How to Use River Birch for Fire Wood

River birch, which goes by the botanical name of Betula nigra, has a red colored bark that peels off in thin layers giving the trunk a distinctive appearance. River birch wood can be used as firewood since it burns very hot and fast. However, unlike hardwoods, birch does not last very long, so you will need more of the wood to keep the fire burning. Before using river birch firewood, you must season it.

Step 1

Put on safety glasses and ear plugs. Cut the river birch trunk into 12- to 18-inch long sections using a chain saw.

Step 2

Turn one round piece of trunk on its end so that it sits flat. Place it on a tree stump or other sturdy surface approximately 2 feet off the ground. Use an ax to cut through the center of the trunk thus splitting the log in two pieces. If the resulting pieces are larger than 6 inches, use the ax to split them in half again.

Step 3

Locate an area of the yard that is in the shade but has dry soil under it. Stack the chopped river birch firewood in a stack that is approximately 4 feet tall. Cover the wood pile with a tarp to protect it from moisture. Allow the wood to sit for at least six to 12 months.

Step 4

Look into the inside top of the fireplace to ensure the metal flap, called a damper, is open. If needed, turn the knob or lever near the front of the fireplace to open it until you can see up the chimney.

Step 5

Crumple up three pieces of newspaper and place them into the bottom grate of the fireplace. Cover the paper with small twigs, called kindling. The kindling should be approximately 10 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter.

Step 6

Place two to three pieces of the seasoned river birch on top of the kindling, positioning them perpendicular to the grate.

Step 7

Roll up another piece of newspaper into a long tube and light the end of it with a match. Hold the flame up inside the chimney for five to 10 seconds and then lower it to the bottom of the grate. Drop the paper in to ignite the firewood.


Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.