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Do You Split Firewood Wet or Dry?

You’re probably wondering when the best time to split firewood is? Is it easier to split your firewood right away while it’s green or should you wait a few months until it’s dry and seasoned. Honestly, I had no idea, so I asked a professional arborist to get his opinion and here’s what he said.

Should you split firewood wet or dry? It’s best to split firewood when it’s freshly cut and still wet (aka green). Green wet wood is almost always easier to split by hand. It won’t make much of a difference with a log splitter, but hardwoods like oak and maple become dense as they dry out making them harder to split by hand. The only time you should wait is if the logs are overly sappy and difficult to cut.

It’s almost always a good idea to split firewood soon after cutting, but that’s not always the case. I’ll go over a few of the times when it might be better to let your logs sit and wait before splitting.

Is It Easier to Split Firewood Wet or Dry Wood?

Generally speaking, you’re almost always better off splitting your firewood soon after cutting. Get it cut, split, stacked and give it time to properly season.

There won’t be much of a difference when using a log splitter, but green wood is usually easier to split by hand. Hardwoods like Oak and Maple start to contract as they dry out. All the extra space filled by the water starts to dry out and those cracks/grooves bind together making splitting difficult.

Throughout the years I have noticed a few exceptions to that rule. You will want to wait with trees that produce an excessive amount of sap like elms and birch trees. Cutting them early puts a lot of work on your splitter and gets really messy/sticky.

Notice that I’m not including maples and pines on that list. Maple trees get harder as they dry and pine trees are soft so they’re easy to cut any time. It’s best to get them cut, stacked, and give them time to season.

Splitting Immediately Saves Work

Splitting green wood will save a lot of work. It’s not just that most logs will be easier to split. It also reduces the amount of handling work required.

Think about it! Unless you down trees and leave a giant mess you’ll have to roll and stack the heavy logs. It’s so much easier to get the splitting process over with and start stacking in the finished location. You have 1 less time handling and maneuvering the logs.

I Usually wait a week to split my wood after cutting the tree down and shortening it into manageable logs. So why do I wait a week? Cause I’m so tired from cutting that I need a break before splitting and stacking. You might be able to cut, split and stack the same day, but my out of shape butt can’t.

Wood Only Starts Seasoning After It’s Split

Wood will only start seasoning once you split and stack it. There’s not enough air flow to thoroughly dry out the middle of large logs. It doesn’t matter how long the logs have been sitting there.

I’ve dragged 3-4 year old downed trees out of the woods that the middles weren’t fully seasoned. Some of them even start to rot before they fully season. You can burn rotten wood, but it burns way too fast.

Firewood only starts to season after it’s split up into small sections. Large 16″-24″ logs are better than full length trees, but you still want to split the wood so it thoroughly dries. Smaller pieces will always dry out faster than larger pieces.

There Are Times To Let The Wood Wait

There are a few times where you might want to let the wood sit and wait. Obviously, sappy wood will be easier to split when dry, but that’s not the only benefit to letting logs sit.

Long limbs/logs are less likely to rot and easier to maintain when you have a ton of wood. This really only applies if you have way more wood than you can burn in 3-4 years. Leaving a few full length logs will prolong the life of your wood since it will be less likely to rot.

Use a tractor to push the full length trees or logs into a pile and wait. It will delay the drying process and you can come back in a few years.

Consider Splitting In Freezing Weather

For some reason, it’s way easier to split firewood in freezing weather. It’s a pain in the butt physically, but the wood splits easily.

As the temperatures drop the water in the wood freezes. The water expands and makes the wood a little more brittle. I never wait until winter, but there’s definitely some incentive there.

Some Logs Will Be Hard No Matter What

There are a few species of trees that will be hard to split no matter what you do. Nowadays I won’t even bother messing around with sappy Elm trees and wood that’s knotted and has twisted grains(willow, beech, etc).

It’s way too much work on the log splitter. The little bit of wood you get isn’t worth the hassle and potentially breaking your splitter. You might have more patience than me!