After waiting 6 months to a year on your wood to dry up and properly season the last thing you want is to introduce moisture. We all know how hard it is to start a fire with wet wood. No matter what you do it just doesn’t seem to light, but is rain all that big of a deal? Is it OK for firewood to get rained on?
Seasoned firewood should be stored out of the rain, but a little rain won’t destroy the wood. It might be harder to light, but it will dry out in a few days. Problems will only start to arise after months/years of exposure to water. The firewood will eventually rot/decay and you may run into mold and fungus growth.
A little rain won’t kill you, but after a lengthy seasoning/drying process it’s best to cover your firewood. Keep reading to find out more about how rain affects firewood and learn how to cover it without spending a fortune.
Can Firewood Get Rained On?
The aim of the seasoning process is to dry out firewood. It will take about 6-12 months for your wood to dry out (green to seasoned) and be ready to burn. Seasoned wood is easier to light, burns longer, and gets hotter than green waterlogged firewood. So obviously the last thing you want to do is let your wood soak up lots of water.
According to my google kungfu, wood burns the best when it gets down to about 10-15% moisture content. Freshly sawn wood is usually around 40% moisture unless it’s completely waterlogged. So you have a lot of drying to do if you want your firewood to properly burn.
Although a little bit of rain won’t kill you, I highly recommend covering your wood and keeping it out of the rain. That will seriously cut down the seasoning process. In Ohio, I can usually cut, split, and stack firewood in the spring and it’s fully seasoned by the time winter rolls around. The seasoning process will take well over a year if you leave the wood exposed to rain.
What About Rain On Seasoned Wood?
After the seasoning process, wood will be able to bounce back faster than while it’s actively drying. Your wood should be dry and ready to burn after 2-3 days of sunshine. You can still burn slightly wet wood, but it’s a serious pain in the butt.
I’ll go over how to light wet wood in detail below, but I recommend picking up a propane torch. I bought a cheap $30 propane torch at harbor freight, but I’ve been eyeing the Flame King Burner that comes with an ignitor(doesn’t need a lighter). A propane torch will start fires within 20-30 seconds regardless of moisture content and it’s so much safer than using gasoline.
I still don’t recommend leaving seasoned wood exposed to the elements even if it can dry fast. It’s so much nicer to pull firewood off a covered rack. There will be less bugs, dirt and no rotted wood. Not having to deal with all those ants is a good enough reason for me.
Covering Your Wood
I wish the covers came with air vents to speed up the seasoning process, but you can always leave the sides open for a few months. The slight amount of rain that lands on the sides isn’t that big of a deal when you add in the extra airflow. Leaving the sides open for 3-4 months will give the firewood plenty of time to dry. I usually cut, split and stack wood in the spring and it’s fully seasoned by winter time.
Just find a cheap firewood cover off of Amazon that’s designed to work on 4 or 8 foot firewood racks. They’re all about the same quality level so just pick one that fits your firewood rack. I’ll go into detail about firewood racks a few paragraphs down. I went with the REDCAMP Firewood Cover and it’s really nice. It’s heavy duty and I really like how it’s split into 2 different sections.
Building a Firewood Rack
I decided to build my own basic rack out of cheap metal brackets that I picked up on Amazon. It’s way easier than building a rack solely out of lumber and it came out to about the same price with how expensive lumber is these days. I really like the Mofeeze Rack Brackets I picked up off of Amazon(pictured below).
All you need is 4 2×4’s and about 5 minutes of time to screw everything together. I went with an 8ft wide by 6ft tall rack that leaves the bottom 2ft of my firewood exposed after putting on the cover. It’s not that big of a deal since most of the rain is blocked by the cover and top rows.
You can use those metal firewood racks, I’ve found that they’re somewhat flimsy. They will eventually rust out after 5-10 years. It’s so much nicer to just build your own rack out of 2×4’s and brackets.
If you really want to get fancy you can build a firewood shed like the one in the picture below. They look really nice, but it will cost about $200-300 and take a few hours to build. The sides/bottom are made out of wooden fence pickets($2 each) cut in half and everything else is standard 2×6 and 4×4’s.
The roof is made out of metal roofing, but you can save some money and use polycarbonate sheets(metal looks nicer). I’ve also seen roofs made out of cheap pressure-treated fence pickets. The roof doesn’t need to be completely waterproof. The sides are exposed, so you’re just trying to get the wood up off the wet ground and keep most of the rain off.
Can I Use a Tarp?
You shouldn’t toss a tarp on your firewood and call it a day. A tarp will do more harm than good unless it’s properly sized. All you want to do is cover the top and one side of the wood(like the picture above). This gives the wood enough ventilation to dry out and doesn’t trap in the water.
This method is fine if you already have a few small 6×8 tarps lying around, but I think it’s worth spending the extra money on a dedicated firewood cover. Obviously, you can get a cheap $10 tarp at harbor freight, but that’s never going to last. For $15-20 more you can just buy a nice cover off of Amazon that has zippered sides and will last for years.
Can You Burn Wood That’s Been Rained On?
Yes you can burn wood that’s wet and rained on, but it will be harder to light. You will need some form of fire accelerant to get the fire started. Most people use gasoline or lighter fluid, but there’s a safer and easier to use option.
I started using a propane torch to light all my fires a few years ago. I’m talking about the ones that are designed for burning weeds. Mine came from harbor freight, but I’ve been thinking about buying a Flame King Torch that comes with an ignitor(don’t have to use a lighter).
A propane torch is actually really fun and safe to use. It’s basically a mini flame thrower that’s attached to a propane tank. Make sure you don’t have the flame dialed up too high, because it will really shoot out. It takes like 30 seconds to light a fire with seasoned wood and might take 2-3 minutes with wet or green wood.
Does Rain Ruin Firewood?
Rain won’t ruin wood overnight, but it will eventually start to mold/fungus, rot and decay. You can burn rotten wood and wood with fungus on it, but it will eventually rot and need to be thrown away. Fungus covered wood may cause issues with people that have asthma and severe allergies.
What Causes Rotten Wood? Rotten wood is part of the natural decomposition process. There’s no way to completely stop wood rot, but you can slow it down, by keeping your wood dry. A properly stored stack of firewood will last 5-10 years before it starts to decay. Wood that’s exposed to rain, snow, and water may not last through the winter.
I live by a simple rule when it comes to rotten wood. A log is fine to burn as long as I can pick it up without it falling apart. Wood that’s so far gone that it falls apart as you step on it needs to be disposed of. You can toss it in the woods or place it in the compost pile. It should take a year or 2 to completely decompose.