Our firewood is currently stored outside, but it’s been raining and the pile got wet. We were concerned this would affect the burning, so I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found about using wet firewood.
If your firewood was properly seasoned (dried) for at least 6-12 months, it will still burn when wet or rained on. This is because the cells in the wood are dried and cannot become rehydrated. Some free water may be held in between the wood fibers, but this will boil out with a hot fire. Avoid burning unseasoned wood.
Let’s take a look at exactly what happens when we burn wet firewood and how long it takes to dry.
Want an easy way to check if your firewood is seasoned? I recommend using a firewood moisture meter. Here’s the moisture meter I use from Amazon.
Can You Burn Wet Firewood?
There are two types of wet firewood. Seasoned wet firewood, and unseasoned wet firewood.
Seasoned firewood is when the wood is left to dry for at least 6 to 12 months. At this point, the plant cells in the wood have properly dried and have a cleaner burn with less creosote.
When this wood gets wet it’s only holding small amounts of water in between the wood fibers and is totally fine to burn. This is called free water.
Unseasoned firewood is wood that has not yet been fully dried or seasoned and shouldn’t be burned.
This is because unseasoned firewood is still too new or “green” and the wood cells are holding excess water in them, also called bound water. Bound water can only be removed from proper seasoning.
Wet or green wood that’s been freshly chopped is going to have a higher moisture content (around 40-50%), which means it won’t produce good, hot fires. Burning green wood leads to cooler flue gases, greater smoke production, and more creosote, none of which we want.Chimney Safety Institute of America
You can tell if your firewood is properly seasoned in a few ways.
- Appearance – If your firewood has deep, radial cracks at the ends it’s most likely seasoned.
- Sound – When two seasoned pieces of firewood are hit together, they’ll make a ringing sound. On the other hand, unseasoned firewood will thud.
- Weight – Seasoned firewood is lighter, although this is sometimes difficult to tell.
- Moisture Content – The best way to tell if your firewood is seasoned is if it has a moisture content of 20% or under. An easy and affordable way to do this is with a moisture meter.
So, if your firewood is seasoned and it got wet from the rain or another water source, it’s totally fine to burn. It’ll just be a bit tricky to get the fire started and you’ll need a slightly hotter fire to burn off the free water the wood is holding.
A good way to do this is to get some dry kindling or a fire starter. Once you get the fire hot enough, you can place the rained-on logs on top. You’ll see the logs take a little extra time to burn and release some steam, but they’ll still work well.
How Long Does Wet Firewood Take to Dry?
Wet firewood that’s seasoned takes about 1 sunny day to dry out. This is because the water in seasoned firewood is free water, which is quickly shed from the openings in the wood fibers.
On the other hand, bound water inside the wood cells of unseasoned logs takes about 6-12 months to dry.
Let’s take a closer look at how to both dry seasoned and unseasoned wood.
3 Tips to Dry Wet Firewood
Follow these steps if your firewood has been properly seasoned for 6-12 months and got rained on.
- Place in the Sun – The sun is the best way to dry out your wet firewood. Simply place your wet firewood, uncovered, in direct sunlight. Avoid placing the logs on wet ground.
- Place Next to the Fire – Once you get a fire going, place some wet logs near it. Using your existing fire to prep your next logs is an easy way to dry your firewood.
- Place in Garage With a Fan – Along with the sun and heat, the wind is another drying force in nature. By placing your wet firewood in a garage with a fan pointed at them, it’ll dry out within a day or two.
Recommended: Can Firewood Get Too Dry? Yes, & Here’s How to Tell
5 Tips to Season Firewood
Follow these steps if you’ve just cut your firewood and it still needs to be seasoned.
- Cut Properly – Cut your firewood logs into quarters to increase the amount of surface area exposed. Aim to cut your firewood in the spring so you can utilize your dry summer.
- Stack Well – Stack firewood to promote space and airflow between logs. Place the bark-side down while drying and move them to the bark-side up to protect the log against rain or snow.
- Place in The Sun – Placing your firewood piles in the sun will make the seasoning process much quicker. The sunlight not only dries out the firewood quicker but prevents mold and bugs.
- Cover in Rain or Snow – While keeping firewood uncovered in the sun is a good idea, make sure to cover it in the rain or snow. Wet firewood that’s in the middle of getting seasoned can slow the process.
- Use a Dehumidifier – If you’re storing your firewood inside or in a garage or shed, place a dehumidifier nearby. This sucks the moisture from the air and draws the moisture out of logs much faster.
To see more tips about quickly seasoning your firewood, check out my other post: The 10 Fastest Ways to Season Firewood.
How to Prevent Wet Firewood
The primary way to prevent wet firewood is to store it well. When storing, make sure to protect the firewood from both the top and the bottom. Too many times we forget about protecting firewood from the bottom, and the wood becomes wet from rain or other water events.
Here are the top three places to store firewood to prevent it from getting wet.
- Firewood Rack
A simple way to store firewood is to place it on a rack and place a tarp over it.
Another more complex way is to build a firewood shed. While it takes more time (and possibly money), it means having protection from the elements while allowing the sun and wind to come through and season the firewood quicker. This is why a fireplace shed is the best place to store firewood.
When storing firewood outside, place the pile at least 5 feet away from the house to avoid bugs and other critters from moving from the firewood pile to your house.
While you can store firewood indoors, it’s not recommended as it can take longer to season due to reduced airflow and sunlight. It also makes more of a mess and attracts bugs.
Buy local firewood to reduce the chance that invasive pests hitchhike on the logs. To see a helpful firewood map for your state, check out this map by Dontmovefirewood.org.
To learn more about the benefits of covering firewood, check out my other post: Should Firewood Be Covered? (& The Best Ways)
As long as your firewood is seasoned, it doesn’t matter much if it gets wet. You may have trouble getting the fire going, but using dry kindling will be sufficient in most cases. The small amount of free water in the wood quickly drains out within a day or boils out when heated.
However, if your firewood is unseasoned, hold off on burning it until the bound water in it has evaporated. This takes about 6-12 months from the time it was cut and can be sped up with things like proper storage and airflow.
While there are some visual and auditory tests to see if firewood has been properly seasoned, the best way is to use a moisture meter. Here’s the moisture meter I use with my firewood.
If you cut your firewood in the spring and store it well, you’ll likely be able to use it during the winter of the same year. Store it in a dry place with sunlight and airflow, and it should be seasoned fairly quickly.