We have a firewood pile for our outdoor fireplace and we’re getting some rain this week. We weren’t sure if we needed to cover the firewood or not, so I did some research. Here’s what I found.
Cover firewood if you’re storing it outside and there’s no roof. However, only cover the top of the pile. This blocks rain and snow but allows airflow to keep the logs dry. Keep the pile off of the ground to prevent it from soaking up ground moisture. Some people uncover firewood during the summer to dry it faster.
Even though it helps, does firewood really need to be covered? If so, what’s the best way to cover firewood, and when should it be covered? Let’s take a look.
Why Firewood Should Be Covered
Covering firewood allows it to season (dry) without getting interrupted by rain and snow.
Seasoned firewood means having a moisture content of 20% or less. This allows the firewood to burn easier, cleaner, and hotter.
The problem is, many people buy green firewood (often unintentionally) and need to wait at least 6-12 months for the firewood to season.
Most firewood sold is green, or freshly cut, which means it could have a moisture content of 100% or more (100% moisture content means half the weight of the wood is water).Cornell Cooperative Extension
Green or unseasoned firewood is more difficult to light and contributes to higher amounts of smoke and creosote (the harmful tar buildup you see in chimneys).
Because of this, it’s recommended to check your firewood’s moisture content before burning it. The best way to do this is with a moisture meter. Here’s the moisture meter I use from Amazon if you’re interested.
So, covering your firewood helps it season properly and keeps it dry once it’s seasoned. It also deters insects such as termites and fungi from decaying the wood.
Myth: covering the top of a firewood pile is worse because it traps moisture. Truth: firewood dries well as long as its sides are exposed to airflow.
Recommended: What is Seasoned Firewood? (Explained)
How to Cover Firewood
The best way to cover firewood is to only cover the top to allow the sides to dry from the airflow. If you can provide a roof instead of a cover that’s even better since the top has a chance to dry as well.
If rain or snow commonly blows sideways from a certain direction and wets your firewood pile, consider adding another cover to protect both the top and the top side of that direction. But it’s not necessary.
If your wood is outside, just cover the top of the stacks and let the rain and wind, etc. in from the sides. If you dried the wood over the summer (and if it is indeed dry), you can leave it in the rain and once you bring it inside by the stove, the moisture will be gone in one or two days.Steve Bowers, Extension Specialist in Forest Harvesting, Oregon State University
Remember, properly splitting and stacking your firewood is just as important as covering it.
Recommended: Can Firewood Get Wet (& How Fast Can It Dry)?
What To Cover Firewood With
The easiest and simplest way is to use a tarp to cover your firewood. These tarps are usually made from a type of plastic or canvas. When choosing a tarp, make sure it’s waterproof (you’d be surprised at how many covers aren’t).
Using a tarp is only necessary if you’re storing your firewood outside and it doesn’t have an existing roof. Keep the tarp over the firewood year-round if possible, and uncover only when you need to grab more firewood.
The biggest issue people run into when using a tarp is not raising the firewood pile off of the ground. Protect the wood pile from the bottom to prevent moisture from being wicked up into the pile and avoid exposure to fungi and insects from the soil.
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to store firewood is to use a firewood rack with a tarp. This protects the firewood from the top and bottom, allowing it to season without interference from water and pests.
The next best option is to use a shed to cover your firewood. While it’s more expensive than using a rack and a tarp, it offers more protection and durability, while still taking advantage of the sun and wind.
Snow and rain can still blow into the shed, but it’s a small amount compared to if there was no protection. This water dries much quicker than if the firewood was simply kept on the ground and directly exposed to the snow and rain.
A firewood shed doesn’t need to be fancy either. Many people use scrap wood to build their firewood shed and replace it every 10-20 years.
Any Other Covered Area
If you can’t use a shed or a rack (such as if you don’t have the space), then any other covered space works. We don’t burn much wood and live in a dry climate, so storing firewood under our outdoor fireplace has been working well.
Some other examples of places to store firewood are under:
Keep in mind that some areas are more likely to attract pests than others. The best way to deter pests from your firewood pile is to raise it off the ground and keep it at least 10 feet away from the house. Otherwise, you might get the occasional critter sneaking in.
When Should Firewood Be Covered?
Cover firewood if it’s stored outside and doesn’t have a roof (such as a covered shed or garage). Some people like to cover their firewood in the winter and uncover it during the summer—since it’s often the driest season. Exposing the firewood to the sun and wind allows it to season much faster.
However, it’s risky to uncover the pile as summer rains can soak it, slowing down the seasoning process.
While it’s extra work, you can fix this by covering the pile during rainy weather and uncovering it during sunny weather.
But, to keep it easy, I recommend keeping the firewood pile covered year-round. Simply, the protection from rain and snow exceeds the benefits of drying it faster.
Naturally, you don’t need to cover your firewood if it’s stored indoors. Keeping your firewood in your house, garage, or closed shed means it probably won’t get wet. Covering the pile indoors traps the moisture in the wood and slows the seasoning process.
Firewood kept indoors should still be elevated off of the ground if possible to allow for better drying and storage.
More Tips to Store Firewood
- Split firewood into quarters to allow for more surface area and decrease the time it takes to season. Exposing the heartwood (center of the logs) dries the firewood much quicker. This is the number 1 best way to speed up seasoning.
- Stack the firewood bark-side down to expose more of the log to the sun and wind. Bark naturally protects the wood from losing moisture and from fire. Reducing the bark by splitting means better drying and burning. You can stack the top row of firewood bark-side up to offer additional protection from rain and snow.
- Store firewood outdoors if possible for the best rate of seasoning. The sun and wind are powerful drying forces and season the firewood much faster, even if the top of the pile is covered. Keep spaces between the logs for sufficient airflow.
- Place your firewood pile in a south-facing orientation. You get the most sun when facing south and seasoning goes quicker (if you live in the southern hemisphere, this is north-facing).
- Store firewood at least 1 year in advance for the best chance of seasoning. Many people buy or cut their firewood 2-3 years in advance to properly season it and have a surplus in case one winter is especially cold.