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How to Artfully Stack Your Firewood

Keeping a cord of firewood handy in case of a storm, or just to get your hygge on through the long winter months makes sense. In addition to getting the right wood, and setting up an appropriate space to store it in, you can take your game one step beyond and stack your wood in such a way that it becomes a part of your landscaping decor!

Here’s another thought: if you have someone on your Christmas shopping list who is IMPOSSIBLE to shop for and has a wood burning stove, consider buying them firewood and then stack it for them. Once it’s been delivered, you want to get it off the ground and stacked nicely, so that’s a gift and a half that even Santa would love.

3 Steps To Start You Out Right

Step 1: Set up the perfect dry spot to store your firewood, near enough to the house to be retrievable even in the worst storm but far enough so that any mice that decide to take up residence are not right next to your house. Ideally, that will be a spot that has a way to keep the wood off the ground, with a partial roof, large overhang and / or a tarp, to keep it dry. If you burn a lot of wood every winter, a woodshed with a raised floor is a great idea. You can always store a week’s worth at a time, closer to the house, on a porch for example.

Step 2: Get a perfectly seasoned, dry face cord of firewood delivered to your home (If you’re in the Mississauga area? We can help you with that!) Properly dried wood has been stacked for at least six months to two years. Most firewood delivered by reputable companies will arrive in 12” pieces but cut down any that you feel are too long or too wide in circumference before you stack. Always stack with the cut ends facing out (west winds) and bark facing up (which acts as additional protection against moisture), with airflow around and between the pieces.

Step 3: Bring the wood in you’re going to need for any given day, 24-48 hours before you burn it. Room temperature works best for a fine merlot and excellent firewood.

What You Need To Know About Firewood

Freshly cut wood contains 50%+ moisture, which is too green to burn effectively or safely. Burning wood that is too green contributes to creosote build up in chimneys, which can result in a chimney fire. Wood that has been stacked and seasoned for at least two years is your best bet. Avoid buying your firewood from a place that just has it in a pile, instead of properly stacked. Odds are, it will be wet. Well seasoned firewood will have darker ends, with visible cracks or splits.

How Do You Know If Your Wood Is Too Wet To Burn?

If you see steam, bubbles and / or can hear a hissing sound as the firewood heats up, it’s too wet to burn. Make sure you pull your firewood from the most seasoned part of your stack, even if it means that your artful design will be a little off kilter! Better that than wet wood in your stove.

What’s The Best Type Firewood To Have?

You want wood that burns hot and long, rather than woods that burn hot and fast. Smoldering fires aren’t safe either.

Maple, beech, cherry and oak are all varieties that give long duration burns, instead of a short burst of high heat and then embers.

On To The Artful Outdoor Stacking

A standard stack of wood is utilitarian but not necessarily very attractive. Now that you know the basic details you need about firewood, here are five examples of artfully stacked wood that would make your neighbours stop and take notice!

stacking-firewood-toemar-garys-owls

Gary’s Owls — Gary Tallman from Montana has taken artful stacking to a new level, sorting by colour in the spring so he can create mosaic art!

stacking-firewood-toemar-meta-tree

Alastair Heseltine, an artist from BC, called this one ‘Meta Tree’.

stacking-firewood-toemar-tiny-houses

A new take on tiny houses!

stacking-firewood-toemar-olle-hagman

By Olle Hagman of Sweden

And finally, the most impressive of all, if not a little impractical, created by Michael Buck:

stacking-firewood-toemar-michael-buck

Thank you to CottageLife.com for the artful inspiration!

And Indoors?

To stack some wood inside, and let it warm up to room temperature for a day or two, you need a good, safe place to put it. While some will use a rack or a large bucket, these designs from Decoist.com might inspire you to be more ambitious with your indoor wood storage.

Left: Old crates in the corner add elegance to the setting.

Right: A shelving unit keeps things tidy.

However you stack it, follow our few rules and you’re investment in dry, seasoned firewood will carry you through the winter in style and comfort.

4 Things You Should Know Before Using Your Fireplace

The first step is making sure you have the right wood

While most homes no longer use wood burning fires as their primary heat source, there’s nothing like an old wood stove or fireplace glowing bright and flickering through the cold winter weather. Just the smell of woodsmoke puts one in the frame of mind of hot cider and warm toes.

Whether you’re new to the world of wood fireplaces or an old hand at stacking logs, we’ve got a few good tips about firewood that are worth reviewing.

What Characteristics Of Wood Give The Best Results?

First off, aged wood—at least two years—is best. Even better if it has been cut, split and stacked outside, exposed to the elements of nature.

Like a fine champagne (drank in front of a glowing fireplace of course!), good wood has been rotated in the stack to ensure an even and consistent aging, with decent exposure to sunlight and air flow to help dry it out and lower the moisture level to less than 20%. Less seasoned wood has as much as 50% moisture, which will smoke when lit.

Why is aged wood better?

Aged wood burns hotter and more slowly, giving you a better result in the fireplace and requiring you to add wood less often. The slow burn gives a more consistent temperature and heat, rather than a fast flare up that dies out quickly. There is also little to no smoke with well-aged wood.

There are three characteristics you are looking for beyond aging:

  1. Density of the wood, which gives you more heat per cubic foot volume of wood.
  2. BTU (British Thermal Unit) of the wood, which gives you more heat per piece of wood.
  3. This refers to the ability of the wood to form coals after the initial burn, extending the fire life.

Overall, a well-aged quality hardwood will have more density, BTUs and coaling ability, giving you a better burn, with consistent and even heat.

Examples?

White birch, which is a hardwood, has a density of 42 lbs per cu. ft. , 20.8 million BTUs / cord and is good at coaling.

In contrast, pine, which is a softwood, has a density of 22 to 31 lbs per cu. Ft., 15 million BTUs / cord and is poor at coaling. In addition, it has a strong smell and can leave an oily residue in your chimney.

Pieces that are cut from 12” to 16” are ideal to fit in most fireplaces so be sure to ask your provider what you are getting before you take delivery.

What Types Of Wood Are Available?

Hardwoods—maple, oak, ash, birch, and fruit trees—burn hotter and longer but are more expensive and harder to split. However, with a longer burn, you’re using less of it so it probably comes down to an even split for the recreational fireplace user.

Softwoods—pine, balsam, spruce, alder, and poplar—these are much easier to split and light, but they burn out quickly and are prone to creating creosote buildup in the chimney, which can cause a chimney fire.

TIP: Avoid FREE firewood sales! Very often, ‘free firewood’ is made up of wood pallets that have been broken down. Pallet wood is a major fire risk. They catch fire very easily and burn at such a high temperature that the fire could easily spread to nearby objects. They break down into wood dust, which can combine and ignite into a fireball! In addition, most wood pallets are treated with harmful chemicals that act as pesticides, such as Methyl Bromide or fungicides: when burned, the toxins are released into the air and can pose a serious health risk.

How Should Wood Be Stored?

When you’re checking out a seller, beware of those who simply pile the wood out of doors. This means that there is little to no airflow for the pieces underneath, resulting in wet, even mouldy wood that won’t burn well. You’re looking for nicely stacked wood that has plenty of airflow and a seasoned appearance.

unstacked-firewood

It should go without saying but it’s best not to store your firewood in the house. Split logs should be stacked with the ends facing prevailing winds, off the ground with only the top covered and bark facing up. This helps to ensure that sunlight and air can still reach the split logs but the bark protects them from rain and snow.

It’s best to get this done within two weeks of delivery from your firewood provider, so best to plan your location before you order! The goal is to prevent moisture from building up in your wood pile, which will make the wood too wet to burn properly.

How can you tell if your wood is too wet? If you try burning it and it hisses or steam bubbles appear at the ends, your wood is too wet to burn.

Well seasoned, dry wood is darker towards the ends, with cracks and splits in it; it’s also relatively light weight.

Before you get your first roaring fire going this season, check out our Fireplace and Chimney Checklist! Toemar has been in the business of selling firewood for more than thirty-five years, so if you’re looking for a source of wood that you can trust, give us a call.

5 Simple Tips to Stacking Firewood

Stacking firewood is just as important in getting a great burning experience as buying aged quality firewood.  Stacking the firewood properly ensure that the firewood quality remains long after you have purchased the product.  At Toemar, we go the extra mile in stacking firewood so that the wood ages properly with the appropriate moisture level.  Here are some great tips to ensuring that your firewood is stacked appropriately:

  1. Location – stacking firewood in a moist shaded area won’t help you in minimizing the moisture in the wood.  You want to stack the wood so that the cut ends face the prevailing west winds or moving air.  You also want to make sure that the ground is even so that the structure does not collapse
  2. Off the ground – you want to lift the entire wood stack off the ground to prevent bottom rot.  You know you have bottom rot by streaks of yellow mold or white fruiting bodies of fungus on the ground course of (ruined) wood.  You can do this by using placing interlocking stones at the end of each log so that gap in between the stones allows for moving air.  You may also want to consider building a wood shed with a floor
  3. Built-in airflow – when you stack your firewood, you want to build in as much airflow as possible by using irregularities and odd-shaped logs to create cross-stack channels for drying air
  4. Bark up – place the bark facing up when you stack so that you can use the bark to keep water out and allow moisture to continue to shed from the woodpile
  5. Pile sizes and shapes – the pile size and shape doesn’t matter as much as long as the pile is stable and allows for movement of air.  You can stack them against the home, or you can stack them in square piles, or even other whimsical shapes

firewood-stack-circular-shape

If you got any ideas or tips you like to share, please share them below.  We love to hear what others are doing!

2014 Backyard Design – 5 Simple Ideas

Backyard design, specifically susatinable designs are not as difficult as you think. In fact, here are 5 simple tips and ideas that we think will help you to plan your backyard landscape with years of enjoyment to come:

#1. Sustainability going mainstream:

Sustainable landscaping encompasses a variety of practices and used in every phase of the process including design, construction, implementation and maintenance. Low-maintenance gardens, drought-tolerant plants and less grass have become the norm. This not only makes sense for the environment but also for economical reasons.

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Sustainable design going mainstream

#2. Edible landscapes:

Transform your backyard into a sensory experience that combines both sight and taste. Gardens that incorporate both edibles and ornamental plants will give you a taste of all natural produce while creating an eye-pleasing landscape that will be a hit with both your neighbours and food cost savings.

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Edible landscape

#3. Quality is key:

Times are still tough and spending your money wisely is key. Invest in quality and natural materials that will withstand the elements of nature and your use and enjoyment of the space. Not only do you save money in the long run, but you will save yourself a great deal of stress and aggravation from poorly constructed materials.

build-quality-landscape-backyard

Quality is key

#4. Water Features:

It was popular in 2013 and continues to be trend in 2014. Whether it is for the front yard or backyard, water features add another sensory experience to relaxing in your backyard. You can get relatively inexpensive self-contained systems in an urn or portable fountain to a high-end water wall are popular across all budgets.

water-features-backyard

Water features creates a relaxing atmosphere

#5. Indoor living outside:

Extend your home from the inside to the outdoors to create permanent living spaces that will not only add value to your home but also the level of enjoyment of your home. Make sure to take advantage of and use weather resistant fabrics and natural materials such as stone that both fade-resistant and waterproof.

indoor-living-outside-backyard

Indoor living outside

Image sources:
Sustainable Landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccready | Edible landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/aon/ | Water Features Source: Mcmonagle Stone | Build Quality Source: Turfdesigners | Indoor Living Outside Source: Nordby Design Studio

Practical Tips to Burning Firewood

Did you know that one cord of wood burned as firewood provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil, depending on the type of hardwood you are using?

If you are burning firewood or thinking about burning firewood here are some great tips that you can apply to your own experience:

  • Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture and must be seasoned (approximately 2 years) to 20 to 25 percent moisture content before burning. Wood containing more than 25 percent moisture is wet, or green, and should never be burned in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Wood must be split into pieces and stacked out of the rain for at least six months to season properly. If you see a place where firewood is just thrown into pile, you are not getting what you pay for.
  • If steam bubbles and hisses out of the end grain as the firewood heats up on the fire, the wood is wet, or green, and needs to be seasoned longer before burning. Do not burn!
  • Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with visible cracks or splits. It is relatively lightweight and makes a sharp, distinctive “clink” when two pieces strike each other.
  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliance into a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.
  • Build hot fires. A smoldering fire is not a safe or efficient fire.
  • Start fires only with newspaper, dry kindling and all natural or organic fire starters. Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal starter.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Contact us if you have any questions on how to burn your firewood efficiently and effectively. Be safe and stay warm!

Source: Farmer’s Alamanac, US EPA

Free Firewood Sales – Is Burning Pallets OK?

You are tempted and it is hard to resist.

On your drive home, you see companies posting signs saying Free Firewood on their property. You decide to stop at one of them to check it out. You drive around back and you see a large stack of pallets and realize that you really could save money this winter. Someone comes out to meet you and tells it is fine to use as firewood and there have been no reported problems. When he says “reported problems”, it should be cause for you to stop and ask yourself why he would say that?

Here are some reasons why you should NOT burn pallets as firewood:

  • Low flashpoint – wooden pallets catch fire very easily
  • Extremely high temperature – this makes the potential for a fire spreading to nearby objects increase drastically
  • Explosive wood dust – under the right conditions, the accumulation of wood dust can ignite into a fireball which is extremely dangerous
  • Chemical use or exposure – many pallets are treated with toxic chemicals such as Methyl bromide (MB) or a fungicide to increase its life span. It is a pesticide used in the control of pest insects, nematodes, weeds, pathogens, and rodents
  • Releasing harmful toxins – as a pallet is burning, these toxins are released which is a serious health risk. In addition, you have no idea what type of chemicals or particulates have soaked into the wood which can significantly increase the temperature and/or create hot sparks which could lead to an explosion.

Simply put, wood pallets are known to be a major fire risk. Wood pallets need to be properly disposed of. Burning them as firewood is not a proper solution.

Here are some reasons why you should use “log or natural” firewood:

  • Cut to length – firewood is typically cut to length so that it can fit properly in your fireplace (12 inches) or woodstove (16 inches)
  • Free from toxins – the only processing that a “log” firewood goes through is the cutting and the removal of the branches. There are no pesticides and/or fungicides used
  • Eliminate waste – sometimes firewood is harvested strictly for burning. For the most part, firewood comes from felled trees that either do not meet specification for building materials (e.g. too thin) or is a byproduct of off cuts
  • Minimal smoke – properly aged or seasoned firewood will burn with very little to no smoke. This makes your firewood experience more enjoyable
  • Consistent temperature – log firewood has a high flashpoint and provides constant and even heat which makes it more comfortable in your home

Come and see how we age or season our firewood for two years to give you the perfect burning experience. We look forward to supplying you quality firewood this coming winter.

Burning Firewood Guide – Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

Nothing fills the house with smells and warmth like the crackling of a burning fire. Wood-burning fireplaces can creative a peaceful, inviting ambiance as well as an alternative way to heat your home.

Choosing the type of firewood to use can be a daunting task, so here is a quick guide to selecting the best firewood to use to get the best burning firewood experience. Arm yourself with some key information to help you be on your way to picking the right kind of firewood for you.

1. Always pick a seasoned firewood

Freshly chopped or unseasoned (green) wood has up to 50% water content and burning this will only result in a room full of smoke. Seasoned wood on the other hand have been cut, split and properly dried out for over a year allowing the moisture in the wood to evaporate.

2. What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Wood TypeType of TreesPositiveNegative
Hardwoodmaple, oak, ash, birch, fruit treesburns hotter and longer, uses less firewoodmore expensive, harder to split
Softwoodpine, balsam, spruce, alder, poplareasy to ignite, easy to splitcreosote build-up (cause chimney fires), highly flammable, burns out quickly

3. How does wood burn?

In the first stage, wood is heated to the point where moisture within the wood cells is driven off and the cells are drying out. As the wood is losing moisture, it is chemically changing into charcoal – which is famous for its volatile gases and liquids. Stopping the process at this point is where the charcoal industry packages their products.

The second stage is where actual flames burn off the volatile gases and volatile liquids to the point where charcoal has lost most of these volatile fuels. Much of the energy of wood fuel is lost during this stage.

Finally, the third stage occurs when the charcoal burns and can be seen when the embers glow. This is called “coaling”. At this point, heat is radiated from the burning bed of coals. Different species of wood burn and expend energy differently throughout these three stages.

4. What do I look for when buying firewood?

The burning properties and the heating potential of wood depend upon its species and density of that wood. Here are three heating values to consider when buying firewood – density, heat content and coaling quality.

  • Density – Denser wood contains more heat per volume
  • BTU – The higher the value, the more heat you get per unit of wood
  • Coaling – Wood that forms coals allow a fire to burn longer
Tree SpeciesDensity (lbs/cu.ft)Million BTUs/cordCoalingCharacteristics
White Birch (Hardwood)4220.8goodBirch gives off good heat but tends to be consumed pretty quickly. The flavor is good, similar to maple which compliments pork and poultry nicely.
Beechwood (Hardwood)32 to 5624 to 27excellentThis has some great heat and flame but tends to give off a fair amount of sparks. Use a fireplace screen or door.
Pine (Softwood)22 to 3115poorThis burns well when well- seasoned but has a tendency to crackle and pop because it is resinous and a softwood. Good for kindling since it lights easily but too much can leave a strong piney smell which is nice outdoors but can be overwhelming indoors or with food. Can also leave an oily soot in your chimney and your food.
Spruce (Softwood)25 to 4415.5poorBurns too quickly, produces low heat, can be smokey and with too many sparks. It is good to start fires with, but substitute with a hardwood.
Poplar (Softwood)22 to 3116fairNot recommended – even when very well seasoned it burns poorly and produces an unpleasant black smoke.

Remember, part of having a memorable fireplace experience is having the right type of fire wood – choose a quality hardwood that have been proper aged

A Fun Way to Remember your Firewood

Here’s a fun rhyme to help you to remember:

These hardwoods burn well and slowly,
Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly.
Softwoods flare up quick and fine,
Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine.
Elm and willow you’ll regret,
Chestnut green and sycamore wet.

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Image Source: Flickr

Firewood For Sale: The Untold Story Behind Toemar in Mississauga

More than 30 years ago, Toemar was the one of the very first companies to have firewood for sale and delivered to the residents of Mississauga and surrounding area, now called the Greater Toronto Area. Our very first customers back in the early 1980’s used our firewood to heat their homes. In fact, some residences in Old Toronto solely relied on this form of heating and as result we felt that it was imperative to make sure that we supplied firewood that was dried and aged properly.
We remember at that time there was tremendous demand for our firewood because it had a solid reputation of providing the best burning experience. There were times when we were making deliveries until 10PM at night to make sure that we fulfilled our promise of same day delivery. Convenience and customer service has always been a core attribute since the beginning and we believe that you should treat others as you want others to treat you. Our unspoken motto at that time was we are not happy unless you are happy which still continues today.
How did we get the reputation for providing the best burning experience for firewood? Our firewood is always aged at least for two years and rotated. Just like a great wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake, we let nature takes it course by properly stacking the firewood in rows. We make sure that firewood has optimal sun exposure and maximum airflow to allow for proper and consistent aging of the firewood resulting in a moisture level around 20% or less. It is a labour intensive process just like making great wine. We take great care in making sure that you enjoy the warmth of the fire instead of airing out your home.
We invite you to come and check out our yard and see how we age the firewood for the perfect burning experience. We know that what we do works and has for the last 30 years. We continue to take pride in going thru the process and we want to make sure that the firewood that you burn today is the same for many years to come. No short cuts equals happy customers.