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Why Is My Firewood Turning Black?

why is my firewood turning black

Firewood that turns black and doesn’t burn is a frustrating issue, especially if it’s a repeated problem. So what is the main cause for a fire not lighting on fire and turning black?

More often than not, the reason why firewood is turning black, and not burning properly, is because wood is far too wet and not seasoned well.

But, there are other things that could also potentially contribute to wood turning black and not burning. As we dive further, we will look into all the reasons for a poor burning firewood.

Reasons Why Firewood Turns Black

Reasons Why Firewood Turns Black or Wont BurnDescription
Wet and Unseasoned WoodWet and unseasoned wood makes it difficult to light and keep a fire going.
The Type of Wood You UseBesides using green, or unseasoned wood, hardwoods are always more preferable to softwoods when it comes to starting and keeping a fire going.
Firewood Logs are Too BigLogs that are too big will not burn properly. They will end up charring and will blacken and will quickly extinguish.
Improper Fire BuildingAlways start your fire with small wood before adding bigger pieces.

Wet and Unseasoned Wood

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Wet wood is often the reason why wood turns black and either doesn’t burn or burns but goes out quick. Wood that is “green” (meaning fresh), stored in a bad place outdoors or not seasoned in the proper way will make firewood difficult to light and stay lit.

And, even if it does light, there’s the added danger of it exploding from pressure built up inside the wood combined with the steam from the moisture.

The easiest way to store your firewood is with a firewood log rack like this one by Woodhaven. Its structural integrity is very sound, and will keep your firewood off of the ground. It also comes with its own cover that will cover the top 12″ of your firewood.

Moisture Causes Problems

Green wood means it still has lots of water and moisture contained within the pores and fibers of the wood. It is in no condition to burn, let alone do so with efficiency. Wait for this to dry out or purchase seasoned (also known as kiln-dried) wood. You can also do your own kiln drying with the right equipment.

If you’re storing wood outside, it should be at least two inches off the ground and covered with a tarp, awning or a roof. This will not only keep moisture out of your wood, but it will prevent pests and critters from nesting amid the logs.

When it’s on the ground and/or uncovered, it will absorb moisture from rain and humidity, thereby making the wood difficult to burn.

Seasoning Is Important

This is why having seasoned wood that’s stored indoors is much more ideal and safe. The wood will retain its dryness and burn well. When buying seasoned wood, make sure that it’s at least at 20% of its moisture to ensure it burns through. Do your research and get it from a trusted supplier with a verified, bonafide kiln drying process.

The Type of Wood

Aside from green wood being problematic in staying lit, you could also be burning the wrong kind of wood. Hardwoods are always better and more preferable as firewood than softwoods.

For instance, some trees, like almond and oak, that take a long time to season will be difficult to burn even with the best kiln-dried process. But once they do burn, they’re great for wintertime fires indoors and keep an area warm for hours.

Also, if the wood is difficult to split, as is the case with pecan and pistachio, the water could be super compressed inside the pores. Even with long-time seasoning procedures, it could still be difficult to light under the right conditions.

The Outdoors
The Outdoors

Logs Are Too Big

Big, thick, heavy logs will not bun. They’ll char and blacken. They may even light for a moment, but they’ll quickly extinguish.

Try to split large, round logs into smaller pieces so they’ll not only dry out faster but they’ll also burn in a more efficient manner. Only use whole-piece logs once you have a fire roaring with kindling and smaller split pieces.

Incorrect Fire Building

You have to start your fire with small pieces and build up to adding larger logs as the coals increase. If you don’t do this, any larger pieces of wood won’t burn. They’ll char and blacken. Anything that does light up will go out as fast as it started.

Fireplace Troubleshooting

In-home fireplaces come with their own challenges and problems with charred wood not staying lit. There are many factors involved and you will want to check all of the following:

Fireplace Doors when starting your fire, keep the doors open to allow for enough oxygen to assist with combustion. Use a metal curtain in front of the fire to catch any flying embers and coals.

Grate Setup – if you have a metal grate in the fireplace, you can use a metal plate to establish the fire.

Leftover Ashes – keep some ash from previous fires so that only a few inches sit below the logs. The hot, falling embers will stay close to the wood, making starting and maintaining the fire much easier.

Airflow – your fireplace should have a good and clear flue, including any creosote build up in the chimney; air should circulate well into the fireplace and through the chimney.

Final Thoughts

Wood that is not burning properly is usually the candidate of an under seasoned wood. Under seasoned wood has a hard time burning due to moisture still being inside of the wood.

When you find your wood isn’t burning, and it’s a consistent problem, check the conditions of the wood, where and how it’s stored along with the type of wood and the method of your fire building.

For fireplaces, it could be as simple as allowing leftover ashes to remain or investing in a metal grate. But all-in-all, it’s more than likely because your wood is too wet and unseasoned.

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