Q: Last year, we ordered a cord of firewood, but the weather was so warm that we barely used half of it in our fireplace. Is the remaining half still good to use this winter? — Frank in Marlborough, Mass.
A: Stored correctly, firewood can last for several seasons if need be, so your remaining half-cord should be fine for use this winter. It has continued to season and is probably much drier than it was last year, meaning it will likely catch and burn faster.
Large amounts of firewood that will be stored through the winter and into the next cold season generally should be kept several feet from the house at minimum. The wood should be kept off the ground — loaded on a pallet or a storage rack — and stacked evenly. This creates good airflow between the logs, allows it to dry quickly after a rain storm, and reduces the number of insects that take up residence in the stack, as well as discourages rodents from creating nests in it.
How much firewood you should purchase and store each year is entirely up to you. I’ve often passed homes in the Northeastern countryside that have several cords of neatly cut wood stacked underneath the crawlspace of outlying barns, sheds, or sometimes even the houses themselves. In suburban and urban areas, this is probably not acceptable to the neighbors or may violate local ordinances.
Plan to have no more than two winters’ worth of firewood stacked near your house. The amount depends on how much you use your fireplace, and whether it is a necessity to warm the home or just a decorative element.
HOME TIP: Order firewood from a source as close to your home as possible, to prevent pests — particularly tree-killing insects — moving from one area or region to another.
Send your questions or home tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write This Is a Hammer, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. When in doubt as to whether you can safely or effectively complete a project, consult a professional contractor. © 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.