You should always use seasoned wood for both indoor and outdoor fires.
Whether it’s for a wood-burning stove, a firepit, a chimenea, or anything else, seasoned wood burns the most efficiently and puts out the most heat.
So what is seasoned wood? Basically, it’s just wood that is dry. When a tree is cut down it has a lot of moisture in it, and it is not suitable for burning right away. It needs to be sectioned up, split, and then left to dry for approximately a year.
I cut up and split most of our own wood each year and season it in different ways around the property. Here’s what I’ve learned!
What Is Seasoned Firewood?
As already stated, seasoned wood is essentially just wood that’s been left to dry. Exposure to the elements, both rain and sun, allows moisture to escape.
The firewood stack you can see in the picture above is in our conservatory (and now 3 rows deep). Excuse the junk on the table, we’ve got a puppy and everything needs to be off the floor at all times.
While not everyone wants a wood stack inside, it works well for us. This wood dried out very quickly in such a hot, dry area, and was ready to use in our wood-burning stove after only a few months.
This is my seasoned wood for when it’s raining and snowing outside and I don’t want to go to my larger woodpiles.
We also have this covered carport which has become my main woodpile. It’s north-facing and gets the sun most of the day. Wood dries out faster and is more accessible when stacked, but I don’t have all the time in the wood.
While using my neighbor’s MTD log-splitter I can just chuck the wood straight in here and it dries out fine.
If you are not cutting and seasoning firewood yourself, you will need to buy wood.
There are multiple different ways you can buy firewood:
Kiln-dried and fully-seasoned firewood are more expensive to buy, while semi-seasoned and greenwood are cheaper.
If you’re a good planner, it’s often best to buy unseasoned wood, stack it, and then use it once it’s dry – simply because you can save a lot of money over time.
When buying seasoned wood, the level of moisture can vary from seller to seller but it’s generally not something to get upset about. If you are buying fully-seasoned wood, you want it to be ready to burn, but it might sometimes arrive ‘rain-wet.’
Rain wet just means that it’s been split for a good amount of time, but it’s been in the rain. This type of moisture evaporates quickly.
Benefits Of Seasoned Firewood
Why should you only burn dry seasoned firewood?
There are a ton of benefits, some that are obvious, and some that are less so!
The obvious ones are that it’s a lot easier to start a fire with dry firewood, and it will stay alight without much effort. Wet wood does not burn well and takes a lot more management to keep it going (if you can get it started at all).
Burning dry wood puts out much more heat as well. It’s like night and day. I would not recommend even trying to use green or semi-seasoned wood in your fire, it’s a waste of time.
Other reasons why you should only burn seasoned wood are:
- It creates a lot less smoke/emissions when burning – wet wood generates a lot of smoke
- Stops build up in your chimney or flue – if you are burning wet wood you will have to sweep your flue regularly
- Dry wood is often easier to split with an ax – though that can depend on the variety
- Dry wood is much lighter to carry into the house – wet wood can be very heavy
Outdoor fires like Chimineas are especially difficult to get going with wet wood. The drier the better in this situation!
If I’m missing any other reasons why burning seasoned wood is best, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it in!
How To Tell If Firewood Is Dry
Because seasoned firewood can be unreliable, you can check it before putting it on the fire.
You can buy a firewood moisture meter and test the wood’s water content before using it. These devices will tell you the moisture content of a piece of wood in a percentage figure.
If the water content is 20% or less, you’ll get a clean fire. Let it dry out a little more before burning it if has a higher moisture content.
I just bought this Stihl moisture meter for firewood and it’s been fun checking out the moisture content of firewood, lumber, and even paper!
Signs of seasoned wood include:
- pale in color
- visible cracks
- bark comes loose easily
- feels dry
- no sap
Firewood’s water content often makes it quite heavy. Since seasoned wood loses a large portion of this moisture, it weighs significantly less.
The final notable marker of seasoned wood is its sound. When you tap two of the logs together, it will make clear knocking sounds.
This sound will be very different from greenwood logs coming together, which is more like a dull thud.
How To Season Firewood
The wood that I have been splitting for the last few years, and will be splitting for the foreseeable future, has been down already for 5+ years.
The previous owners of our property had dropped dozens of trees, mostly hardwood, and left them there. Most of them were held up from the way they were felled, and are not sitting on the ground.
Therefore, the wood is already reasonably dry before I even get my chainsaws on it (that’s my Husqvarna 450e in the picture above).
Most of the wood, especially the gum, has not even started to rot or decay although it’s been down so long. The downside is that the wood has become a lot harder than when it was first down, so it’s more difficult to cut and split.
Anyway, if you are starting with very green and wet wood, here are some of the ways you can season it.
1. The Best Location
The first step to seasoning your own firewood is choosing a location to do it in.
The best position to season wet wood is:
- facing the sun
- with good air circulation
- against a wall or shed to prevent it from falling
- on the ground that tends to remain dry – though you can stack on timber
It’s not essential that you season wood completely out of the rain because this can actually help, at least when the wood is first split. After a while, you might like to cover the top of the stack to keep it dry.
2. The Right Size
Split wood dries faster than larger logs.
The sooner you can split the wood after it has been cut, the better. The smaller you split wood, the faster it will dry, but this doesn’t mean you should turn your entire store into kindling! Just cut it to the perfect size for your fireplace.
A hydraulic log splitter is best for splitting wood, but an ax or chainsaw can be used as well (though a chainsaw is usually only used for sectioning up logs for splitting).
3. Stacking Wood
Stacked wood will dry fast than piles of wood. If you have the time and energy to stack it, that’s a preferable method for storing firewood, and it will season much quicker.
Different types of wood require different lengths of time in order to be ready to burn. Softwoods like pine can dry out very quickly, whereas hardwoods like oak and gum take a lot longer.
The trick is to plan well ahead to ensure you have a constant supply of dry seasoned firewood for the cold months!
A general rule of thumb for all wood is to leave it a year, however, some will dry faster than this, and others will take longer.
Check out this video to learn more about the differences between green, seasoned, and kiln-dried firewood.
To summarize, seasoned wood is wood with a moisture content of less than 20%. It can also be referred to as ‘dry wood.’
If you have one of the best mini wood stoves then splitting your wood into even smaller pieces will help them to dry out a lot quicker and burn more efficiently.
Only burn dry seasoned wood in your wood-burning stove or outdoor fireplace for the best results. It will be much easier to get going, and warm you up a whole lot more!