Some people cut their own, while others pay as much as $300 a cord. But however they acquire it, 18 million Americans are burning wood in fireplaces.
Firewood quality depends on wood type, log size and dryness, George Harrison writes in the current issue of Sports Afield, with the type with the highest density and least moisture content producing the most heat.
As for log size, smaller, more cut-up wood is more expensive.
There are two categories of wood--hardwood from deciduous trees such as oak, maple and hickory, and softwood from evergreens such as spruce, pine and hemlock.
Hardwoods are denser, weigh more and produce more heat. Pine, a softwood, burns more easily and, if cut into smaller pieces, is better than oak for kindling.
If you have a tough time starting a fire, the wood may be too green and therefore contains too much moisture. That's why fresh-cut wood should be stacked for a drying-out period.
If you are going to do it yourself, the best way is to cut the wood into short lengths and split it before stacking in alternating directions. If stacked on a layer of tree branches, in a sunny, breezy location, the wood will dry out even faster.