Sometimes people buy firewood or cut it shortly before they need it. The problem is, it takes months or years for the firewood to dry down to the recommended 20% moisture content. So, how can we season firewood faster?
The quickest way to season firewood is to cut and split it in the spring to allow for the summer to dry it. Split the logs into quarters and stack bark side down to promote airflow. Store the firewood outside if possible in an open shed or covered rack. Keep the firewood off of the ground and away from rain and snow.
Luckily, there are some steps to dry firewood 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 to season your firewood and prepare it for the cold months.
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How Long Does Firewood Normally Take to Season?
Firewood normally takes 6-12 months to season. Common methods of drying include sun-drying, using an oven or kiln, or using a fan. The speed of seasoning firewood depends on how the wood is cut, split, and stacked, the type of wood, and the method of drying. For example, split wood seasons much faster.
While some wood has more water content and take longer to season than others, you can shave off months or even a year with a couple of seasoning tricks.
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. Pay attention to ideal weather conditions (humidity, rain, snow, etc.) for seasoning your wood.
- Alternative methods: Speed the process by implementing these methods, but you need to be aware of what they are so you can utilize them properly. We’ll cover these below.
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. Cut Wood Properly
The first way to season your firewood quickly is to cut and split it properly. You don’t want large chunks of firewood that are split unevenly. Firewood that is double the thickness takes more than twice as long to season.
The best thing to do is to cut your firewood into quarters. You can do this with an axe or a log splitter. Each piece should roughly be the same shape and size to make stacking easier.
How does this speed up the seasoning process?
The increase in surface area of the wood allows the firewood to dry faster. You’re also exposing the heartwood (inner part of the log). The water wicks out of the wood much easier this way.
Additionally, bark is designed to retain water and protect the tree against the elements. If your firewood is simply cut, and not split, there’s much less evaporation and it’s more difficult to light the bark.
Cutting and splitting your firewood makes stacking much, much easier.
2. Stack Your Wood Well
A lot of people season their wood outside, and many will do it within structures such as closed sheds and garages. Whichever way you store your wood, stacking well is vital.
A common mistake is to throw firewood into a pile.
Stacking well promotes airflow, which dramatically speeds up the rate the firewood dries.
Typically, the air has less moisture than freshly cut, green logs. Because of this, the air naturally balances its moisture by pulling it out of the logs.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re stacking your firewood:
- Make sure the wood is not directly on the ground: Wood placed directly on the ground gets pressed into the dirt or grass it rests upon. After rain or snow, water seeps into the wood from the ground, causing damage and making it unusable. Opt for a wood rack or other structure that keeps it off of the ground.
- Stack wood in small sections: Leave space in between the stacks of wood. This allows 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) allows for better seasoning. Bark preserves moisture in the wood, so placing this side down allows the top and sides of the naked log to be exposed to the air.
The main thing to remember is 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 these other tips, you’ll drastically speed up the entire seasoning 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 adversely affects 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.
- 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 keeping it off the ground by default.
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 or kiln to get the job done. This is how commercial firewood is seasoned (usually taking 2-3 days to dry).
Set your oven to about 300ºF. Any higher poses a fire hazard. Remember, you are drying out the wood, which means it will produce steam. If your oven has a fan, turn it on.
The time your wood is in the oven will vary based on how dry it is. Use a moisture meter to gauge when your wood is completed (more on this later).
6. Use a Fan to Dry Your Firewood
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable using your oven to dry your wood. That is fine! You can also use a fan (or fans) to dry your firewood.
However, if the air is humid, a fan won’t work well. So, make sure the air is dry to help pull the moisture out of the wood. 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 closed shed or garage, you’ll find it offers the perfect space to set up a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier dries 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 running a dehumidifier for long periods, 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. Usually this is spring as you can use typically the driest part of the year: summer.
Since most firewood seasons in 6-12 months, there’s a good chance it’ll be ready by the winter if you season it well. To help guarantee this, season your firewood the year before you need it.
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’ll increase the chance it’ll be dry in time for when you need it.
9. Choose the Right Type of Wood
There are two types of wood to consider. Hardwood and softwood.
Usually, people choose hardwood as it burns longer. However, they generally have more water content, so their seasoning times are longer—up to a year. Softwood takes much less time on average.
For example, a full pine log has an estimated 70 gallons of water while an oak log of similar size contains around 1,050 gallons of water.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re looking for better wood to burn then, choose hardwood. When seasoning hardwood, use all these methods to speed up the drying time considerably.
Choosing the wrong wood, or being unaware of what wood you have, can affect how you’re drying it.
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 tarp to cover your woodpile does the trick. You may also want to buy a wood-specific tarp, which works just as well. Either way, check that your wood is covered whenever it rains or snows.
While it’s an extra step, consider taking the tarp off your woodpile when it’s sunny and warm out. This allows your wood to enjoy the direct sunlight. If you follow this pattern, you’ll be simultaneously protecting your wood from unwanted moisture while also drying it out.
To learn more about the benefits of covering firewood, check out my other post: Should Firewood Be Covered? (& The Best Ways)
How Can You Tell if Firewood is Seasoned?
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 is 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.
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 accurately tells you the moisture level of the seasoned wood. These devices can be bought online or at most hardware stores. Here’s the moisture meter I use from Amazon. 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’ll know immediately if your wood is ready to burn or not.
Is It Okay to Burn Unseasoned Wood?
Unseasoned wood has a higher moisture content, so it’s more difficult to light. More importantly, it contains significantly more creosote (the harmful tar buildup you see in chimneys). Avoid burning unseasoned wood, especially indoors.
Typically, unseasoned wood has:
- Abundant smoke
- Little to no flame
- Little to no heat
- Chimney hazard
- Fire pit hazard
Let’s take a look at exactly what happens when we burn unseasoned wood.
Unseasoned Wood Generates Too Much Smoke
When burning unseasoned wood, you’ll find it generates a lot of smoke. This smoke is constant. If you are burning inside your home, this smoke also builds 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.
This buildup can ruin your chimney or even start a chimney fire, especially if not noticed right away. You can avoid this by only burning seasoned firewood inside.
If you’re 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, too much smoke affects 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
The main objective of seasoning is to have firewood with a moisture content of 20% or less. This balance of moisture allows the wood to not burn too quick or too slow.
Firewood with little to no moisture content promotes fires that burn too hot and too quick, potentially cracking masonry.
Recommended: Firewood vs Firelogs: Which is Better?
Here are some more benefits of 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.
- 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.
- 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 don’t 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.