What do you look for when purchasing firewood? The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends looking for logs with following features:
- dark, split ends
- makes a hollow “clunk” when smacked against another piece
- smells mustier
- looks older and not fresh or green
Unfortunately, this involves some guesswork, and even the best-looking pieces might not be as low in moisture as you think. Because of this, we recommend seasoning your own wood, if possible, so that you know you’re getting the most optimal fuel possible season after season!
That said, the first day of fall is only around 7 months away, and firewood takes approximately 6 months to eventually dry out. That means the time to get this process going is now, so you can enjoy your fireplace to fullest when temps eventually drop down again!
Why Is Using Seasoned Wood Important?
All the wood you burn should have a moisture content of around 15 – 25%. Why? Because the more moisture your fires need to burn through, the more energy is wasted, and the less productive they’ll be overall. In the end, you’ll end up with cooler fires, lots of smoke, and more creosote accumulation – all of which leads to an unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) fireplace experience.
And while we’re on the subject, remember that seasoned wood is the only thing you should be burning! That means no plastic, no cardboard, no paper, and definitely no Christmas trees (you’d be surprised at how common that practice is).
Basically, anything that isn’t seasoned wood will send harmful chemicals into your home and chimney, and because so many of these materials burn extra hot, your risk of experiencing a chimney fire will increase, too.
Ok, I’m Ready to Season My Own Firewood! …Where Do I Start?
Eager to build up your fuel for fall, but aren’t sure where to start? No problem. We’ve got tips to guide you through the process!
Storing Your Firewood
Before you start cutting and stacking your firewood, it’s important to scout on the ideal spot for storing it. Keep the following in mind as you start this process:
- Store your firewood off the ground, ideally on wood pallets or on a sturdy wood floor. You could also use concrete blocks to accomplish this, or even gravel can work! What’s most important is that you’re keeping the logs away from soil and dirt, as these tend to attract water.
- Keep the firewood away from your home. We get that you want easy access to your logs, especially during the cold months of winter, but firewood tends to attract pests and bugs, which means you could find yourself with an infestation before you know it.
- Keep your wood pile in a sunny area. The more access it gets to those warm sun rays, the quicker it’ll dry out!
- If possible, store your firewood in a shed that has a well-built and reliable roof, but open sides that allow winds and sun rays easy access to the pile. This set up is ideal.
- No access to a shed? No worries. Just be sure to cover the top 1 – 2 feet of your wood pile with a tarp when the weather is snowy or rainy. Just don’t cover the whole thing! That would trap in moisture and extend the drying process.
Cutting, Splitting & Stacking Your Firewood
Once you’ve got a spot set up for storage, you can cut and stack your wood! Just follow these guidelines, so you obtain the optimal environment for seasoning:
- Cut all of your wood pieces to the same length.
- Cut your pieces to be a few inches shorter than the width of your firebox. This ensures they are 1) small enough to dry out quickly and 2) will actually fit your firebox when the time comes to light a fire.
- Once the logs are cut, split the ends to expose even more surface area to the sun and wind.
- Consider weighing your wood pieces. Water makes wood heavier, so this gives you the option to reweigh your pieces overtime to see if they’re actually drying out. Seasoned wood should weigh about 1/3 of its original weight once the drying process is complete!
- When stacking, start with the biggest logs and work your way up, ending with the smaller logs on top. This minimizes the risk of your stack tumbling over.
- Fit your logs together in a cohesive way (to ensure it doesn’t topple), but do your best to leave opening for air to travel through. That way, even the logs trapped in the middle will have a chance to dry out.
- Line up the ends of your wood pieces. This ensures they’re exposed to heat, wind, and sun, and it also keeps the stack sturdier.
- Don’t stack your pile higher than 4 feet. Otherwise, your logs might shift and fall over, which stops the drying process and increases the risk of harmful accidents (especially if you have kiddos or small pets running around).
- Don’t store wood longer than 3 or 4 years. After this, it simply won’t burn as well.
Still Have Questions?
Now, we think we’ve covered it all, but if you still find yourself with questions in regards to storing and seasoning firewood, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’d be happy to help.
And if you need care this spring and summer, we’d love to help you with that, too. In fact, the warmer months are the ideal time to invest in chimney repairs, so don’t put them off! Give us a call today, and let’s get started.