Is Your Fireplace Ready?

With cold temperatures already arriving in most areas of the country, fireplaces are getting a lot of use.

Home Improvement Expert Bob Vila gives The Early Show a look at the different types of wood to burn in your fireplace and shares some storage ideas.

The most important thing to do when storing firewood outdoors is to keep it off the ground.

By simply stacking it on rows of bricks or on pressure-treated lumber, you can reduce the likelihood of rot and of insect infestation.

There are many different types of firewood storage racks available.

There is one from Alexander Manufacturing. The log rack is made out of strong, 2-inch-by-1-inch, 16-gauge steel rectangular tubing and holds up to one quarter cord of wood.

It has a durable and environmentally friendly baked-on, black-powder coated finish, so it won't rust when left outdoors.

It is easy to assemble, with only eight bolts.

You can also get a smaller rack, made out of heavy-gauge tubular steel with a black finish, and it has a removable log carrier so you can easily tote small amounts of wood into the house.

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Different types of wood burn differently; some burn hotter than others and leave less ash and, of course, the smoke has a different aroma.

Probably the best firewood is oak. It burns hot, has a low ash content and has a great aroma.

But there are some other choices. Basically, you can separate firewood into two categories: hardwoods and softwoods.

Hardwoods include oak, almond, walnut and even cherry. All hardwoods burn hotter than softwoods and leave fewer residues in the fireplace and chimney.

But unless you are cutting your own wood, you will pay a premium for these types of wood.

Softwood is good firewood if you are looking for a fire that is very easy to start.

Most softwood - pine, fir, cedar and birch - tends to pop and crackle.

Also these woods tend to leave more creosote on the fireplace flue than other woods. This is because softwoods burn at a lower temperature than hardwoods.

So more unburned material in the form of smoke goes up the chimney and sticks to the sides of it. As a result, the flue will have to be cleaned more often when softwoods are burned exclusively.

Softwoods are good when you don't have hardwoods available. They can also be mixed with hardwoods to help keep a fire going if the hardwoods aren't as seasoned as they could be or if the hardwoods have been left outside.

If you are preparing firewood, you need to know that burning wet or green wood causes much of the problem of creosote accumulatin in the chimney.

Freshly cut green wood can have a moisture content of 100 percent. This means that the weight of water in a piece of wood can exceed the weight of the wood itself.

Spring is a good time to cut and prepare firewood or to buy it in freshly cut form. Small pieces of round wood or wood split into small pieces will dry best because they have a large surface area.

Wood should be stacked with the greenest near the bottom of the stack or in back of the storage area.

When adding fresh wood to the storage area during the burning season, stack it so you can use the old wood first. This allows the freshly cut wood as much time as possible to become seasoned.

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