Seasoning your firewood is an integral step in ensuring your wood is ready to burn when you need it. The last thing anyone wants is wood that is unseasoned because it will not burn properly. However, when most folks think about seasoning firewood, they probably imagine a long, arduous process.
The fastest way to season firewood is to properly stack, store, and dry it. However, the best way to speed up the drying process has to do with storing. Some ideas are to store in a hot and dry shed, a south-facing room (north-facing if you’re in the southern hemisphere), or near your current fireplace or wood stove.
Luckily, some steps can be taken to make this process go much more quickly and efficiently. Seasoning your firewood does not have to be a difficult project. Read on to learn all about 10 of the fastest ways you can season your firewood and prepare it for the cold months.
Pro-Tip: For the hottest and longest fire, only burn firewood that contains less than 20% moisture content. To find out how dry your logs are, I recommend using a moisture meter.
How Long Does Firewood Normally Take to Season?
Firewood normally takes 12 months to season. Common methods of drying include sun-drying, using an oven, or using a fan. The speed of seasoning firewood depends on factors such as how well the wood is cut and stacked, the type of wood, and the method of drying.
12 months may seem like a long time, but you can drastically reduce the time it takes with a few easy tips.
When firewood is seasoned improperly, the process can take much longer. Many do not take the time at the beginning to make it run more smoothly. This results in a lengthy waiting period.
Seasoning Your Firewood Faster
Time is just one factor when it comes to seasoning firewood. Many elements need to be considered when beginning this process. These include:
- Proper storage: You need to know how to properly store your firewood so that it seasons properly.
- Weather conditions: Weather plays a big part in seasoning your firewood. You need to be cognizant of ideal weather conditions (humidity, rain, snow, etc.) for seasoning your wood.
- Alternative methods: There are alternative methods to help dry your firewood quicker. You can help speed the process by implementing these methods, but you need to be aware of what they are so you can utilize them properly.
Being aware of all steps in the process helps create an atmosphere where you will be able to succeed with speeding up the seasoning process.
When you take the proper steps to season your firewood, with these other elements in mind, you will speed the process up quite a bit. But what else can you be doing? What are the tips you need to season your firewood the fastest?
10 Quickest Ways to Season Firewood
1. Make Sure Your Wood is Cut Properly
The first way you can make sure your firewood seasons quickly is to make sure it is cut properly. You don’t want large chunks of firewood that are split unevenly.
The best thing to do is to make sure that all your pieces of firewood are cut consistently. Every piece should roughly be the same shape and size. It is also a good idea to quarter the logs with an ax or splitter.
How does this speed up the seasoning process? By cutting your wood properly, you ensure that it will stack properly. You are completing the first step to make sure everything that follows runs smoothly, and when things run smoothly, they run quickly.
2. Stack Your Wood Well
A lot of people will season their wood outside, and many will do it within structures, too. Whichever way you season your wood, you need to stack it.
It is a common mistake to just throw the pieces of firewood into a pile. There needs to be some order in how you do it. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are stacking your firewood:
- Make sure the wood is not directly on the ground: Wood placed directly on the ground will get pressed into the dirt or grass it rests upon. After rain or snow, water will seep into the wood from the ground, causing damage and making it usable. Opt for a wood rack or other firm material that will keep it off the ground.
- Stack wood in small sections: You want to leave space in between the stacks of wood. This will allow more air to pass through the firewood. More air means a better dry time.
- Stack the wood bark side down, except for the top row: Stacking your wood with the bark facing down (except for the top row) will season better within the stacks.
The main thing to remember is that you want to create the best environment for your firewood to season. By cutting and stacking your wood properly, you allow more air to reach the wood. Additionally, when paired with other tips, you will be able to quicken the entire process.
3. Use Direct Sunlight to Season Your Firewood
Perhaps one of the most popular ways to season firewood, using direct sunlight is a great way to get the process done quickly. For this method to work, you need to make sure the wood is cut and stacked properly.
Make sure, if the weather is good, to uncover the wood. Choose an open area that gets a lot of sunlight. While wood can still dry in shady areas, it will take longer. Your best bet is an open area that gets direct sunlight most of the day.
If you can, make sure that the stack of wood is unencumbered. You want air to be able to pass all around it, not just one side.
The heat of the sun paired with the benefits of a properly stacked woodpile will get the wood to dry in a fast and efficient manner. Paying attention to these little nuances will save you a lot of time in the long run.
4. Store Your Wood in a Shed or Garage
You may find that you want to store your seasoning wood within a structure of some kind. This can be your garage or a shed.
Storing your wood inside these structures has a few benefits.
- Offers protection from the elements: This is especially important if you live in an area that receives ample rain or snow. The moisture from the rain and snow will adversely affect the drying time of the wood. Structures give automatic protection.
- Keeps out animals and other creatures: Using a structure will keep animals out of your woodpile. Animals routinely make homes in woodpiles, as do bugs. These creatures negatively impact the wood. You want your wood to be in the best condition to ensure both a good “seasoning” and a good overall quality.
- Automatically raises the wood off the ground: As mentioned earlier, you want your wood off the ground. By using a shed (open or enclosed) or a garage, you are automatically keeping it off the ground.
When storing your wood in a shed or garage, be sure to get good ventilation. Your wood needs good airflow to dry properly. Leave the garage door open. Make sure your shed has windows, and so on. The key is airflow.
5. Use an Oven to Season Your Firewood
If you want to speed up the process of seasoning your firewood, you can use an oven to get the job done.
Using an oven to dry your firewood can be dangerous, so be sure to use caution and best safety practices. With a little caution, you can do this method quite easily.
You will want to set your oven to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher poses a fire hazard, and you do not want this. You will have to be diligent as you pay attention to the wood. Remember, you are drying out the wood, which means it will produce steam. If your oven has a fan, you need to turn it on.
The time your wood is in the oven will vary based on how “unseasoned” it is. Use a moisture meter to gauge when your wood is completed.
6. Use a Fan to Dry Your Firewood
Perhaps you do not feel comfortable using your oven to dry your wood. That is fine! You can also use a fan (or fans) to dry your firewood.
It is important to note that if the air is humid, a fan will not work efficiently. You want to make sure the air is dry. Seasoning firewood is all about the reduction of moisture. The less moisture in the air, the better.
Simply set the fans up to blow directly at your woodpile. This will push the dry air toward the wood. This helps speed the process up greatly. It can take the total dry time down to a few weeks if done properly.
7. Dry Out the Air with a Dehumidifier
If you are using a shed or garage, you will find it offers the perfect space to set up a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier will dry the air considerably.
This is a good option if:
- You live in a humid climate
- You have been receiving a lot of rain
- You want to pair it with another method
One thing to keep in mind is the cost of using a dehumidifier. Remember, a dehumidifier uses electricity, so calculate your budget accordingly.
8. Choose the Right Time of the Year to Season
Time is a major factor when it comes to seasoning your firewood. Beginning the process during the right time of the year will ensure you have your wood for when you need it.
Some methods speed up the process greatly, as previously mentioned, but you still want to make sure you are employing these methods at the right time. You should begin the process in the spring. This will allow your wood to dry during what is typically the driest part of the year: summer.
If you need to season your firewood in the “offseason,” consider one of the methods that do not use direct sunlight, such as:
Most people need their wood for the autumn and winter seasons when the temperatures get colder. By seasoning predominantly in the spring and summer months, you know you will have it in time for when you need it.
9. Choose the Right Type of Wood
Choosing the right type of wood will affect your seasoning times. There are two types of wood, generally speaking, to consider. There is hardwood, and there is softwood.
Usually, people choose hardwood for burning as it will last longer. However, their seasoning times are longer—up to a year. Softwood, however, takes much less time on average.
What does this mean for you? It depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for better wood to burn then, you will choose hardwood. When seasoning hardwood, using all these methods will speed up the drying time considerably, which is important if you want your wood to be burnable when you need it to be.
Choosing the wrong wood, or being unaware of what wood you have, can affect how you are drying it. Once you have all the knowledge, you will make better, informed decisions that will benefit you in the long run.
10. Protect Your Wood from the Elements
Protecting your wood properly is a crucial step in making sure your wood dries quickly. The last thing you want is moisture unnecessarily getting into your woodpile.
Rain, snow, and hail pose dangers to the quality of your woodpile. Not only do they wet the wood from the top, but also the bottom. This is why raising the woodpile off the ground via wood or metal is so important.
Using a simple tarpaulin to cover your woodpile does the trick. You may also decide you want to buy a wood-specific tarpaulin, which works just as well. Either way, you want to make sure that your wood is covered whenever it rains or snows.
Take the tarpaulin off your woodpile when it is sunny and warm out. This will allow your wood to enjoy the direct sunlight. If you follow this pattern, you will be simultaneously protecting your wood from unwanted moisture while also drying it out.
How Can You Tell if Firewood is Seasoned?
Seasoned firewood is important for a good burn. It is important to check your firewood occasionally so you know exactly when you can use it.
There are several ways to check if your firewood is seasoned. They include:
- Moisture Level
Checking your firewood to see if it is ready to burn is easy and quick. You just need to know what to look for.
1. Check the Sound of the Firewood
One way to see if your wood is properly seasoned and ready to burn is to check the sound of the firewood.
There are some factors to consider when checking your wood. The first is how the firewood sounds when you hit it against another piece of wood. If the wood is not seasoned properly, the sound will be like a deep thud, which is a sound you do not want. Instead, look for a higher, more hollow sound.
Another sound you can check for is the sizzling of water when you get it hot near a fire. If you put a log into your fireplace and it starts to sizzle as if water is bubbling quickly on a frying pan, it is not ready. Well-seasoned firewood will not make this sound because its moisture level will be low.
2. Check the Feel of the Firewood
Another way to check if your firewood is ready to burn is by the feel of the wood. Dry wood will be lighter in weight than wet wood. Anything will weigh less dry than when it is wet.
The reason for this is because, during the seasoning process, the water content of the wood has evaporated and left the wood, which leaves it weighing less than when freshly cut.
You can also check the condition of the wood. Dryer wood will have more cracks than it did previously. This is a result of the drying process. You will know if your wood is ready if you pay attention to these little details.
It may be advantageous to have an uncured piece of wood nearby to help compare with your seasoned wood. This will help alleviate any doubt you may have about the dry wood.
3. Use a Moisture Meter for Absolute Certainty
Using a moisture meter is one of the best tools to use if you want more certainty in how dry your wood is. A moisture meter will accurately tell the moisture level of the seasoned wood. These devices can be bought online or at most hardware stores. They are generally priced reasonably, though higher-priced models do exist.
So, how does it work? The first thing to know is what moisture levels you should be looking for in your wood.
The moisture levels of wood change depending on whether it is freshly cut or seasoned. A freshly cut piece of wood will have a moisture level above 60%, whereas a well-seasoned piece of firewood will be below 20%. The lower the number, the better it will burn.
This is where the moisture meter comes in. Each moisture meter has two little prongs at the top of the unit. Simply insert these two little prongs into the wood (not into the bark) and wait for the reading. It will tell you what percentage your wood is. You will know immediately if your wood is ready to burn or not.
Is It Okay to Burn Unseasoned Wood?
Seasoning your firewood is important. It is an essential step if you want to burn all the wood you either cut or bought. It is not okay to burn unseasoned wood, especially inside your home.
Unseasoned wood has a high moisture content, which in turn can result in the wood burning poorly. There are several negative aspects to unseasoned wood that is trying to be burned that include:
- Abundant smoke
- Little to no flame
- Little to no heat
- A hazard to your chimney
- Creates a fire hazard for a backyard fire pit
These negative aspects are all prominent features of what happens when you try burning unseasoned wood. Below we will explore a bit more into why these issues tend to be so problematic.
Unseasoned Wood Generates Too Much Smoke
When burning unseasoned wood, you will find that it generates a lot of smoke. This smoke will be constant. If you are burning inside your home, this smoke can build up as creosote inside your chimney. This is not only a safety hazard but a fire hazard as well.
Creosote occurs in chimneys regardless, but when burning unseasoned firewood, the problem is intensified by quite a large margin.
The last thing you want is creosote building up within your chimney. This buildup can ruin your chimney or even start a chimney fire, especially if not noticed right away. You can avoid this by not burning unseasoned firewood inside.
If you are burning firewood outside, the smoke will also be troublesome. No one likes sitting around a smoky fire. The smoke can be inhaled and cause a lot of discomfort to those around the fire. Additionally, in a neighborhood, too much smoke can affect next-door neighbors. You do not want the fire department to have to come down.
Unseasoned Wood Does Not Generate Much Fire
There are no benefits to burning unseasoned firewood. It generates a lot of smoke, and it is because of this abundance of smoke that leads to very little flame or heat.
The moisture level of a piece of water directly correlates with the water content. Water cannot burn and therefore stifles any attempt to make a fire. When you try burning unseasoned firewood, the wood is struggling to ignite because it is fighting against the moisture.
You may get a small flame, but whatever flame you do end up getting will not last long. It will be consistently consumed with smoke. Likewise, you will not be able to generate much heat from unseasoned wood.
Seasoned Wood is What You Should Be Burning
Unseasoned wood is not suitable for burning. You are only inviting hazards into your home or firepit. Unseasoned wood does not burn cleanly or effectively. It only creates headaches.
This is why seasoning your firewood is so important. Seasoned firewood has many benefits that unseasoned firewood does not. These benefits include:
- Seasoned firewood burns cleanly. The biggest benefit to burning seasoned wood is that it will burn cleanly. The smoke will be minimal, and it will burn longer and brighter. The lack of abundant smoke also means that your chimney will remain in good condition, and the odds of a chimney fire will remain low.
- Seasoned firewood generates a lot of heat. For many, wood-burning stoves are a source of heat for their homes. Seasoned wood is the best option for generating heat. Because it is dry, it burns better and hotter. This heat will help heat your home even on the coldest of days.
- Seasoned firewood is the best choice, no matter where you are burning it. Whether you need it for a campfire, a fireplace, or a wood stove, it offers the best choice, both in terms of efficiency and aesthetics. You will not have to worry about trying to find a piece of wood that will burn.
Seasoning your firewood is an important step in ensuring an efficient fire. By taking the proper steps, you will make sure that your wood is properly seasoned, with low moisture levels, and that it seasons in a quick, timely manner.