It seems so easy. You simply stack firewood somewhere in your backyard and wait for winter to come.
But there’s actually a bit of strategy to creating the warm glow and crackling fire that we all love.
Freshly cut firewood can have a water content of up to 50 percent. That means it will be very hard to burn and, if you do manage it, will result in a creosote build-up in your chimney, which can lead to a chimney fire.
How to Season Wood
So how do you properly dry out firewood?
The first thing to know is what kind of wood you’re dealing with. Pine and other soft woods require six months to a year to season, while hard woods like oak require one to two years.
You can buy a wood moisture test meter to check the water content of your wood. Or you can take two pieces and knock them together. If you hear more of ring than a thud than it’s probably good to go. Lastly, take a look at the ends of the pieces of wood. As it dries out, it will begin to shrink and crack.
How to Stack Firewood
There are two different strategies when it comes to stacking firewood, but lets start with the steps that everyone agrees on.
First, pick a spot that’s sunny and convenient. Make sure it’s close enough to your house, but if you stack wood along a wall, keep a gap of at least a couple of inches to allow air to circulate.
Next, you’ll want to get your firewood off the ground. That allows air to flow and also prevents your wood from soaking up moisture from the earth. You can do this by buying an inexpensive storage rack or by building one yourself.
Stack your pile no higher than four feet and remember that, as your firewood dries, it will shrink. Keep an eye on your stack and make adjustments as necessary.
The last step is to decide if you want to cover your firewood or not. One school of thought is to keep wood uncovered to allow for the most exposure to sun and air. Others suggest that it’s best to cover the top of your stack to prevent rain from getting on your logs.
A middle ground is to keep your stack uncovered until it dries and then placing a tarp over the top or moving firewood to a shed.
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