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Why Does Firewood Turn Black and Not Burn?

Have you ever been excited to sit next to a warm, crackling fire, but instead of a cozy glow your firewood turns black and never catches?

It’s such a bummer and can be really frustrating, especially if you are cold and trying to heat your home with a wood burning stove.

There are a few different causes, but they all boil down to the fact that your wood likely has too high of a moisture content.

Firewood Will Turn Black When It’s Too Wet

Wet wood will hiss and steam and turn black when you try to burn it. The energy that should be going into combustion is instead basically turning all that moisture into steam. Instead of heat production, you’re evaporating the water from inside of the wood.

If your firewood got rained on, it will be too wet. Try to store your firewood off the ground and covered. Under roof is best, but even a tarp is better than nothing.

Click here for some firewood storage rack ideas!

If you need to dry firewood fast, you can bring it inside and place it near an already burning fire. Just make sure to supervise it closely as it doesn’t take much for a stray spark to light it! You need to be on hand to move it once it’s dry or watch for any issues.

The second cause of firewood with a high moisture content is burning unseasoned, or green, wood.

Firewood needs to be seasoned for at least a full year with good airflow around it. Don’t keep your green wood wrapped up tightly under a tarp!

Click here to read more about seasoned firewood.

While you may be able to get unseasoned firewood to light, it produces more smoke and creosote which will build up in your chimney and become a fire hazard.

Other Reasons Firewood Won’t Burn

If your firewood won’t light, and you’re sure it’s not wet or unseasoned, it’s possible it does not have enough oxygen.

Make sure the flu on your fireplace or stove pipe is full open. It’s a silly thing, but sometimes we forget to check the most obvious solutions first!

You may be trying to burn a log too large too soon. Save the large logs for once you’ve got hot ash and coals going.

When you’re first starting your fire start with small kindling and work up with slightly larger pieces.

It also helps to prime your flu first by burning some paper or very easy to light wood. This helps start an updraft through the flu with hot air moving upward.

Also, many fireplaces come with nice looking log holders but it actually is best to keep some ash. This ash will retain heat and keep it near the larger logs and help them burn well.

Firewood not burning and turning black can be really frustrating in the moment, but there are a few solvable reasons that can help you troubleshoot. If you can keep your fire dry and well oxygenated you will be off to a good start.

Sources:

Outdoor Barren – Why Is My Firewood Turning Black

Fireplace Universe – Whether Firewood Can Go Bad (And How You Can Tell)

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