We go through a lot of firewood each season in Philadelphia. Even if you only use your fireplace or wood burning stove for supplemental heat to cut down on power bills, you probably go through quite a bit of firewood. How do you choose your firewood? Where do you purchase it? Do you cut your own so you’re sure it’s perfect? Feel free to comment at the end of this post to let me know, because I really am curious!

Here are several tips for choosing the best firewood


Wood is considered “well-seasoned” when it has been given time to dry. You should be looking for local wood that was cut at least six months ago.


Hardwoods are denser than softwoods. They burn hotter and longer, making the fire last longer. Softwoods burn and work fine in nearly any fireplace, but shoot for hardwoods when possible. You’ll get more burn time for your money.

Moisture Meter or Smack Test

Testing wood for moisture content isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You can purchase a moisture meter at most home improvement stores, or simply use the smack test. The smack test involves taking two pieces of wood and smacking them together. You want to hear a nice, clear clunk sound, not a muffled dull thud. A dull thud noise means there is more moisture in the wood than you need in your chimney. Buy the wood that creates the clear clunk noise.

How Much Moisture is Okay?

Ideally, you want to go with firewood that has 20% moisture or less. Freshly cut wood usually contains about 50% moisture while well-seasoned firewood contains about 20%. Always use dryer wood for the best and warmest fire, and to prevent creosote buildup.

Why Burning Unseasoned Wood is Bad

Unseasoned or under-seasoned wood creates creosote and should not be burned. Creosote lines the interior of the chimney flue and is extremely combustible. A creosote fire can burn in excess of 2,000 degrees for days – hot enough to destroy your chimney and cause a house fire.

Schedule a Yearly Inspection

Your home is probably your largest investment. Don’t take chances with your fireplace and end up losing it in a house fire. A yearly chimney inspection catches those little things that could go wrong throughout the year. Chimney sweeps often discover small animals in the chimney, creosote buildup, and damages to the liner and chimney structure that the homeowner doesn’t notice.

Yearly Maintenance

A fireplace and chimney are not maintenance-free parts of the home. They require yearly maintenance to prevent very serious issues including carbon monoxide poisoning, structural problems, creosote buildup, house fires, and many other hidden dangers. You may choose to embark on chimney maintenance on your own or call on the services of a certified chimney sweep. Give me a call any time to schedule an appointment for a consultation or inspection.