If you burn firewood to keep warm in winter you probably have a good appreciation for the difference between green firewood and seasoned firewood. The moisture content of green wood makes it unsuitable for burning, both due to the reduced temperature at which it burns and the reduced efficiency of the burning due to having to boil off sap. These related effects can reduce the efficacy of heating with firewood dramatically, undermining the very benefits you turn to firewood for.
This reality is complicated for many who heat with firewood because green firewood is much cheaper than seasoned wood. In theory, the only cost to turn green wood into proper firewood is time. If you’ve had this idea and tried to dry your own wood, you’re far from alone. Many people buy their firewood green and season it themselves. This does take some planning and know-how, though, which is where this blog comes in.
When To Buy Green Firewood
Typically, you should age green firewood for at least 8-12 months. This does mean you need to buy your firewood at least one year ahead of burning it. Ideally, you’ll allow 18 to 24 months for drying, especially if you have suboptimal conditions for drying out your wood. We will get to what conditions and situations you’ll want in order to dry your green firewood out faster in the next section.
If you want to make sure to get the best value for your money, it’s often best to buy green wood in summer since demand is highest immediately before and after winter. However, depending on when the wood was cut, this could mean having to dry it out longer. Wood that was cut in spring and summer has much more sap in it than wood that was cut in autumn or winter. So, if you want the fastest drying greenwood, often buying in late autumn to late winter will get you a headstart on drying out the green firewood.
How To Properly Age Green Firewood
Assuming you don’t have access to a large kiln designed for drying firewood (in which case you probably have little need for this article), you’re going to want to stack your green firewood so it can dry evenly and thoroughly. There are several things you’re going to want to keep in mind when determining where to put this stack and how you stack it.
Where should you stack your green firewood?
- Somewhere with consistent prevailing wind. If you’re in dense woods or there are other major obstructions to wind, drying will take much longer.
- Somewhere that’s relatively dry year-round. This may seem obvious, but if you’re stacking wood somewhere that floods or supports seasonal vernal pools, your wood is going to get soaked. A bit of rain isn’t going to make a huge difference, it can even help in the medium term since the pure water can help to dilute and drive out stubborn sap. However, if the wood gets waterlogged you will need additional drying time.
- Somewhere with natural or artificial supports for your stack. If you have a couple of mature trees 10 to 20 feet apart you can use them to support your stack as bookends. If you don’t have a dry, windy spot with trees, there are also systems available for purchase that can be set up anywhere to keep your firewood stacked, off the ground, and drying.
How should you stack your green firewood?
- Line up your stack so that the logs align with the prevailing wind. This helps to direct airflow over and through the logs in the stack.
- Leave gaps in the stack. I know that tightly packed firewood is aesthetically pleasing and space-efficient, but if you don’t leave room for the wood to breathe, it won’t dry out in a reasonable amount of time. Try to keep the packing density of the firewood at or below 80% of how dense you could make it.
- Limit your stack to one or two logs deep. While you certainly can stack your green firewood into cubes or other interesting shapes, having a long thin line allows for a lot of wind penetration, which is what we want. You may want to try a fancier stacking method if your area doesn’t get much wind, however.
- Protect your wood from the rain, not the sun and wind. If you can, suspend a tarp 3 to 5 feet above your stack to keep the rain and snow off. This won’t always be possible, and it’s not the end of the world if some rain gets on the firewood. You just want to make sure more water is coming out of the wood than getting into it.
With the right (dry and windy) location, a loose stack can dry well in a year, or even a bit less. How do you actually know when it’s dry though?
How to Assess the Dryness of Your Firewood
There’s some pretty complicated and expensive high tech tools ou there that will measure the precise moisture content of your firewood. If that’s something you’re interested in, then, by all means, indulge in a little firewood nerdiness! For those of us just interested in having firewood that’s dry enough to burn, there’s a really simple test you can do with just some dish soap and a pair of lungs.
All you need to do is thinly spread a little dish soap on one end of the log then blow on the opposite end. If it’s adequately dry, your breath will actually pass through the log and froth the soap at the other end. This is an easy test to conduct at home and only takes about a minute including walking to your firewood stack, in most cases.
Many firewood enthusiasts also claim you can hear the ringing tone of dry wood versus damp wood when it’s dropped on concrete or stone. While I’m sure many can, for some of us (the tone-deaf especially), the soap method is going to be the true and certain way to test firewood dryness.
About Day Logging
Day Logging is an independent, environmentally conscious logging company located in Maine. We are available for hire for all kinds of logging projects in Southern and Western Maine as well as Eastern New Hampshire. If you want to buy green firewood for your future needs, give us a call today, if you’re within our delivery range, we will be happy to help!