When the temperatures drop, it is enjoyable to sit near a warm, crackling fire. Whether you live where you can cut and split your own wood or you buy firewood by the cord already sawed to length and split, you must stack it and store it. As you might know, freshly cut wood has too much moisture content to make it suitable for burning, which means you must allow it to “season” before you use it in your fireplace.
Knowing how to store and stack wood for your fireplace or stove might sound like a simple matter, but how and where you stack it is important. Firewood that is not stacked correctly or is at a poor location can lead to fungus, critters, and wood that will not burn as well.
Although it might not be possible to guarantee a woodpile free of mold, mice, and snakes, taking the right steps gives you the best chance of having firewood that is as safe, clean, and as dry as possible. Here is what you can do:
How do I find out where to buy firewood?
If you know someone who is already buying firewood, ask for a referral. Otherwise, find a firewood seller that is cutting and selling local wood. Non-native insects and diseases can hitchhike on firewood brought in from other areas.
Firewood is sold by the cord. A full cord is 8 ft. long x 4 ft. deep x 4 ft. high and is usually cut to 16-inch lengths. Make sure that is what you will be getting to ensure the best split of wood for burning. Also, ask if the wood is already split and whether the seller will stack it or just dump it on a pile in the driveway.
Choose the right place to store your firewood
Where you stack your firewood is equally as important as how you stack it. Some prefer the convenience of having it stacked against their house or even in the house close to the fireplace. While your firewood will be handy in those locations, you will not be happy with some of the uninvited guests—termites, ants, spiders, and mice—that will now be crawling around inside your home.
Always store your wood outside and at least twenty feet from the nearest entryway to your house. Pick a dry, breezy area of your property so the wood will season adequately.
Stack your firewood in rows and off the ground
For best results, stack your firewood in rows that are no more than four feet high. You can purchase a log rack or make your own from used pallets as a base and two vertical posts hammered into the ground on each end.
Stack unseasoned wood with the bark side down so moisture can evaporate. Cover the wood with a tarp or plastic sheeting, so it protects the top of the stack and extends down the side a few inches. The sides should be exposed to air, because if it is completely covered, the tarp will retain moisture, and the wood will absorb it, keeping the firewood from burning correctly.
How long does it take to get seasoned wood?
Remember, wood that has been freshly cut is not ready to burn in your fireplace. One of the reasons for not burning green wood is because it is not efficient: you will not get the maximum heat output, and you will have shorter burning times.
But other reasons are directly linked to safety. When you burn freshly cut wood, it often leads to a build-up of creosote in the chimney, which can result in a hazardous chimney fire. Burning moist wood can also make your home dangerously smokey and cause carbon monoxide to accumulate.
To prevent these issues, make sure you age your wood for a minimum of six months. Cut, split, and store the wood in late winter or early spring. It can then dry over the summer months and be aged in time for cold weather.
What are the best types of firewood?
Whether you cut your firewood or have someone deliver it, you should know which wood species are best for your fireplace or stove. The following three are highly recommended:
- Oak: Famous for its long, slow burns.Oak is normally everyone’s first choice for firewood.
- Maple: Maple firewood burns long and steady when it is seasoned properly, and it is available throughout the continental United States.
- Ash: Found mostly in eastern and central North America. Ash gives a steady burn and splits easily.
Acceptable types include:
The following are not recommended because they are softwood or are highly resinous:
Other woods you must avoid include pressure-treated, painted, stained, and manufactured wood like plywood and particleboard. These types of wood may release harmful toxic gases.