So you have a big pile of firewood and don’t have a firewood rack to stack it on. You can go out and buy a rack or start stacking and hope for the best. How much damage could the ground do anyway? Is it OK to stack firewood on the ground?
Only stack firewood on the ground if you plan on using it within the next couple of months. Firewood will quickly rot when exposed to pooling snow and rainwater on the ground. You may also run into issues with bug infestations if you choose not to elevate your wood.
You may run into a few problems by deciding not to stack your wood up on a rack. I’ll go over a few of the many issues you may face in the rest of this article.
Should I Stack Firewood On The Ground?
Stacking firewood on the ground is a bit of a gamble, but how bad can it really be? If you’re willing to lose a row or two at the bottom of your wood pile feel free to stack your firewood on the ground. You will definitely need to get rid of some rotten wood so check out my other post.
Are there any other reasons why I shouldn’t stack wood on the ground? The whole goal of lifting up your firewood is to reduce moisture and increase air circulation on the lower levels. With all that water and poor air circulation you’ll run into a host of problems. Here are a few of the issues you may encounter.
- Premature Wood Rot: How fast do you plan on using up your firewood? Firewood that’s stacked on the ground won’t last more than a year or two. The bottom row will probably be rotten and bug infested by the end of the first winter. Burning rotten wood won’t make you sick or anything, but it produces cold, smoldering, smoky fires.
- Excessive Moisture: Have you ever tried to start a fire with green soaking wet wood. It isn’t easy! That’s how the bottom foot or so of your wood pile will burn. It may eventually light, but it’s a serious pain in the buns. I recommend picking up a propane torch (like this one) to make lighting fires easy regardless of the moisture content.
- Slow Seasoning: Without proper airflow and extra moisture the bottom of your pile has no chance of seasoning. Whether or not the top will season depends on if you covered it. You can cover wood with a tarp as long as the sides are left exposed. Go with a cheap 6×8 tarp so that it only hangs over a foot or so on the sides.
- Mold, Lichens, and Fungus: Exposure to excess water doesn’t just cause rot. You will also have to deal with mold, lichens, and fungus. It won’t stop you from burning the wood, but the spores will go into the air and cause potential allergy problems.
- Carpenter Ants, Termites and Other Pests: Any pile of wood that’s stacked directly on the ground will be loaded with ants, termites and other insects. You will probably have to deal with snakes, spiders, and rodents as well.
Stacking Firewood On The Ground is Better Than a Pile
Don’t leave your firewood stacked in a large pile. Stacking the wood up on the ground is better than leaving it piled up for a few weeks. At least you will be able to start the seasoning process and dry out the wood.
You can always come back to the stack and put it on a pallet, pressure treated 2x4s or even a commercial rack. A cheap/free firewood rack is better than leaving your wood on the ground. I’ll go into a few rack options in the section below.
Building or Buying a Commercial Firewood Rack
How good are your carpenter skills? You may want to consider building a small firewood shed to lift your wood off the ground and keep it out of the rain/snow. A rack like the one pictured above will cost somewhere in the $200-300 range if you try to cut costs.
I was able to save some money by using pressure treated fence pickets ($1.87) instead of traditional lumber. You can save even more money by building the frame out of free pallets. You’re not building the Taj Mahal. The rack doesn’t need to look pretty as long as the woods off the ground, the sides are exposed and it has something covering the top.
There are a few easy to build commercial options if your carpentry skills aren’t up to snuff. Definitely go with the firewood rack brackets (these things) that you use with pressure treated 2x4s. It will be so much stronger than a cheap metal rack and you can replace the boards every 5-10 years and it’s like you have a brand new rack. They take less than 5 minutes to build. You can either cover that up with a tarp or buy a cheap cover (my favorite).
Your Wood Will Quickly Rot Away
Your wood will quickly rot away if you choose not to use some type of rack. At the very least you should head down to your local grocery store or Home Depot and scrounge a few pallets out of the trash. A few pressure treated 2x4s screwed together will also work (shaped like a rectangle).
You can burn rotten firewood, but it won’t be pretty. When it comes to firewood, I live by a simple rule. If you can pick the log up without crumbling, it needs to go in the fire. It will smoke, smolder, and pop, but it’s better than throwing it away (maybe not with all the smoke).
Take Longer To Season
How much time do you have until the wood needs to be burned? Generally speaking, it doesn’t take longer than 6 months to properly season firewood in the summer. The bottom few rows will probably never fully season if it’s stacked on the ground.
There are four basic concepts that you need to speed up the seasoning process. You need lots of sunlight, adequate airflow, a covered top, and it needs to be raised up off the ground. It will take forever to season if you remove any of those 4 key factors.
Watch Out For Mold, Lichens and Fungus
Mold and fungus recognize that wood is an excellent energy source. It will grow anywhere with a fuel source and adequate water levels. Stacking firewood on the ground provides both of those things. You can also introduce mold/fungal spores into your house which may cause breathing problems.
Lichens are one of those weird creatures(pictured above) that nobody seems to understand. You can burn wood with lichens on it, but they can be pretty nasty. Personally, I can’t stand the smell of burning lichens, but other people love it. The smell sends shivers down my spine and makes me sick.
Carpenter Ants and Termites Cause Major Problems
This isn’t just a problem with wood left on the ground, but it’s way more likely. Carpenter ants and termites will wreak hell on any wood they find. Your firewood pile is the perfect place for them to nest and feed.
That’s why you shouldn’t stack wood next to your house or store it in the garage. Look at how much damage termites do to a log. Do you really want bring them into your home?