How Soon Can You Burn Wood After Cutting?

So you’ve just cut down a tree or had a load of firewood delivered. Obviously cutting wet green wood isn’t ideal, but do you really have to wait until it’s completely seasoned? How soon can you burn wood after cutting and splitting it?

Generally speaking, you should wait at least 6-12 months until your wood is fully seasoned. You can burn it before it’s finished seasoning, but it will be hard to light, smolder at a low temperature, and produce lots of smoke. The total drying time might be higher depending on how the wood was stacked, log size, wood type, time of year, and a host of other factors.

Unfortunately, you will probably have to wait a few months before your firewood will effectively burn. Keep reading to find out a few ways to speed up the seasoning process.

How Long Is It Before You Can Burn Wood?

As I mentioned above, it will take at least 6 months to fully season your firewood. It will take much longer if you’re woods not properly split/stacked, or weathers wet and cold. The 6 month timeline is assuming the tree was cut down in late spring or early summer and it had a few months to dry with the summer sun beating on it. If you split the wood in the fall it will be ready to burn early the following summer if it’s stacked properly.

All of those timelines are assuming your wood was split into smallish pieces and properly stacked/covered. Wood that’s left sitting on the ground and exposed to rain will most likely rot before they dry out. Remember that you have to go by when the wood was split, not when the tree was cut.

Large logs that haven’t been split will hold onto moisture for years. They can last a decade piled up on a rack and never dip down to the proper moisture level.

How fast your wood will season is almost completely dependent on how small the pieces are and how well you stacked/covered the firewood. I’ll give you a few tips on how to properly stack firewood in the section below.

Seasoning Firewood

The seasoning process is fairly straight forward once you understand a few basic concepts. You have to get the wood up off the ground in a rack, cover it up, leave the sides exposed to promote airflow, and try to get as much sunlight as possible. If you work on providing those 4 factors your wood will be dry in no time.

  • Get Wood Off The Ground: Come up with some type of rack to get your firewood up off the ground. This helps increase airflow and keeps your firewood from sitting in the snow and pooling water. A lot of people use pallets to stack their wood, but I would build/buy a rack if you the time and money. I really like these Firewood Rack Brackets that you use with 2x4s. It takes less than 5 minutes to screw your rack together and it’s way sturdier than other commercial options.
  • Cover The Top: It really doesn’t matter how you cover up the top. Most people use a cheap 6×8 tarp to cover a standard 8ft rack. Just make sure the sides are left exposed to increase airflow. I really like the REDCAMP firewood cover that I bought a few years ago. It’s so much easier to grab firewood when you can just unzip the sides.
  • Increase Airflow: Leave the sides of your wood pile exposed to the elements so the breeze can blow through and speed up the seasoning process. The slight amount of rain that will blow on the sides will dry up in a day or two.
  • Provide Sunlight: I understand that you can only provide as much sunlight as the season will allow, but you can control where the firewood rack is located. Set the rack up in the sunniest convenient spot within 20-30ft of your main entry door.

Properly following the seasoning process will significantly speed up the seasoning process. Instead of taking over a year your firewood should be ready to burn in 4-6 months. So how do you figure out if wood is ready to burn?

Figuring Out If Wood Is ready To Burn

There are a few simple ways to figure out if your wood is ready to burn. Using a moisture meter (check them out on Amazon) is by far the most effective method. You should have a nice fire once the moisture level drops below 20% (10-15% is optimal). Freshly cut wood should be in the 40-45% range, so it has a while to go before it’s dry enough to burn.

There are a few other ways to check the wood if you don’t have a moisture meter. Trying to burn the wood is going to be your best bet. If the woods easy to light and doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, it’s probably seasoned. If lighting it takes forever and produces a horrible fire you need to wait a few months.

You can also look at the wood and see if it’s gone through the degradation process. Fully seasoned wood will go from green to a grayish or brown appearance. You will also notice cracks along the ends, running down the sides and bark will be falling off.

The wood shouldn’t look like it’s starting to rot away. That’s a surefire sign that there’s something wrong with the way you’ve stacked the wood. Wood will only rot when it’s exposed to excess moisture.

What Happens If You Burn Unseasoned Wood

You can burn unseasoned wood, but it’s not pleasant. Fires take forever to light regardless of how you try to start it. Since there’s so much water in the wood it will burn at a low temperature, smolder, and most likely go out. That incomplete combustion results in lots of black smoke.

I’ve tried just about every method imaginable to light green wood and only found one that works (it’s not gas). Using a propane torch is by far the easiest way to light wet wood. You need the prolonged heat of the propane flame to burn off all that extra water.

I’ve been using a cheap $30 harbor freight torch I bought years ago, but I’ve been eyeing a Flame King Torch that comes with an ignitor(don’t need a lighter). It’s basically a mini-flamethrower so it will light up just about anything.