Cold weather is here and you don’t have any seasoned firewood. You remember it takes a minimum of six months to properly season wood to use in an indoor fireplace.

What can you do? It’s too late now to cut down a tree, split it and have seasoned wood for a warm, glowing fire. However, many vendors have seasoned firewood for sale. 

When you buy firewood this time of year, pay attention to the dryness, density, species and price per volume of wood. The best wood is the driest wood. It produces the hottest fire because little heat is wasted drying wood as it burns. Inspect the ends of logs for deep cracks and splits, two indicators of dry wood. A gray “weathered” color to the bark and wood indicates dryness and sufficient seasoning.

Some wood species are hard to split because of their growth patterns. Species of elm, sycamore and sweet gum are extremely difficult to split, as are logs with numerous knots. Even if these types of wood are offered “free,” it’s best not to take them because they’re so hard to split.

Wood density is an important consideration when buying seasoned firewood. Low-density woods such as yellow-poplar, silver and red maples and buckeye have much more air space between the cells than species such as oak, black locust, hickory, ash and beech. These high-density species produce more heat per unit volume because they contain less air, thus more wood.

The price you pay for firewood can be confusing because wood units of measure aren’t like those for a gallon of milk or loaf of bread. A large volume of firewood is sold by the cord, the amount of wood stacked in a space of 8x4x4 feet. Unless you’re buying a large truckload of wood, you’ll hear terms like “short cord, face cord and rick.” These terms are open for interpretation. The best buy is a comfortable agreement you reach with the seller. The price you pay probably includes availability, splitting, delivery to the door, and stacking.

Firewood bought at a convenience store is more expensive, so it’s best to leave this purchase for very special occasions. If you’re buying large quantities of firewood now, examine the ends for splitting to determine that it’s dry; ask for high-density species with a high heat potential; avoid low- density species and very knotty logs, and agree on all these characteristics and the purchase price before the seller unloads your firewood.

Remember, the best firewood produces the greatest heat value at the lowest cost.