There’s nothing quite like a wood-burning fire for even heat and cozy vibes. But whether you use your fireplace as your main source of heat or as a nice touch of ambiance on chilly evenings, you need to make the most of the firewood you use. With proper firewood storage, the wood will burn cleaner, produce less smoke and creosote, and give off a more efficient heat. Read how below!
Fresh cut wood is over 60 percent water. Called “green” or “unseasoned”, fresh cut wood is hard to light. It is wet, so it smolders and puts out a lot of smoke. That smoke doesn’t contribute much to heat, and so you’re left with a chilly, damp, smoky house. Unseasoned wood also puts off more creosote, and creosote accumulation in your flue is never a good thing.
You’ll need to dry, or “season”, your firewood until the moisture content drops to 20 percent. While there are ways to speed up the process, the simplest and cheapest way to season firewood is simply to wait. It typically takes six months to a year for the excess moisture to evaporate. Splitting your firewood will help shorten this time, by exposing the inside of the log and allow the moisture to escape, rather than be trapped by the bark.
Stacking your firewood in a mindful manner will also speed the drying process. The thing to keep in mind is that you want to expose as much of the interior wood surface to sunlight and air as possible.
First, you’ll need to pick your site. Your firewood will stay in that spot for up to a year! Pick a site that will be out of the way of your normal outdoor activities, and never stack wood against the side of a building. Local ordinances and fire codes may prohibit it outright, but regardless, it is a prime spot for a termite infestation to begin.
You want to expose your wood to sunlight, but know that shade-stored firewood also dries just fine. It will just take longer. In regards to air flow, you need to leave gaps and boundaries. If you’re stacking against a fence, leave a space of a couple of inches between the wood and the fence.
Don’t forget airflow under your wood stacks as well! You don’t want direct contact between wood and soil, as the wood will soak up moisture from the soil. Place a tarp under the wood stacks. Even better, use 2x4s or a firewood rack to elevate the wood from the ground altogether. In a pinch, just make sure that your bottom layer is laid with the bark of each piece on the ground. The bark will prevent moisture accumulation to some degree.
When stacking your firewood, stack each piece with the cut ends exposed. Again, this maximizes airflow. You’ll want to avoid straight, vertical rows, which are very unstable. Stack your wood like you would stack bricks, by overlapping each row, and stack it loosely. While a tightly packed wood stack will save space, it will decrease sunlight exposure and airflow, increasing the time you’ll have to wait to use the firewood.
Unless you live in a particularly dry climate, it’s wise to cover your wood stacks. Wait, doesn’t that prevent sunlight and air flow? Not quite! Use a tarp to cover the top and the first few inches of the wood stacks. This keeps rainfall, dew, and frost from adding moisture to the wood, while keeping the sides open to air flow and sunlight. If you don’t have a tarp handy, flip the wood on the top couple of layers of your stack to where the bark is facing up. The bark will mitigate some moisture accumulation.