned firewood is local companies that offer land clearing as they often run a side business selling firewood made from cleared trees. The least expensive, though most time-consuming method, is seasoning green firewood yourself.
Sometimes, all you can find is green firewood. You can transform fresh-cut logs into well-seasoned firewood with patience and proper planning.
If you have pre-seasoned firewood that got damp from the rain, you can bring it inside, loosely stack it, and turn on a dehumidifier to leach the excess moisture and help it return to its seasoned state.
Your best bet is to use a moisture meter. These handy tools are easy to use and take the guesswork out of determining when your firewood is ready to burn. Moisture meters are inexpensive, usually ranging from $10-$40, and can be found at your local hardware store. If your firewood reads a moisture content of more than 20%, it's not ready yet.
Mastering a good fire is a worthy endeavor. Using seasoned wood can prevent your fireside gathering from ending early under a cloud of eye-watering smoke. A crackling fire is a foundation for many good memories.
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