Seasoning of firewood is the process of eliminating moisture from the wood in a bid to minimize structure problems during construction or to avoid much smoke when combusting wood into firewood. Dried wood is lighter than green wood, not to mention being stronger. Also, it warps with mold less often and is easier to varnish or paint with. The list of advantages of dry wood could go on and on, but that’s a story for another day.
A con with burning green wood in your fireplace or stove is that it will create a build-up of creosote in the chimney. This leaves the chimney at its worst, and lack of smoke or fire at its best. For this, it is imperative that every homeowner should know the steps taken into seasoning firewood, at least do it for your fireplace.
When seasoning firewood, the first step is to let it dry to allow for moisture content to evaporate. One thing to keep in mind is that dry wood burns clean and so the drier the wood, the better and cleaner it burns. The wood will be ready for burning once the moisture content hits below 20%. Here is a detailed guide on how to season firewood.
Be aware of the properties of the wood
Before drying your wood, first, know about its properties. The duration needed to season wood is entirely on its features. Deciduous trees, on the other hand, are dependent on the time of cutting the tree. In deciduous trees, the sap moves to the roots during the winter. So, the tree will have more moisture content during this time.
Softwoods like pine will take anywhere between six and twelve months to season, whereas hardwoods like mahogany require up to 2 years. This rule of thumb, however, has exceptions, and so knowing the type of tree is equally essential.
Gathering and stacking wood
The second thing to do is to gather and stack your wood at the proper time of the year. Gathering wood during the warm weather of the summer season makes total sense. This is for obvious reasons that the wood will dry out faster. The only exception to this is the deciduous trees which need to be gathered during the winter period when their saps are at the lowest.
In places that receive little rainfall in summer, you have the viable option of open-air storage. Any rain falling replaces the sap, and the water will evaporate fast in the heat, which consequently will lead to the fuel drying faster.
Chopping the wood
The next step lies with chopping the wood. The best sizes should be no more than 20 cm or 8 inches in diameter. The typical length size should be 45 cm or 18 inches. A face cord should be cut to 40 cm or 16 inches to fit well in small stoves.
When the chopping task is done, store the wood safely outdoor. Storing wood indoors is prohibited, with the main reason being to avoid termites. Termites are attracted to wood, and by any chance, you don’t want them inside your house.
Stacking the wood
Stack the wood in a way that it isn’t sitting on the ground directly either is it leaning on the wall up-right if you lack a woodshed, cut two saplings that will act as a base, and which will prevent direct contact of the firewood and the ground. Another great alternative is pallets. If for any reason you don’t want to create side supports, you could alternatively stack the ends. This is by turning the wood 90° with the layers making the end stacks self-supportive.
Allow for space between the stacks
One essential part of the seasoning process that fewer people are aware of is air circulation. Good aeration allows for proper drying of the wood. Create a wall and spaces between the stacks to enable the movement of air. Most of the times, you get moisture barriers like tarps under the wood and need to space them off the ground for adequate flow of air.
Cover the wood
Rain might fall and soak the wood and to prevent this, you need to cover the top of the wood. Amidst this, you still need to leave the ends uncovered for adequate circulation of air and also allow moisture to escape. Two theories are available under the concept of covering wood, and you must decide which one fits you best.
The first one is as already stated- cover the wood to prevent snow and rain inside the stack. The other theory is that you don’t have to cover the wood, at all. All you need to do is leave the wood outside in all weathers, and the results will be as good as if you would’ve covered it.
This theory has supporters within the firewood community who believe that this method works equally good as when you would have covered it. You could opt to divide the woods into two and try both ways. Find out which one works best for you and go with it.
Checking for the dryness of your wood
A wood moisture tester meter is used to check for the level of dryness in wood. There’s, however, no need to worry if you don’t have one. You can follow this simple procedure as an alternative:
- Pick two dry pieces of the wood. You can gauge the dryness by looking at them. Knock them together, and if you hear a ‘ring’ sound instead of ‘thug’, then they’re probably dry.
- You could as well check for cracks at the ends of the wood. Radial cracks are an indication of dryness.
- Burn a piece of the wood on a firebase. If the fuel is dry, then three sides should start to burn in less than 15 minutes.
These steps aren’t tricky, aren’t they? We’ve tried them out, and so can you. All you need to do is follow the steps to the latter, and you’re good to go. Wood seasoning is an integral part of the wood life, and it is next to compulsory that you master this art.
I’ve been cutting wood since I was 8 years old with my father. I have been using log splitters for 7 years now and have a great deal of experience with them. Now I’ve got my own wood cutting & logging business and want to share my experience with my readers.