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February 2018: How To Survive Winter

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How to Survive Winter

How To Survive Winter: Seven Genius Hacks

Snow is stressful, but just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean you should be left out in the cold. We’re here to make it easier with these seven brilliant snow hacks you can add to your winter routine right now. Learn More

How To Remove Salt Stains the Easy Way

If pesky salt stains are getting in the way of keeping your floors sparkling, you’ll want in on this secret: vinegar. Find out how this inexpensive household staple can help you get rid of winter salt stains in a flash. Learn More

Expert Advice


The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use. Read on to find out the best firewoods, as well as a few you should avoid altogether. Learn More

How to Get Organized Around Your House

The start of the year is the perfect time to set goals and priorities. And a big part of hitting the reset button is getting a handle on your possessions. Here are four proven tricks for paring down, sorting out and organizing your stuff for a stress-free home. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Our inspectors are always coming across interesting things in the field: new home trends, common repair issues—and sometimes even a few throwbacks.

This little light panel may not look like much, but at one time it was considered cutting-edge technology! Now a household rarity, solenoids once allowed us to turn on the lights in almost any room of the house from one centralized location. No stumbling into a dark kitchen—you could simply flip a switch in your bedroom on your way down the hall.

These days, the panels are considered outdated and have been replaced with “smart” devices like the Amazon Echo. This means they have the potential to warrant costly repairs for a home’s wiring down the road. If you own or show a home that features solenoids, we recommend having a specialist check them over.

Maintenance Matters

gutters

5 Ways to Know if You Need a Gutter Replacement

Healthy gutters are an integral part of any home. With winter in full force and spring on the way, gutters become more important than ever for keeping your house free of water damage. Look for these five telltale signs to determine if it’s time for a replacement. Learn More

 The Best Electrical Outlets for Your Needs

As long as they’re functioning properly, electrical outlets are something most of us don’t even think of it. But believe it or not, certain outlets are better for certain purposes. Find out how to protect your home and connect to all your devices with this quick outlet guide. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

Q: How long does it take oak to season in order for it to be suitable to use for firewood?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

The Best (and Worst) Firewood to Burn This Winter

Whether you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces or a seasoned veteran (pun fully intended), it helps to know the right woods to use to get the most for your money. Here’s some of the best firewood to burn, along with other kinds you should avoid at all costs this winter.

A Word on Seasoning

Before we get into specific types of wood, we need to mention “seasoning,” a term that will apply to all the woods we talk about going forward. Seasoning refers to the process of drying firewood before it’s burned in your stove or fireplace. Burning unseasoned (or “green”) wood releases more smoke and water vapor, which means more creosote buildup and a greater chance of chimney fires over time.

How can you tell the difference between seasoned and unseasoned wood? It’s easy. Green wood often looks freshly cut with visible saw marks, while seasoned wood will look gray or white. The ends of seasoned wood shows radial cracking and the bark should come off easily. If the wood isn’t cracked and the bark is firmly attached, it’s still green and shouldn’t be used in your fireplace yet.

The Best Firewood to Burn

The firewoods that made our “Best to Burn” list had to meet a number of criteria, including having a high heat value and a pleasant experience (fragrance, long-lasting burn, etc.). One cord of each type of wood here produces heat equivalent to burning 200-250 gallons of fuel oil.

  • Apple: deliciously fragrant aroma, slow-burning
  • Beech: burns at very high heat, great for colder climates
  • Cherry: hardwood with pleasant fragrance and long-lasting burn
  • Oak: hearty and heavy weight, low level of smoke
  • Sycamore: dense wood for long-lasting fire

The Worst Firewood to Burn

As a general rule, wood from coniferous trees isn’t very good for burning in your fireplace because it lacks the density of hardwood. It burns faster and doesn’t put off as much heat, so you need to use more wood to heat your home. The woods below produce more smoke that ends up as creosote deposits in your chimney, and tend to spark much more than hardwood, making for a less than relaxing fireside experience.

  • Birch: bark produces lots of soot and smoke
  • Cedar: filled with volatile oils that create popping and sparks
  • Balsam Fir: lots of smoke with sparks
  • Spruce: lightweight and fast-burning
  • Pine: a resinous softwood that creates lots of creosote

Other Poor Choices

It’s definitely a bad idea to burn any type of treated lumber, as the chemicals used in the manufacturing process can be released in the smoke and inhaled. You should also only use locally sourced firewood to avoid the problem of invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which can cause massive damage to native forests.

Call NPI for a Safe Fireplace

National Property Inspections wants your winter season to be warm, bright and safe! Give NPI a call today to help keep your home’s wood-burning systems in top condition.

Building an Efficient Fire

Having the right appliance and the proper safety components, such as smoke detectors, is important. So is having the right kind of wood to burn.

Fireplace safety begins with a properly installed chimney or ventilation system. This helps move the byproducts of combustion out of the home. Properly placed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also a must in any home with wood-burning appliances.

What some people fail to consider is that building an efficient, productive fire has as much to do with the wood as with the appliance that houses it. To build an efficient fire:

  • Use only seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is wood, hard or soft, that has been cut and allowed to dry for six to nine months.
  • Seasoned wood should be cut and stacked off of the ground, preferably in a spot that receives good sunlight and air movement. Cutting the wood allows air to blow across both ends, evaporating moisture inside. Cover the top of the wood to prevent rewetting from precipitation. The wood pile should also be located away from the house and other structures to prevent the infestation of wood-destroying insects.
  • Using dry, seasoned wood also reduces the buildup of creosote, a byproduct of wood burning that collects on the inside of the chimney and can ignite, causing dangerous chimney fires. When creosote reaches ¼ inch of thickness on the walls of the chimney flue, you should have it cleaned by a trained professional. Inspect the chimney frequently to check for creosote buildup.
  • Start fires using clean newspapers and dry kindling, never garbage, plastics or treated wood.
  • Let the fire burn down to coals, and then rake the coals toward the air inlet, creating a mount. Do not spread the coals flat.
  • Regularly remove ashes from the woodstove into a metal container with a cover. Store ashes outdoors on a nonflammable surface until completely cooled.

Information for this article came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.com.