Properly Aging Firewood
How to Season Firewood for a Better Burn
No matter which way you cut it (or split it with your trusty log splitter), fresh wood just doesn't burn right.
Fresh-cut wood has a high moisture content, which makes it hard to get burning. It also gives off more smoke.
Worse yet, unseasoned wood is a major contributor to creosote buildup in chimneys, which leads to chimney fires.
To keep your chimney cleaner and your home smelling less like a campfire, you must learn to properly age your firewood.
Aging your firewood (also called seasoning firewood or curing firewood) makes it lighter to carry, cleaner burning, easier to ignite, and safer for your chimney.
Choosing the Right Wood to Season and Burn
While you may not always have the luxury of choosing what wood to use, some types of seasoned firewood will provide better results.
For example, oak is a very good choice for wood burning furnaces, because it's dense and it burns hot. But you should season oak for at least a year before using it.
If you're choosing from trees on a wooded lot, cut down the trees that are crowding other trees from growing. Thinning out a crowded area will allow more sun and nutrients for the remaining trees.
Never use wood from a dead or diseased tree as it'll burn poorly. Consider odd, crooked-growing trees that may cause problems. Removing them may benefit the surrounding trees, and the wood may be just fine for burning.
Sizing, Cutting, and Splitting Firewood
When you cut firewood for aging, you want the pieces to be uniform in size. If there's too much variation, it won't stack well.
Cutting a fallen tree into logs is referred to as bucking. When bucking a tree, it's standard to cut 16" sections of wood.
If you have a 16" bar on your chainsaw, you can use it to roughly measure each section. Otherwise, for a more consistent cut, consider a specially made measuring tool such as a log marker.
After you finish bucking the tree, you need to split the chunks into manageable sizes. Typically people split logs into quarters. This can be done with an axe, but powered log splitters will help you save time and energy.
Any type of log splitter can be useful for preparing your firewood:
- Electric log splitters for indoor use
- Gas log splitters for out in the field
- Skid steer log splitters for serious business
For even less work and more productivity, look into investing in a 4-way wedge to split one log into four pieces at a time.
How to Stack and Cure Wood
Similarly, there are also a few ways to stack wood:
- Stack it along a fence line
- Stack it in an open barn or shed
- Use a log rack
- Build your own Holz Hausen
Although some people simply stack the wood up along a fence line, it's not the best way to age it. The pieces placed on the ground will get wet, and the ends against the fence won't dry well, resulting in improperly seasoned wood that burns unevenly.
With a log rack, you can keep your firewood off the ground, and both ends of the wood will be exposed to air and allowed to dry properly.
With a barn or shed, be sure it's open enough to allow plenty of air circulation for drying the firewood. Don't place the firewood directly against an inner wall, and consider keeping it raised off the ground with a pallet or a log rack.
Another nifty way to season your wood without a rack or a shed is to build a Holz Hausen. Creating a Holz Hausen may take some time, but it doesn't require additional supplies, and the resulting structure looks impressive.
Whatever method you choose to use, turn the logs bark-side down as you stack them, then turn them bark-side up on the top row. Doing this will allow moisture to escape from most of the firewood, while the bark covering the top row will shield the rest of it from rain and snow.