How to Season Firewood

Well seasoned firewood has a moisture content of around 15 to 20%, ideal for wood burners and stoves. If you want to try seasoning some logs for yourself, here’s what to do.

When a tree is felled, the logs you cut from it are described as ‘green’ or ‘fresh-felled’. They can contain as much as 50% water. This is not ideal for burning in stoves and wood burners, so we need to learn how to season firewood.

Seasoned logs have a much lower water content and are recommended for household burning

The benefits of seasoned logs

Like a car engine, a wood burner or stove is only as good as the fuel you feed it with. If you use green logs, you will find that the flame is dirty and this will lead to a build up of creosote in your burner chimney and on the glass.

Damp logs are also harder to light, prone to going out and produce less heat. Buying unseasoned logs is particularly unwise as half of your money is going on water.

How to season firewood

Logs are seasoned naturally using the fresh air and, if you’re lucky, sunshine. As Elcombe Firewood put it, ‘Drying firewood is just like drying washing.’

You will need some sort of storage container for your logs. If you don’t have a dedicated log store, you can use any kind of structure that keeps your logs off the ground and sheltered from the rain. Your logs also need to be exposed to the air so don’t cover them completely. If you do need to use a tarpaulin, keep it loose and only drape it over the top.

Stacking your logs is something of an art. You should aim to balance space and air circulation. Don’t stack your logs more than one deep and orientate them with the bark upwards and the ends exposed.

If your store doesn’t have solid sides, you can use a criss-cross ‘log cabin’ type technique for the stacks on the end to keep the log pile from falling over.

How long does seasoning take?

There are several factors which determine how long it will take a stack of logs to become seasoned. The most important factor is the type of wood.

A soft wood (alder, cedar, fir, spruce, etc.) can dry in as little as six months. Hard woods (ash, birch, cherry, oak, etc.) will take longer, perhaps two or more years, to become seasoned.

Logs season from the ends, so the smaller you chop them, the quicker they will dry. Six to eight inches is a good size but you should check what fits comfortably into your wood burner or stove.

Even the time of year a tree is felled will make a difference. Trees cut down in the spring will contain a lot of water as the sap is rising while those felled in winter will be much drier. You will need to balance this with the weather conditions in your area as dry, sunny conditions will also speed up the process.

When your firewood has been seasoned, it will look pale and dull with lots of cracks. The bark will peel easily from the inner wood and the logs will naturally be a lot lighter to carry. When banging the logs together, you should hear a bright ‘clack’ rather than a dull ‘thud’.

If you are unsure, consider using a moisture meter. Split a log in half and take three measurements, two from the newly split surface and one from the other side. Take the average value. If the moisture content is 20% or below, your log is seasoned.

If you need to move the logs closer to the house for convenience, make sure they remain sheltered but kept clear from walls to avoid them becoming damp again. You should also keep them at least five feet from the house itself as they may contain insects that can enter the home.

We hope we have covered how to season firewood for you, go forth and season.

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