How to Stop Embers From ‘Popping’ Out of Your Fireplace

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Sitting around a roaring fire is one of the most enjoyable and tranquil winter activities. You’ve got your hot chocolate or your wine, your book, your family—truly bliss happens here. But do you know what is not blissful? When the fire bursts, small hot debris will fly towards you. It can be scary, painful, and even dangerous. Some firewood is more likely to split than others, so here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you stock up.

Why does firewood pop?

If you’ve ever cut into wood or gathered less-than-perfect lumber for a project, you know that wood isn’t all solid. There are small pockets in it, and according to the Farmer’s Almanacthese can be filled with pitch, sap, and other flammable materials. They liquify as temperatures rise, eventually evaporating and exerting pressure on the walls of the bags until they rupture, creating the popping sound. Pro chimney tips, there is also some water in the porous grains of the wood fibers, which turns into gaseous vapor when heated. This vapor can build up pressure until it bursts with a sharp bang.

But the sound is not the only problem: Particles and embers can also be shot out with the little banger and end up in your living room or even hit you. Always make sure your screen is in place to prevent these from invading your space very far.

Which woods crack the least?

According to Fireplace Tips, these types of wood are drier than other types, so they won’t crack as much as a wetter wood, making them a good choice for your fireplace:

  • Apple
  • ash
  • birch
  • cherry
  • Oak
  • maple
  • Jaw
  • walnut
  • beech
  • ironwood
  • aspen
  • cedar

You can also get some dried out wood. You can see on the packaging whether your wood is kiln dried or seasoned. Seasoned wood pops a little more than kiln-dried wood because it retains a little more water, but that water also helps it burn more efficiently.

After all, wood pellets do not burst. So if you’re really looking to reduce the noise and risk of flying debris, you can opt for this more unconventional strain.

Which woods crack the most?

Softwoods like pine and fir pop the most. Of course, they also have some of the nicer scents, so swap a little here. Softwoods have resin channels where hardwoods don’t, and those channels are a big part of what makes wood pop. Softwoods are succulent, too — you often can see the sap on these trees. Taken together, this provides ample opportunity for moisture to lurk in these woods and eventually pop out when heated.

Other softwoods to avoid if you don’t want a pop are cedar, larch, poplar, and spruce.

How to store firewood

Proper stacking and storage of your firewood is key to drying and seasoning. According to Family Handyman, stack it neatly outside on some sort of plastic or designated wooden stand. (Keep it well away from your home as it can attract rodents and of course it’s flammable.) Lay the cut ends outside, making sure the wood is touching the ground and not walls, and don’t unpack it so tight that the parts on the underside can remain moist. Place the stack in direct sunlight.

If you are going to store it for a long term, cover it with a tarp and tie it up after it dries in the sun.

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