How to Stack, Store and Season Firewood
Where would your wood burner be without a good supply of fuel to see you through the coldest night?
While having a good quality stove is essential when it comes to burning wood, it can sometimes only be as good as the fuel you use. That’s why you need to have a good store of dry, seasoned wood to ensure you are making the most of your log burner.
Burning seasoned wood has numerous benefits, which you can read more about below. While you can buy it from Woodsure suppliers, many people also like to season their firewood themselves, either as a back-up or a main supply.
To do this, you need to ensure you:
- Give yourself enough time to allow it to dry out and season
- Chop it properly to speed the process up
- Stack it in an appropriate log store
- Store it somewhere dry, sunny and with plenty of air to circulate
Whether it’s to save money or something of a hobby, find out more about drying, seasoning and stacking your own firewood below...
Click here to skip straight to our step-by-step tips on seasoning firewood fast.
What is Seasoned Wood?
‘Seasoned wood’ is wood that has been dried to remove as much moisture content as possible.
It is recommended that you only burn wood with a maximum of 20% moisture. However, freshly cut wood (also known as ‘green wood’) can contain up to 50% moisture, so seasoning firewood is highly advised before you throw it on your fire.
Why Do You Need to Use Seasoned Wood?
- More efficient
- Produces less smoke
- Keeps your stove cleaner and healthier
The benefits of using seasoned firewood are plenty, improving efficiency, cleanliness and environmental impact.
First off, let’s consider what happens if you burn unseasoned wood. The high level of moisture makes lighting a fire difficult. If you do manage to get one going, a lot of energy will be used to evaporate the water off, first. For this reason, if you are using unseasoned wood, you might find that your log burner keeps going out.
You will also find that using unseasoned wood causes your fire to produce a large amount of smoke as it burns off moisture. This smoke will dirty your chimney, often resulting in a stubborn and dangerous build up of creosote. It will also lead to your stove glass becoming blackened much quicker, too.
Along with causing dirt in your chimney and stove, the smoke released by burning unseasoned wood can create harmful air pollution, which can impact the environment and your health.
By seasoning your firewood, you give it time to allow most of the moisture to evaporate off beforehand. So, when you put it on your fire, it burns as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This means less dirt and minimal damage to the environment and air we breath! When used with an EcoDesign stove, seasoned wood is the cleanest way to burn solid fuel.
For more information, see how the clean air strategy is working to support the use of seasoned wood in our blog post: Are Wood Burning Stoves Going to Be Banned?
How Can You Tell if Wood is Seasoned?
If you are buying pre-seasoned wood, you can look out for the Woodsure Ready to Burn logo, which shows it has passed quality assurance measures.
If, however, you aren’t sure if your wood is seasoned, or plan on doing it yourself, you can check the following factors:
- Appearance - it should be pale in colour with some visible cracks, while the bark should easily come loose.
- Weight - without its moisture content, seasoned wood should feel light in weight.
- Sound - when you tap two of the logs together, it should make more of a clear knocking sound than the dull thud of green wood.
You can also buy a moisture meter to test the water content of the wood more scientifically. To use one of these, take a couple of readings from a sample of logs and make sure they are ideally below 20% moisture. 25% is the absolute maximum moisture content firewood should have.
How to Season Firewood
If you have access to your own source of wood, you may want to season it yourself. This can not only save you money, but also cuts out the carbon that would be used to transport your logs - good to know if you are particularly eco-conscious!
Spring is a good time to start seasoning firewood, as it takes at least 6 months to reach optimum dryness. This means if you start in April, you can have it ready to go by the first cold October nights.
How long it takes to season wood actually depends on what type of wood it is. Soft wood can be dried within 6 months, if done correctly. Hardwood, meanwhile, such as oak, can take anywhere from 1 - 2 years.
Find out more: Wood Buying Guide for Wood Burning Stoves
If you have bought seasoned wood, you still need to know how to store it correctly to make sure you keep it dry and ready to burn
How to Season Your Own Firewood...
The key to seasoning wood fast and successfully is to maximise the potential for the sun and wind to dry it out naturally. To do this, you need to make sure you choose the right spot for your store, chop it correctly and stack it efficiently.
Here is a guide to drying out your own wet firewood to get you started:
1. Set up your log store
It’s important to find the right spot to season your logs in. It needs to be protected from rain, yet still with plenty of room for air to circulate. Preferably, it should also get some sun to help the process, though this isn’t as important as air circulation - without this, mould can form.
Wooden and metal log stores are also available to buy that are designed to create the best conditions for seasoning your firewood.
2. Cutting your Logs
Chopped wood dries out much quicker than full logs. If yours needs splitting, stand it on its end on a tree stump or soft ground that won’t damage your axe. When it comes to what size pieces to chop your fire logs, bear in mind the size of your stove. A common log size is about 16 inches, but check what fits best into your stove.
Smaller pieces of wood will dry out quicker, so also think about how much time you have to season your wood. About 6-8 inches in thickness should be about right, but again, this might need adjusting depending on the size of your stove.
3. Stacking your firewood
Once you have your firewood chopped and ready to be seasoned, it’s time to stack it in your log store. There are a few techniques for how to stack your wood. Find one that makes the most of your space while allowing enough air to get to the logs.
To keep the air circulating, don’t start stacking it straight on the ground. Instead, use a pallet or a couple of longer pieces of wood as a base. Then, start laying your logs out, placing one on top of the other until your pile is about waist high. Your stack should only be 1 log thick - if you create blocks of logs, the air won’t be able to get to them, which could lead to rot setting in and insects invading.
Some more tips for stacking your firewood include:
- Stacking it with the bark upwards to protect it from rain water
- Pointing the log ends outwards towards the wind
- Placing your stack in the sunniest spot possible
- Piling your wood in a criss-cross to maximise airflow - though this does take up more room
4. Seasoning your logs
Now your logs are chopped and stacked, most of the hard work is done! During dry weather, they should be able to look after themselves as they season.
If it’s very rainy, you can cover them with a tarpaulin. However, be aware that this stops the air getting to the wood and can create condensation. If you choose to cover them, do it loosely and not all the way to the ground - laying a cover just over the top should suffice. Try not to have the cover over the ends of the logs, as this is where the moisture will evaporate from. When the rain eases off, make sure you uncover them again.
How to Store Firewood
Once your firewood is properly seasoned, you may be wondering how to store it.
The best place to store your firewood is outside, at least 5ft away from your home. This is because little bugs and termites are likely still living inside it, so you don’t want to risk them invading your house! Avoid piling it too close to a wall, as this can invite moisture back into the wood. You need to continue keeping your logs well ventilated and dry until you burn them. A wooden log store or open-sided shed is ideal for storing wood outside.
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