Browsing Tag green firewood

Seasoning Firewood

By at October 21, 2013 | 12:00 am | 0 Comment

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What Makes Firewood Seasoned?

Seasoned wood simply refers to wood that has been cut and left to dry for AT LEAST 6 months.  The duration of seasoning depends of the type of wood and what time of the year the tree was felled.  Deciduous trees that are felled in the winter will season faster because the sap of the tree has moved into its roots (resulting in lower moisture content).  In general, pine and other softwoods need around 6 to 12 months to season, while hardwoods require 1 to 2 years.  Dry, seasoned wood will burn hotter and more efficiently than moist, “green” wood.  We all want to get the maximum amount of heat from our firewood, right?

wood flames

The Science Behind It.

Freshly chopped firewood has up to 50% water content and won’t burn in your fireplace.  First, you must let the firewood season (dry), which allows the moisture to escape.  When the wood gets down below 20% water content, it’s ready to burn.
Standing-dead, storm-downed, and felled trees DON’T season at the same rate as wood that’s been split and stacked.  Any surface water will evaporate quickly but the moisture content within the wood is unable to escape.  This is why it is important to cut your firewood to length and stack the wood so it can begin the drying process via sun exposure and air circulation.

cutting down tree, green firewood

chopping firewood

What Happens If I Burn “Green” Firewood?

Several bad results can occur from burning wood that is not fully dried to below 25 percent moisture content (Such wood is referred to as “Green” wood).  Green firewood burns less efficiently because a good amount of heat/energy goes toward evaporating moisture trapped within the wood.  Lb. for lb. green wood has less wood fibers to burn than seasoned wood (less actual wood to burn!). The presence of all that moisture tends to keep “putting out” the fire resulting in a poor burn. Burning green wood creates extra smoke which can get into your home (especially with chimneys that have draft issues), heavier creosote buildup in your chimney (which can lead to a chimney fire), and the unnecessary pollution of our environment.

chimney smoke

 

How Do I Know If Firewood Is Seasoned?

If you really want…you can buy a special instrument that tests the moisture content of wood (usually known as a “wood moisture test meter”).

However- I recommend that you try this simple test:

  1.  Pick two pieces of wood that you think is dry and knock the two pieces together.  If you hear more of a “ring” rather than a “thud”, then it’s probably dry.
  2.  Check for radial cracks and darker color at the ends of the wood, which indicate dryness.
  3.  Burn a piece on a roaring fire base. If three of the sides begin to burn within 15 minutes then your wood is dry.
  4.  A seasoned fire log will be lighter in weight than a “green” piece of the same size and species.

seasoned firewood

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Side Note:  When firewood  is well seasoned, expect to pay more.  Cutting trees down, transporting, splitting, and seasoning wood is a risky, labor-intensive pursuit.  The more times a firewood supplier has to handle  and the longer firewood is stored (for seasoning), the more you will be charged.  And rightly so.

How Do I Season My Firewood?

1. It’s best to get the pieces down to no more than 6-8 inches in diameter. 18 inches long is the most common size, although 16 inches is the correct length for a smaller stove.  Make sure you tell your wood supplier what length works for your stove or fireplace.

2. Allow your wood to season for the proper amount of time.  This will take 6 months to over a year depending on your wood type (explained at beginning of article).  I like to split and stack my wood before the start of summer because the hot, drier weather expedites the drying process.

3. Stack the wood so it isn’t sitting directly on the ground or right up against a wall.  I use wood pallets but you can also cut two saplings to use as a base to keep the firewood from contact with the ground.  Alternatively a wood rack or wood shed are good ways to lift your wood while keeping things tidy.

4. Allow space between the stack and a wall to allow air to move.  This can be achieved with your stacking method or an open-sided wood shed.  Air circulation is an essential part of the seasoning process, to ensure that the wood dries.

5. Cover your firewood during periods of wet weather but keep it exposed during dry spells as this will help your wood season faster.

 

Firewood Stacking

 

 

 

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