After weeks cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood the last the last thing you want to do is wait for the wood to dry. Unfortunately freshly cut/split green wood contains too much moisture to properly burn. It’s hard to get the fire started and once it lights you’ll have to deal with excessive smoke. You need to go through the seasoning process to make sure your wood is dry enough to burn.
How long does it take to season firewood until it’s dry? It will take at least 6 months for split wood to fully season and be dry enough to burn. If the weather is cold/rainy it can take close to a year to dry out your firewood. You basically need a full summer of sunshine to complete the seasoning process. I recommend building or buying a covered firewood rack to speed up the seasoning process.
In ideal conditions firewood should take 6-12 months to be dry enough to burn. Notice that I said in ideal conditions. You’re wood may never dry if it’s not properly stacked and covered. All you’ll be left with is a rotten mess to clean up. Continue reading to find out how I speed up the seasoning process and figure out when my firewood is ready to burn.
How Long Does It Take To Season Firewood?
There’s lots of different factors you need to take into consideration when figuring out how long you need to season firewood. How is the wood stacked and covered? What kind of wood is it? How is the weather outside? What climate do you live in?
It’s really hard for me to say exactly how long it will take for wood to dry in your situation. In ideal circumstances wet split firewood will take at least 6 months to dry. The reason it’s a minimum of 6 months is because it entirely depends on the time of year the wood is split.
Cutting/splitting firewood in the spring will usually result in fully seasoned wood by winter. You can’t count the winter months when determining how long it will take wood to dry. Winters are cold and wet so your firewood has no chance of drying. It may actually soak up more water and start to rot (you can burn rotten wood).
Plan on giving covered firewood at least 6 months of summer sun for it to be fully seasoned. It can take less than 4 months for wood to dry in hot dry locations like Arizona, Nevada, Texas, etc.
Can I Speed Up The Drying and Seasoning Process?
Yes, there are ways to speed up the seasoning process. There are four main factors to consider when trying to speed up the seasoning process. Think about how you would dry any other object. Drying firewood might take longer, but it’s the same basic process.
- Get Firewood Off The Ground: Find a way to raise your firewood up off the ground. It can be as simple as stacking it on pressure-treated 2x4s or pallets. Or you could build or buy a firewood storage rack. I highly recommend building a small firewood rack using cheap brackets and a couple pressure treated 2x4s. The Mofeez firewood rack brackets are cheap and much sturdier than other brackets I’ve ordered. It takes like 5 minutes to put a rack together and they’re sturdier than other commercial options.
- Cover It Up: Find a way to cover up your wood. You can can cover wood with a small tarp as long as the sides are left open. I spent the extra money on a cheap REDCAMP cover that I picked up off of Amazon. It’s way easier to use than a tarp and you can’t beat the price. I like to leave the sides open during the seasoning process.
- Improve Airflow/Ventilation(Open The Sides): It doesn’t matter how you cover up the top of your wood as long as the sides are left open. You want the wood to get as much airflow as possible. This can mean the difference between a 4-6 months drying time and firewood that rots away. The small amount of rain that will blow onto the sides will dry after 2-3 days of sunlight.
- Increase Sunlight: The amount of sunlight you can provide will be limited by your yard layout, but more sunlight will always be better.
The Fastest Way to Dry Firewood
There’s really no ultra fast way to dry out firewood. If you follow the tips above and cover the wood, get it off the ground, and leave the sides open it should dry in a reasonable amount of time. You don’t even need a fancy rack and cover. All it takes is a few pallot’s and a tarp strapped up over the top with the sides open. The picture above is a great example of properly covered firewood.
Plan on giving your firewood at least 6 months to dry before you need it. I like to cut and split my wood really early in the spring. I’ll be out cutting/splitting wood on the first 50 degree day of the year. That gives the wood all summer to dry out.
You can burn wood that isn’t fully dry, but it’s not ideal. The wood will be hard to light, it will smolder, and give off lots of smoke/creosote. Your living room will be full of smoke if your stack isn’t properly vented. I’ll go over how to spot dry wood in the following section.
Recognizing Dry Firewood
Buying a moisture meter (surprisingly cheap) will be the easiest way to tell if your wood is dry, but there are ways to spot dry wood just by looking at it.
- Logs Start to Fade: As wood ages and dries out it will start to fade away from the healthy greenish color. It will slowly transition to gray and eventually brown after a few years. By the time the wood looks gray it should be ready to burn.
- Bark Loosens and Cracks Form: Firewood will slowly lose its bark as it goes through the death and decay process. Bark will fall off and cracks will form along the length of the wood. The cracks form as it loses moisture and slowly starts to release water making the wood smaller.
- Sounds Hollow: Smack your firewood against another piece. If the wood sounds hollow it’s good to go. Wet/green wood will give a damp thud sound. Almost like slapping against mud.
- Lighter Weight: As water gets released into the air the wood will slowly start to feel lighter. Think about how heavy a gallon of water is. Once that water is gone a log will drop in weight by about 40%.
- Harder To Split: Wood starts to shrink getting dense as water starts to dry out. That results in wood that’s harder to cut and split. Split firewood while its green to take stress off your log splitter or body.
- More Flammable: Anybody that’s tried to light a fire with green wood knows that it’s a pain in the butt. As wood dries out it will slowly get more flammable. It goes from a moisture content of about 40% green down to 10-15% when it’s seasoned.
Using a Moisture Meter To Spot Seasoned Wood
I picked up a moisture meter a few years ago and never looked backed. Mine came from Home Depot and cost about $40 at the time. Since accuracy isn’t all that important you can pick up the cheapest meter you can find on Amazon (check them out).
With mine I just point the end of the meter towards the wood. That’s great for drywall since you don’t want to create damage. Cheaper meters have prongs that you need to stick into the wood.
Properly seasoned wood will be in the 10-15% moisture range. When you first cut the wood it will be close to 40% or more. That’s why it takes so long for the wood to fully dry. Wood never gets too dry to burn or too old, but it will burn much faster since there’s so little water content.
Large Logs Take Longer To Dry
Don’t even bother leaving unsplit logs stacked up so that they dry out on their own. The outsides might dry slightly, but the middle will never fully season. You’ll end up with rotten wood that you need to clean up.
Your best bet is to split the logs as soon as you have access to a log splitter. Honestly, I always wait a week after cutting down a tree to split/stack it. There’s no practical reason! My 30 yo butt gets sore much faster than when I was a teenager. I’d be out for a week if I cut and split all my wood on back to back days.
What If My Wood Never Fully Dries?
Wood that isn’t properly stacked and covered may never fully dry. You will end up with a rotten, fungus and mold covered mess that needs to be thrown away. It’s generally safe to burn fungus and mold covered wood, but it can cause problems if you have allergies. All those spores get up into the air and wreak havoc on your sinuses.
Can I Dry Firewood Indoors?
I don’t recommend bringing firewood into the house. It will actually take much longer than leaving it covered up outside. Nothing will dry wood faster than the summer sun and a cool breeze.
Plus who wants to bring in the bugs that are probably hanging out in the wood. If experts recommend keeping wood away from a house they definitely don’t want it coming inside. Ants and termites may not leave there nest in a few hours, but they’ll surely venture out after 2-3 days.