As summer rolls to a close and hints of cooler weather start to show, many of us are looking forward to sweaters, pumpkin spice, and spending time around the fireplace or backyard firepit. If you want to make sure you can quickly and easily build fires all season long, you’ll need to start getting your firewood ready as soon as possible.
Anyone who has ever struggled with getting damp wood to burn knows just how frustrating it can be! Drying firewood well before you need it and storing it correctly will help you avoid a lot of wasted time. Here’s a closer look at how to dry firewood and why you need to do it in the first place.
Why Do You Need Dry Firewood?
It’s much easier and less expensive to have your own firewood on-site rather than having to purchase fire logs every time you want to enjoy a fire. However, you can’t simply buy firewood and immediately use it in your fireplace or fire pit.
Many people don’t realize that fresh-cut wood (also called “green wood”) is usually full of moisture. Before it’s ready to use, it needs to age. This process called seasoning, or curing, is an important part of wood-burning best practices.
If you try to use wood that’s not properly seasoned, you’ll end up with a lot of creosote buildup in your chimney and a home that’s full of smoke. Wood that’s not properly dried also catches fire slowly, burns for a shorter amount of time, and puts out far less heat. Even worse, it can cause dangerous carbon monoxide buildup.
It’s also important to properly store your wood. It will soak up moisture from the rain and snow if you leave it piled up outside. Not only will this cause some of the same issues above, but wet wood is also an attractive home for a multitude of bugs and other pests. If your wood gets infested, these critters may find their way into your house – yuck!
Luckily, properly drying firewood will help prevent this problem.
How Long Does It Take Firewood to Dry?
If you’re new to building fires, you might be surprised to learn that it takes anywhere from nine to 12 months to dry out firewood completely. You should always let fresh firewood age for at least six months before you consider using it.
While this might leave you feeling a bit dejected, don’t despair. Even if it’s not the perfect time to season firewood, there are some things you can do to speed up the drying process. Following are three of the most common methods.
1. Air Drying Your Firewood
When it comes to drying firewood, sun and air are your best friends. When you receive your firewood, it’s important to properly stack it right away. This will help it dry out and ensure it stays dry.
It’s important to stack firewood in a way that leaves plenty of room for air circulation. Otherwise, the wood will retain moisture. While you may be tempted to stack your firewood in a tight, orderly fashion, it's actually important to leave gaps in between pieces as this will allow for additional airflow. You'll also want to avoid tossing the wood in a disorganized pile. This will further restrict airflow, causing the pieces in the center to rot rather than dry.
It’s also critical to make sure the side of the wood that is freshly cut doesn’t sit directly on the ground. Using a firewood rack with a cover will keep your wood up off the ground and protect it from the elements. Once you have your rack set up, stack the wood no more than four feet high.
If the wood isn’t cured yet, you’ll want to put the freshly cut side facing up so the moisture can easily evaporate. Once it’s cured, consider re-stacking it with the bark side up. Since bark is semi-waterproof, this will help protect the interior wood from soaking up moisture from the snow and rain.
Choose a breezy area of your property that doesn’t flood, and make sure to keep your woodpile at least 20 feet from the nearest door to your home. This will help keep critters from sneaking in. Also, if you’re going to put your wood rack near a structure, move it out a few inches so air can flow behind it as well.
If you want to speed up the process of drying firewood, keep it uncovered as much as possible. This will allow the sun and air to dry it out more effectively than if it’s covered all the time. Just make sure to keep an eye on the weather and avoid leaving it uncovered when it’s going to rain.
When you’re ready to cover your firewood, you’ll need to choose the right type of cover. Using plastic or a tarp to cover your wood will keep moisture out, but there’s a chance it could do too good of a job. Since plastic is completely waterproof, when the water inside the wood begins to evaporate, it may condensate and drip back onto the wood – further extending your drying times. This is one reason why it’s best to choose a breathable polyester cover that’s specifically designed for firewood storage.
2. Bring Your Wood Indoors
Drying firewood indoors can be messy and isn’t practical for large amounts. However, if you’re really in a pinch and want to build a fire in the near future, it’s perfectly fine. A day or two before you know, you’ll want to use your wood, bring the amount you need into the house and find a well-ventilated area where you can lay it out flat. Spread it out as much as possible so the warm air in your home can circulate around it.
When using this method, try to make sure you have at least some completely dry wood and kindling to get your fire started. Once it’s really burning, a few slightly damp pieces should catch fire just fine. However, you may need to adjust your damper, so the wood doesn’t begin to smolder. While this clearly isn’t the most efficient option, it will come in handy on those days when you absolutely want a fire and don’t have any fully dried wood available.
3. Using a Seasoning Shed
If you really want to step up your firewood storage game, consider using a seasoning shed. These sheds are specially designed for drying firewood and will help you reach your desired results twice as fast as open-air drying. They work by creating a kiln-effect that draws moisture out of the wood. Not only are seasoning sheds perfect for drying firewood, but they provide a neat, covered place to store wood all year long. This protects it from inclement weather and allows you to have perfectly dried wood available whenever you need it.
ShelterLogic’s seasoning sheds feature a heavy-duty frame and a translucent polyethylene fabric cover. This unique design allows plenty of light to come in and retains heat. They also have screened vents for increased airflow and cross-ventilation. The shed's vapor barrier keeps excess ground moisture from soaking into your wood and reduces condensation inside the shed.
This combination of features creates the ultimate drying space. Seasoning sheds will comfortably fit in most back yards and are ideal for recreational or occasional wood burners who want to store about half a cord of wood.
While seasoning in the summer is ideal, a seasoning shed will help you enjoy dry firewood even if you get a late start. When stacking wood in a seasoning shed, you still want to keep it off the ground. This is typically done by placing it on top of pallets or wood racks. Remember that most seasoning sheds don’t come with racks, so you’ll need to consider this when setting up your shed for the first time.
Get Ready to Start Drying Firewood Now!
Drying firewood is easy and inexpensive. Even better, if it’s dried, stacked, and stored correctly, it can also last forever without degrading. Now that you know how to dry firewood the right way, you can start stocking up on wood now and feel confident that you won’t have to rush next year.
ShelterLogic carries various seasoning sheds and firewood racks, giving you plenty of options to fit your needs and your budget. Take a look through our selection of firewood and hearth products today, and don't hesitate to contact us with any questions!