7 Tips for Storing and Seasoning Firewood

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When you get a load of firewood, it’s important that you store it so that it seasons appropriately for when you want to use it.

Furthermore, it’s important to store firewood appropriately on a dedicated firewood rack to minimize risks. There is the risk of fire as well as insect infestation if firewood is not stored appropriately.

In this article we’ve collated some of the best advice on how to store and season firewood so that it burns high quality and safe fires in a fireplace. Note that the following information does not represent advice to you or your circumstances, professional or otherwise.

Tips for Storing and Seasoning Firewood

1. Start Seasoning the Firewood in Early Spring

Firewood needs 6 – 9 months to season.

Once you have selected a type of firewood that burns well, you need to let it dry out before use. We call the process of drying out firewood “seasoning”. We use that word because of how long it takes to dry out firewood – a whole season! So it’s best to put firewood out in early spring so it gets a whole 6 – 9 months to dry out.

We think it’s best to place firewood in a place where it’s exposed to a lot of wind and sunshine. The wind and sun should help to remove moisture from the logs, helping it to get as dry as possible.

When the wood is seasoned it will burn much easier and more cleanly.

It’s actually best to let wood season for 2-3 years.

But no one has time for that!

So, one full summer season is usually the default amount of time it takes to season firewood.

There are some alternative approaches to seasoning wood that speed up the process. The most common is using a kiln to dry the wood out – but this is expensive and not really worthwhile.

2. Keep the Firewood at least 100 Feet from your House

Keeping firewood away from the home can protect a home from rodents and minimizes risks to the home during wildfire season.

Many pest control companies would suggest storing firewood just 30 feet from the house.

That’s because a firewood rack is a perfect habitat for rodents, mice, termites and of course SNAKES! Growing up in Australia, I was always taught to never overturn a log that’s lying on the ground. The chances a snake is hiding under there are – well, pretty decent.

So keeping firewood right by the home is just an invitation to insects and rodents to come and disturb your nice peaceful life.

But 100 feet is the recommendation from FEMA [1] so that you will minimize the risk that a burning firewood stack will lead to a burning house. The risk of this happening is significantly increased during wildfire season. Embers from nearby wildfires can travel anywhere up to one mile [2]. If they land in your stack of firewood that’s up against a wall of your house, you can say goodbye to your home.

3. Place the Firewood on a Raised Rack

Raising wood from the ground prevents it from absorbing moisture from the soil.

Firewood needs to be raised from the ground in order for it to season. Sitting on the ground, it will maintain its moisture from contact with soil. Think about when you pick up a log from the ground – it’s often quite wet under there.

On top of that, having firewood touching the ground may be an invitation for bugs to make a home under them (I’m picturing Timon and Pumbaa lifting logs to find grubs for dinner as I write this).

We think the best way to keep it off the ground is of course to get a firewood rack. They will help raise the firewood about 2-3 inches off the ground to save your wood and give it the breathing space to season.

4. Stack Larger Pieces on the Bottom of the Rack for Better Stability

Larger logs can act as the foundation for your stack.

You’ll probably want to cut your logs in half cross-ways to expose the middle. Once you’ve done this, you’ll probably have a whole lot of logs of different shapes and sizes.

By getting the largest pieces and placing them on the bottom row you get a better stack. This won’t only save you the back ache of having to lift them so high. It will also lead to a much more stable and structurally sound firewood stack.

We also like to leave the odd shaped and wedge shaped pieces to the end of a row. They’re great for filling in the gaps so the stack is nice and tight so it has even more support.

5. Place a 1-Foot Cover over your Firewood

A 1-foot cover protects your wood from rain but still allows sun and wind to season the wood.

We used to think a full-length cover for your firewood was best. But we learned!

Firewood needs exposure to wind and sun for it to season.

So, while a full length cover is great for protection from the rain, it’s not so good for seasoning of the wood.

That’s why most high quality firewood racks come with just a 1-foot cover. This cover will only stretch down the sides of your rack by 1 foot. It will still protect your firewood from rain from above, but will allow the majority of the stack to air and catch some sun.

A full-length cover is still a viable option at times. If the firewood is already seasoned, a full-length cover can give added protection from fires. If you’re particularly concerned, you may want to run outside and place the full-length cover on the rack whenever a storm is brewing for added protection from rain. 

6. Check the Wood before Use to see if it has Seasoned

There are clear signs that wood has seasoned: check its weight, color, cracks, bark and smell.

To check if your wood has seasoned enough, keep an eye on the following factors:

  • Weight: Seasoned wood is comparatively light because a lot of the weight of wood is in its moisture content.
  • Color: The color will have faded from a brown to yellow or even greyish color. That’s because the moisture has seeped out of the wood.
  • Cracking: You may see that the firewood has literally cracked through. Most people see those cracks as a great spot for splitting the wood with an axe!
  • Bark: The bark on seasoned firewood usually peels from the trunk of the wood.
  • Smell: Fresh wood has a sweet aroma. Dried wood will have a much weaker smell.

Lastly, the ultimate test is whether it burns! So if all else fails – try to burn a log and see what happens. (Probably best for an outdoor firepit – if you try to burn a super wet or pine log indoors it might get a bit smokey and cause your smoke detector alarm to go off).

7. Keep a Small Store of Wood Indoors

While it’s best to season wood outdoors, having a small stack by your fireplace is handy.

We like to keep just a small amount of wood by our fireplace. It makes the experience of having a fireplace much more enjoyable. When you need some seasoned wood, it’s always right by your side.

But it also helps to dry the wood out that little bit more before we use it.

We have a two-shelf indoor firewood rack (that also came with an awesome set of fireplace tools). We place the fresher wood on the bottom shelf and always take from the top shelf. Having those extra few days to let the wood dry out indoors is a nice way to ensure the wood’ just right for throwing on the fireplace grate ready for it to burn.

Conclusion

Seasoning firewood helps you to have a clean burning fire through the winter months. Start seasoning the wood in early spring and stack the firewood on a dedicated rack away from the home. This ensures best results and keeps your house safe.

We think it’s usually best to store the wood outside. Not only is this safer, it’s also good for seasoning the wood. Exposure to the wind and sun is the best thing for seasoning of wood.

But when winter comes, we also keep a small store of firewood by our fireplace on an indoor rack so there’s always some wood ready and handy when the fire starts dwindling.

We hope these tips have been helpful – and good luck with the seasoning of your firewood! But remember, this article has shared our opinions and a range of examples for our circumstances only, and is based on our online research. It does not constitute advice, professional or otherwise. Your circumstances or experiences will differ from ours. Make sure you do your own research and due diligence and adhere to the rules laid out in our terms and conditions and disclaimer.

– Chris

Sources

  1. https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409003859391-0e8ad1ed42c129f11fbc23d008d1ee85/how_to_prepare_wildfire_033014_508.pdf
  2. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/knowing_about_fire_behavior_can_protect_your_home_from_wildfire