Can Wood Get Too Old To Burn?


I have a firewood pile at my cabin that’s been sitting in my backyard for 10-15 years. It’s covered, none of the woods rotten, and I’ve had to spray around the pile with pesticides a few times. The wood still looks good after all these years, but that brings up an important question. Can wood get too old to burn?

Seasoned firewood that’s properly stacked and covered wood will not get too old to burn. It will dry out, burn fast, and slowly degrade, but it will last a very long time. Wood will only rot and decompose if it’s exposed to water or gets infested with insects. So keep your wood covered and off the ground to keep out bugs and water.

Wood that’s properly stacked and stored will last decades, but how do you keep your firewood from rotting? The key is keeping your wood dry and off the ground to prevent insects. Keep reading to learn how to store your firewood so that it will last for years.

Does Wood Get Too Old To Burn?

I’ve seen wood rot and fall apart after being left uncovered for a single winter. That’s rare, but it does happen. The wood in the picture above is old, rotten, and moldy. It would probably burn, but it will be hard to light and burn out quickly.

Firewood left exposed to the elements will rot and degrade fast, but there are ways to prolong the lifespan of firewood. Think about the wood that your house or barn is made out of. If you keep the wood dry it will last 100s of years. The wood might be dry and fast to burn, but it won’t be rotting apart.

The same thing can be said for firewood. Uncovered the firewood may last 3 years if you’re lucky. Season the wood, get it up off the ground, cover it, and the same stack will last a few decades. It all depends on whether or not you can reduce moisture.

How To Make Firewood Last Longer

Extending the useful lifespan of your firewood is all about reducing moisture buildup. A little bit of rain won’t kill you, but years of water damage will seriously speed up the degradation process. The wood will rot and start to fall apart.

It all needs to be covered unless you plan on burning it in a year or 2. You still don’t want to deal with trying to light wet wood. So covering your wood is a necessity. Tossing a tarp on the wood pile may do more harm than good since it reduces air circulation and traps in moisture.

Get your wood off the ground by building a small firewood rack and buy a proper cover. Stacking your wood on a free pallet will get you 90% of the way there. If you insist on using a tarp just make sure one side is open to allow proper airflow. The following picture is a good example of how you can cover your wood with a tarp.

Build a Firewood Storage Rack

Thanks to the powers of Amazon it’s surprisingly easy to build a firewood storage rack. All it takes is a set of firewood rack brackets and a few 2×4’s to build a really nice 8ft rack. I really like the Mofeez Firewood Rack Bracket Kit that I purchased.

It took about 5 minutes of my time and cost about $50 total after picking up pressure-treated 2×4’s from Home Depot. With the rising costs of lumber the price was similar to how much it would cost to build my own out of wood. You might save $15 building it from scratch, but it would take way longer. I use a lot of wood so I went with an 8ft design so it would work with a commercial firewood cover (this is the one I bought).

You can build a firewood shed if you really want to get fancy. I built one out by my cabin a few years ago and it was well worth the money. They’re easy to use since you don’t have to deal with flaps and look way better than a random stack of wood. The only downside is you’ll probably have to spend $200-300.

I used cheap pressure-treated fence pickets ($2 each), cut in half, on the sides/bottom. You will also need a few 4x4s and 2x6s to build the stucture. The roof is made out of sheets of steel roofing($35 each). I really like the way the roof looks, but you can save some money by using fence pickets on the roof too.

Since the sides are open it doesn’t need to be completely waterproof. You’re just trying to reduce the amount of moisture. With adequate airflow/sunlight the exposed ends will dry in a day or 2. It’s OK for firewood to get rained on as long as the wood is kept off the ground and given enough time to dry.

Buy a Commercial Firewood Cover

A firewood cover makes a world of difference. It keeps your wood completely dry and really speeds up the seasoning process. For a few bucks more than a tarp you really can’t beat it.

I went with the REDCAMP 8ft Rack Cover that’s designed to fit these rack brackets with a standard length 2×4. It uses heavy duty vinyl and I really like how it’s separated into 2 separate sections. Being able to unzip the sides is so much easier than fooling around with a tarp.

You might want to leave the sides open for 2-3 months when trying to season your wood. The increased airflow and sunlight in the summer will dry it out faster than the little bit of rain that might fall. You can always zipper up the sides if there’s rain in the forecast.

Leaves Are Your Enemy!

Rain and snow will eventually evaporate/dry, but wet leaves will sit on your wood until it completely rots away. Your wood won’t last more than a year or 2 if it gets covered up with leaves. The wood will quickly rot and need to be disposed of.

Dealing With Rotten Wood

Rotten wood is the bane of my existence. After months cutting, splitting and stacking wood, the last thing I want to do is throw it away. It drives me crazy! As much as you try to keep your wood dry, you may still have to deal with water-logged rotten wood.

I live by a simple rule when it comes to rotten wood. Any log that can be picked up without falling apart goes in the fire. The degradation process may eat away at the wood, but it will still burn. Rotten wood will either burn ridiculously fast or sit and smolder if it’s filled with water.

If the log falls apart when you kick it, it’s time to get rid of it. I just shovel up the debris and toss the remains in the woods. It will fall apart and compost back into the earth within a year or 2.

Recent Content