How to Season Firewood
While the temperatures outside continue to heat up, firewood is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you’re looking for an excuse to fire up the chainsaw, it might be a great time to start gathering logs to burn this winter. (And any time is a good time for chainsaw maintenance!)
Just make sure that any logs you cut now have plenty of time to dry before you burn them. Burning fresh-cut firewood or green wood produces a lot of smoke and is a big contributor to dangerous creosote buildup in chimneys, a leading cause of chimney fires.
Here are some tips to properly season your firewood, along with answers to a few frequently asked questions for better wood burning this winter.
What is the best way to season firewood?
Cut the Wood to Size
If you’re cutting logs from fallen trees, use your chainsaw to cut the length of the log into equal pieces. The standard cutting length is around 16”, but you may need to cut your logs shorter if your stove won’t take 16” pieces.
Split the Wood
The next step is to split each log into manageable chunks. This speeds drying time and makes it easier to lift the wood to add it to your stove or fireplace. Use an ax or a gas or electric-powered log splitter to split each log into quarters.
Store Wood off the Ground
It’s important to store wood off of the ground to prevent it from absorbing additional moisture. You can use a log rack or skid to neatly stack your wood. You can also stack wood in an open barn or wood shed.
Stack Wood for Air Flow
Stack your split wood in single layers, bark side down to allow air to flow around and through it. This will speed drying time.
Cover Wood from Rain and Snow
To protect your wood from rain and snow, stack the top layer of wood bark side up. The bark will act as a natural barrier against moisture. You can also cover the top of your stacked wood with a tarp. Just make sure you leave the ends of the wood uncovered to allow continuous air flow.
Allow Sun and Wind Exposure
Stack your wood in an area with exposure to frequent sun and wind. Sun exposure will help evaporate moisture in the wood, while wind will help carry the moisture away.
What is the best wood to season and burn?
The best wood types to use in your stove or fireplace are hard, dense woods that burn slowly and produce a lot of heat. Hardwoods like oak, ash, and hard maple are excellent options. American beech also produces a lot of heat, but can be difficult to split. Apple wood, black cherry, and white birch are also good choices.
Red cedar, American elm, and white pine produce low amounts of heat, so they aren’t recommended for most fires, though they can be good for kindling a fire to get it started.
How long does wood have to dry before you can burn it?
The amount of drying time your wood needs to season depends on the wood variety. A general rule of thumb is no less than 6 months. Most hardwoods are ready to burn in one to two years.
How can you tell if wood is seasoned?
Seasoned firewood appears darker in color than green, freshly cut wood. Also look for cracks and checking in the ends of split logs. These cracks appear as moisture leaves the wood. A quick test is to bang two logs together to listen to the sound they make. A muffled, dead sound means the wood is still green. If you hear a ringing sound, almost like the sound of a ball off a bat in a baseball game, the wood is ready to burn.
Can I burn unseasoned wood in my fireplace?
Freshly cut firewood can contain up to 50% water, making it very difficult to burn. According to WikiHow, “Burning unseasoned (green) or even partially seasoned wood in your stove or fireplace will cause creosote build-up in your chimney, which can lead to a chimney fire at the worst, and a lack of fire or a roomful of smoke at best.” Properly seasoned wood contains less than 20% water content, making it much more efficient to burn.
While cutting, splitting, and stacking your wood can seem like a lot of work (though our Husqvarna chainsaws and tractors from Mahindra can make that a little easier), properly seasoning your firewood is well worth the effort. Seasoned firewood is lighter, easier to burn, and burns much more efficiently, while producing far less creosote. That means more time to spend gathered around a roaring fire all winter long.
Need a new chainsaw to tame those big logs? How about a pole saw, blower, or trimmer to clean up the yard when you’re done? Be sure to check out your nearest Power Pro Equipment location for a full line of chainsaws, pole saws, blowers, and much more from the best names in the business.