Real Estate Blog
Friday, November 02 2012
Knowing how to evaluate, buy, and store firewood is key to the safe, efficient operation of your fireplace, wood stove, or fireplace insert.
Whether you burn fires as a supplemental heat source for your home or strictly for ambiance and pleasure, it’s important to know how to properly buy and store firewood. For homeowners looking to fuel a traditional masonry fireplace, fireplace insert, or wood stove, the goal should be the same: to get the best quality firewood for the best possible price.
Before picking up the phone, it’s important to know exactly what you want to purchase so that you can clearly express that to the wood seller, says Matt Galambos, a Maine arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. This includes determining the quantity, species, and condition of the firewood, all of which affect its price.
How much to buy
Homeowners who intend to heat their homes through the use of a wood stove naturally will require more firewood than those who burn only the occasional fire for pleasure. A person living in the Northeastern U.S. who burns firewood as his or her primary heat source, for example, may require up to five cords of wood to get them through the season. In contrast, a weekend-only fire builder can likely get by on as little as a half-cord. Galambos estimates that for the casual but steady fire builder, one cord of wood should easily last through winter.
Measuring a cord of wood
A cord of wood is defined as a stack of cut firewood that measures 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or any other arrangement that equals 128 cubic feet. The individual pieces must be stacked side by side rather than the looser crisscross style. Other measurement terms, such as ricks, racks, face cords and piles, have no legal meaning and are often banned by state weights and measurements agencies. Regardless what the load is called, says Galambos, it should always be converted to cords or fractions thereof so that homeowners can determine if they are getting a fair price.
Seasoning the wood
Freshly cut wood is composed largely of water. Not only is this “green” wood difficult to ignite, but burning it can lead to a dangerous buildup of creosote, the cause of chimney fires. Properly “seasoned” firewood is wood that has been cut to length, split, and allowed to air dry for at least six months until the moisture content dips to around 20%. Dry wood will appear grayish in color and the pieces will begin to exhibit splits and cracks on the ends. Compared to freshly cut wood, seasoned wood feels light for its size.
Though seasoned firewood is the only choice for immediate use, green wood shouldn’t be completely ignored, says Galambos. “If you have the room to store it and the time to dry it, buying green firewood can save you up to 25% compared with seasoned wood,” he says.
Hardwood vs. softwood
It’s a common misconception that burning soft woods, such as pine and cedar, leads to dangerous creosote buildup. As long as the firewood is properly seasoned, it can safely be burned in a fireplace or stove regardless of species, says Dr. John Ball, Professor of Forestry at South Dakota State University. But that doesn’t mean that all wood is created equal.
“Tree species differ widely in the amount of heat they produce when burned,” says Ball. Hardwoods like oak, maple, and madrone produce almost twice the heat compared with softer woods, such as spruce, pine, and basswood. Fires built with hardwood not only burn hotter, they last longer, meaning the wood pile won’t get depleted as fast. Homeowners can expect to pay a premium for 100% hardwood, but Ball cautions against purchasing cheaper “mixed-wood” loads that may contain little actual hardwood.
Homeowners should consider storage long before the firewood delivery truck appears in the driveway, cautions Galambos. A cord of wood takes up a significant amount of space, and if not properly stored your investment will quickly begin to rot. Firewood that is not stowed in a protected space like a garage or shed needs to be six inches off the ground. Firewood racks or simple pallets work well. If exposed to the elements, the wood pile should be at least partially covered with a waterproof tarp. Experts caution against storing the wood too close to the house for fear of inviting pests.
Homeowners can expect to pay $75 to $150 for a half-cord and between $150 and $350 for a cord of hardwood delivered and stacked. To save some money, a person with a large truck may elect to pick up his or her own load at the wood lot.
To verify the quantity, species, and condition of the firewood, it’s wise to arrange the delivery for a time when you’re home. Experts say, inspect the wood for type and condition before it’s unloaded, though quantity can only be accurately measured after it’s stacked.
Maximize your fireplace efficiency
It’s true that a traditional wood fireplace can never rival the energy efficiency of a wood stove or even a fireplace insert, but there are ways a homeowner can trim heat loss. Fire-resistant glass doors not only reduce the volume of heated home air that escapes up the chimney, they help radiate heat back into the room. Similarly, a thick cast-iron fireback is an old-fashioned device that absorbs and emits energy in the form of radiant heat. Check the fireplace damper for leaks and always tightly seal it when the fireplace is idle.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/fireplaces-chimneys/buying-firewood/#ixzz2AzjlwPLk
Friday, March 09 2012
Electric fireplaces are cheap and easy ways to spark a little somethin’ on a cold winter night. Just plug and play. Here’s how they work.
Sparking the mood for love in the bedroom — or any room — is easier than you think with an electric fireplace that ignites romance without a complicated install, high price, or frilly lingerie.
Electric fireplaces have become the fastest-growing segment of the fireplace market. That’s because new technology makes flames look and feel real. Coils and blowers give off enough heat (4,600 to 5,000 BTUs) to warm 400 sq. ft., and add-ons provide the snap and crackle of a real wood fire for as little as $300.
In fact, if you don’t have the budget or structure to support adding a fireplace
fueled by wood or gas, you easily can light up with an electric fireplace, which doesn’t need to be vented or surrounded by noncombustible material. In fact, the only thing you need is a 120V outlet.
You can even buy fireplaces-to-go on casters that let you wheel them throughout the house. And if you’ve got money to burn, you can buy elaborate mantle packages that boost the price to $2,000. You can buy electric fireplaces at big-box stores and fireplace specialty stores.
But even with all the bells and whistles, you won’t be spending near the $7,000 that a comparable gas fireplace would cost to install.
With those savings, you can buy some champagne and get something waxed. (There’s only so much a fireplace can do.)
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/blog/fireplaces-chimneys/fake-fire-portable-electric-fireplace/#ixzz1oSdf6ZgF
Friday, November 11 2011
Installing a wood-burning, gas-burning, gel-fuel, or electric fireplace to your house costs $400 to $10,000, depending on the type of fireplace you select.
Installing a fireplace with a brick-lined hearth and a custom mantel can easily cost $10,000 or more. It’s also possible to get a similar look for thousands of dollars less. Just shop for a ready-made unit and watch what you spend on the fireplace surround.
If your budget is really tight, a free-standing gel-fuel or electric fireplace eliminates installation costs. But be aware that some bare-bones alternatives don’t completely succeed in mimicking a real wood fire.
Check local building codes for possible restrictions on the types of fireplaces that can be installed in your area.
Costs of a wood-burning fireplace
An open-hearth, wood-burning fireplace—like the ones you see in mountain resort hotels—requires the help of a skilled, professional mason and a budget approaching (and often exceeding) $10,000.
For an existing home, considerable renovation work is required, including a foundation to carry the weight of the firebox and chimney, and the cost of the chimney itself.
Expect to pay $7,000 to $10,000 or more.
- Cost saver tip: Go for a drywall surround and a simple, wall-mounted mantle.
Costs of a gas-burning fireplace
A fireplace unit that burns natural gas or propane runs about $2,000 for the basic materials package. Installation and finishing typically add $2,500.
- Cost saver tip: Switch to a simpler surround and mantle, and get a direct-vent fireplace so you don’t need a chimney. Or, opt for a vent-free gas fireplace for $400 or so. Hiring a professional to install a gas line or a connection to a propane tank adds about $1,000.
Your least-expensive option
A gel-fuel fireplace or an electric fireplace starts under $400. With a portable unit, that’s the total cost since the fireplace is ready to use once you remove the packaging.
Because there’s no flue or chimney, it’s easy to install TVs or other electronic gear directly above an electric fireplace. If you include a mantel package, expect to pay $800 to $1,600. One perk available: sound effects that mimic the crackle and pop of a real fire.
Estimate your energy costs by using a fuel cost comparison calculator. Gel fuel, not included in the calculator, costs $3 per 13-ounce can, enough for three hours.
For a wood-burning fireplace, figure on $100 to $200 a year for chimney cleaning. Gas fireplaces need an annual service check ($100 to $150) plus a chimney inspection. Gel-fuel and electric fireplaces don’t need regular maintenance.
Tax credits for fireplace inserts
Through Dec. 31, 2011, you may qualify for a federal tax credit for up to $300 in costs, if you install a biomass (wood-or pellet-burning) fireplace insert that’s at least 75% fuel-efficient.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/fireplaces-chimneys/fireplace-addition-costs/#ixzz1dLQ7Xywj
Wednesday, October 19 2011
Besides the annual inspection and sweep for your chimney, improve the function of your wood fireplace with responsible use.
Ready for the colder months? You will be if you follow these simple guidelines to keep your wood fireplace burning brightly—and safely.
1. Only burn dry, cured wood—logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow.
Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you’ll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
2. Burn firewood and only firewood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your wood fireplace going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.
3. Close the damper when not using your wood fireplace to prevent warm indoor air—and the dollars you’re spending to heat it—from rushing up the chimney.
4. Keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room. On a factory-built, prefab wood fireplace with a circulating fan, keep doors closed to prevent unnecesary heat loss.
5. Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney, and to reduce downdrafts. Caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one because it won’t rust. Caps cost $50 to $200.
6. Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. A top-mounted damper that also functions as a rain cap provides a tighter closure than a traditional damper for your wood fireplace.
7. Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house—near your wood fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.
8. Get your chimney cleaned twice a year if you burn more than three cords of wood annually. A cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pickup trucks.
9. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the damper of your wood fireplace completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally—with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering in the fireplace and creosote from developing.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/fireplaces-chimneys/wood-fireplace-9-tips-safety-and-efficiency/#ixzz1aaAPwOVL