Simple Tips For Drying Firewood

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Drying Firewood
Firewood drying in stacks spaced apart to allow air to circulate between them.

Firewood is easy to dry as long as you give it the right drying conditions. With a little basic information about drying firewood, you can avoid the simple mistakes people commonly make. This will give you wood that is easy to light, will burn cleaner, and will give you more heat per cord.

There are two types of wet firewood, green wood and seasoned wood that got wet. If wood is green, that means it is fresh cut from a live tree. Green wood still has moisture inside its living cells and will have tree sap. Seasoned wood is wood that has been allowed to dry long enough for the sap and cellular moisture to escape. When seasoned wood is left out in the rain, it will soak up water and it too will need to be dried again before it is ideal for burning. Green wood takes longer to dry than wet seasoned wood.

Your climate will determine how long it will take for drying firewood. If you have hot dry summers, your wood can dry much faster than if you are in a cool, damp, foggy climate. Drying firewood can take months to over a year or more, depending on the drying conditions. What we are going to teach you here is how to shorten that time.

The fastest way to dry wood is with a drying kiln. But since most of us don’t have a kiln, the next option is to air dry it, or simply leave it out in the open air to dry naturally. Air is what carries the moisture away from the wood as it evaporates. In order for wood to dry, it is very important that it gets plenty of air circulation.

The first step is to cut and split the wood. Wood will dry faster if it is in smaller pieces. A whole log can take years to dry. The exception to this is if the foliage is still attached. A tree that is cut down and left whole, or a standing dead tree, can actually dry quickly through the leaves. But since this is not a practical way for most people to dry firewood, it is best to cut it up and split it into small pieces so there is more surface area for water to evaporate.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is to cover green or wet wood as soon as they get it. This is the opposite of what should be done. Not only do they cover it, they cover the whole pile with a tarp all the way to the ground. Doing this prevents air circulation and the wood will be more likely to mold before it ever dries.

If wood is green, it is best to leave it outside in the open air and preferably in the sun. Even in wet weather it is fine to leave it in the rain until dry weather comes when it can start drying. It’s not going to dry while it’s raining, but covering it with a tarp is not going to help it dry either. That will just make it a moldy mess of wet slimy wood instead of just wet wood. So it’s best to leave the tarp off until better drying weather.

Stacking the wood can help it dry faster than if it is left in a random heap. In a heap, the wood on top that is exposed to more air and sun will dry fast but the wood inside the pile will take longer. Stacking the wood in a single row gives exposure to open air on both ends of every piece.

There is a technique for drying wood in a heap that can work well if you are not trying to dry it all as fast as possible. You leave the heaping pile out in the sun. As the top layer of wood dries, you take the dry pieces and put them into your covered storage or wherever you will store your dry wood. Now the wood underneath is exposed to quickly dry. With this technique you just keep peeling the top layer off until the pile is gone.

The most common mistake I see people make when stacking wood is to stack the wood against a wall or stacking multiple rows against each other. This greatly reduces air circulation. When stacking a row of wood next to something or when stacking multiple rows, leave a few inches of space between so air can circulate. See the picture at the top of this article.

Covering Firewood
Only the top of the pile is covered so air can still circulate through the sides.

Once the wood is dry, it should then be covered before wet weather comes. You can cover it with a tarp but only cover the top. Leave the sides exposed so the air can flow.

You can put wet or green wood in a shed, garage, barn, or other structure as long as it gets plenty of air flow. It will still dry this way, but not nearly as quickly as it will in the open sun.

It will dry faster if you leave it outside until it is dry and then bring it in before the weather gets wet. There will be more labor in moving it around this way, so if you have plenty of time for it to dry, you may want to just let it dry inside. But if you want to know how to dry firewood quickly, leave it outside in the sun, if weather conditions allow it.

Drying firewood is simple, it’s just a matter of giving it air circulation while keeping it dry. And if you can add direct sun to the mix, that is ideal. If you have questions or comments please post them below.

2 thoughts on “Simple Tips For Drying Firewood”

  1. Just read your article above….I was wondering if you could give us some advice. In April 2011 we had a few large trees cut down on our property and intend on using that wood to heat our house this winter. We stacked 4-5 cords outside. This was done properly. However, we stacked 3 cords inside the garage (Green wood) The first stack is up against the wall and 4 rows are stacked in front of that. We can still smell the wood so we know its still not seasoned. How long should seasoning take for the wood in the garage. What do you suggest for a successful heating season?
    Should we bring some of the wood stacked outside in or purchase a cord or two of seasoned wood?
    Thanks for your help,
    Kathy Kearney

  2. We cut down an old tree that had been dry but was exposed to much rain fall just a few weeks prior to cutting. Now it seems the outer areas is very wet. Wouldn’t
    even burn for us in our fire pit. We have it stacked in our garage. It is very stinky. We are having hot weather and leaving our garage door open. Would that wood dry in a few week? We have not cut it into smaller pieces. Please let me know ASAP. We are having a Family Reunion and need that wood for the wiener roasts.
    Thank You

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