Season Firewood

Seasoned Firewood – A Complete Guide

As someone who has spent many evenings around the fire pit, I can tell you that using seasoned firewood is a game-changer. But what is seasoned firewood, and why is it so much better than fresh wood? Well, let me break it down for you.

Seasoned firewood refers to wood that has been dried out for a period of time, typically at least six months to a year. During this time, the wood’s moisture content drops significantly, which makes it burn hotter and more efficiently than fresh wood.

But where can you buy seasoned firewood? Many hardware stores, garden centers, and even some grocery stores sell pre-seasoned firewood. Alternatively, you can buy fresh wood and season it yourself. Just make sure you have a good storage area, such as a covered shed or rack, to keep the wood dry and protected from the elements.

Speaking of seasoning your own firewood, it’s important to note that it can take several months to a year for the wood to fully dry out. You’ll need to split the wood into smaller pieces and stack it in a dry, well-ventilated area. It’s also a good idea to cover the wood with a tarp or other protective covering to keep it dry during rainy weather.

What is Seasoned Wood?

Seasoned or ‘cured’ firewood refers to wood that has been left to dry until its moisture content reaches 20% or lower. You see, living trees are made up of around 50% water, which is found in the pores of the wood and in the cell walls. When a tree is chopped down, the freshly cut wood, also known as green wood, still contains about 50% moisture content.

As time goes by, the water in the wood starts to evaporate. Initially, it evaporates from the pores and later from the cells. However, the rate at which the moisture evaporates is determined by various factors. For example, if the wood is left in a damp and airless environment, the water may stick around, leading to mold growth and wood rot. Conversely, if the wood is stored in a dry area with enough airflow, the water will eventually evaporate to the point where the wood becomes suitable for burning.

So, when people like me talk about seasoning or curing firewood, we’re essentially discussing the process of creating the right conditions for the wood to dry out completely. This ensures that when we finally ignite our fireplaces or wood stoves, we’ll be able to enjoy warm, crackling fires without any issues. And trust me, there’s nothing quite like the inviting glow of a well-seasoned fire to create a cozy atmosphere at home!

What is Seasoned Wood

The Benefits of Seasoned Wood

I’ve learned that green wood can be a tricky thing to burn because of its high water content. If you manage to get it going, you might not get much heat out of it because a lot of the energy is used up trying to evaporate the water. And if there’s too much moisture in the wood, it might not stay lit at all. On top of that, green wood can produce a lot of thick smoke that can leave some nasty creosote deposits in your chimney or on your wood stove’s glass. Breathing in creosote is harmful to your health, and it’s also highly flammable, which means you’ll need to clean your chimney more often to avoid any chimney fires.

On the other hand, seasoned wood has a much lower water content, which makes it easier to light. And once you get it going, it’ll produce more heat because the flames don’t have to work as hard to evaporate any water. Plus, it burns cleaner, which is better for your health, your chimney, and the environment. The only downside is that it might cost a bit more than green wood. But if you’re short on time and can’t dry your own firewood, it’s definitely worth the extra money.

Where to Buy Seasoned Firewood

If you’re looking for firewood, it’s important to know that not all of them are seasoned, which can make it harder to burn. In my experience, the best places to find seasoned wood are from firewood delivery companies since they usually have a large supply of wood in various drying stages. Plus, they often provide a convenient delivery service, saving you time and effort.

You can also find seasoned wood from online retail shops such as Home Depot and Lowes or from individual sellers. However, it’s crucial to make sure that the wood is actually seasoned or kiln dried before making a purchase. If it’s not, you may have to wait for the wood to dry, or you could struggle with trying to burn green wood. It’s important to note that burning unseasoned wood not only produces less heat but can also create creosote buildup in your chimney, which can be dangerous and costly to clean up.

How to Recognize Seasoned Firewood

As the water evaporates from the wood, it goes through some changes that are visible to the eye. You might notice that the wood has contracted, causing cracks to appear on the surface. Additionally, seasoned wood tends to be dense, hard, and often has a pale beige or greyish color. And when you lift it, it should feel much lighter than green wood, and make a hollow sound when you tap it on a hard surface.

If the wood has bark, you might notice that it’s falling off or peeling off easily. This is because, as the wood dries, the bark loses its grip and falls away from the wood. Lastly, you can also use your sense of smell to tell if the wood is seasoned. Green wood typically has a strong earthy smell, while seasoned wood should only have a faint, pleasant woody aroma.

It’s important to make sure your wood is properly seasoned before burning to ensure it burns efficiently and safely. So keep an eye out for these signs and you’ll be on your way to a cozy and worry-free fire!

How to Season Firewood

If you plan on buying green wood and seasoning or curing it yourself, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure that the wood dries quickly and properly.

How to Season Firewood

  • Split your logs along the grain. This exposes the inside of the wood to sunlight and air and allows water to evaporate more easily.
  • Find a dry spot to store your wood that gets plenty of sunlight and good air circulation. It also helps if the area is sheltered from rain and snow. 
  • Use an outdoor firewood rack or holder to keep the wood off the ground. This prevents moisture from seeping in and pests from setting up camp in your wood. A firewood rack also allows air to flow freely and keeps your wood neatly organized in one place.
  • Stack your logs with enough room between each to allow air to flow through. This will help them dry better and prevent mold from growing.
  • If you really want to maximize airflow, stack each row of logs in opposite directions, creating a criss-cross pattern. Note that this will take up more space though.
  • Stack your wood bark side up to protect it from wet weather.
  • Don’t stack your wood right up against a building because this can trap moisture in. The ends of the logs should be exposed to the air on both sides.
  • Use a cover or tarp to protect the top layer of wood. If you’re using a full cover that protects all of the wood, open it up or remove it completely from time to time so that the wood is exposed to sunlight and air.
  • A moisture meter is a handy device that will tell you how wet or dry your firewood is. Ideally you want the wood to contain less than 20% moisture content.

How Long Should I Season My Firewood?

There’s no set time for how long you should season your firewood, as different types of wood dry at different rates, and the conditions you store it in can also affect how quickly it dries. For softwood, it usually takes about six months to season, while hardwood can take anywhere from one to two years to fully cure.

But, if you want to speed up the process, there are some things you can do! One way is to split the wood into smaller pieces, which increases the surface area and allows it to dry faster. You can also store the wood in a dry, well-ventilated area, away from any moisture. If possible, cover the top of the stack to protect it from rain or snow while still allowing air to circulate. 

How to Season Firewood Faster

Sunlight and air are your best friends if you’re looking to season your firewood faster. To maximize exposure to both, try stacking your wood in an open area where it can get direct sunlight, preferably facing west. If you can also find a spot that gets a lot of wind, even better! It’s important to only cover the wood when necessary, such as before a big rain or snowstorm.

When it comes to timing, the best season to start seasoning your firewood is in the spring when the days are longer and warmer, leading into summer. Although humidity levels can rise during the summer months, there’s usually enough sunlight to counterbalance it. In the fall, the windy conditions can be great for your firewood. By starting to cure your wood in the spring, you can have seasoned firewood ready to go by the winter.

If winter comes around and your firewood is almost cured, but not quite there yet, you may want to consider putting the nearly dry logs on an indoor firewood rack or holder next to your fireplace or wood stove. This way, the heat from the fires and dry indoor conditions will help the wood dry out even more. In the meantime, you can supplement your nearly-cured wood with small amounts of pre-seasoned firewood.

By following these tips, you can speed up the seasoning process and have perfectly seasoned firewood ready for a cozy fire during the colder months!

Final Thoughts

Seasoning firewood definitely takes some effort and time, but it’s worth it for the savings on firewood and the quality of the logs you’ll get. If you’re short on patience or storage space, buying pre-seasoned wood might be a better option for you. But keep in mind that seasoned firewood is the way to go if you want strong fires that burn efficiently and cleanly. Not only will it save you money, but it’s also better for your health, your chimney, and the environment. Plus, seasoned wood produces less smoke, meaning less creosote buildup in your chimney. So, if you’re looking for a hassle-free and eco-friendly way to enjoy a cozy fire, seasoned firewood is the way to go!

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