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Should I Cover Firewood With a Tarp?

With the rainy season coming up you’re probably wondering if you need to cover your firewood. It’s always a good idea to cover up your wood, but some methods are better than others. You might end up doing more harm than good if you’re not careful. This brings up an important question. Should I cover firewood with a tarp?

You should not cover up firewood with a tarp. Covering your wood with a tarp reduces airflow, traps moisture in the wood and speeds up the rotting process. Only cover the top of your wood (leave the sides exposed) if you’re going to use a tarp. I recommend building a small lean-to or wood shed to protect your firewood from the elements.

Properly stacking and covering your wood will speed up the seasoning process, but you need to allow proper airflow. In the rest of this post I’ll explain how to stack your firewood and protect it from the elements.

Should I Cover My Firewood With a Tarp?

Allowing your wood to get rained on might not seem like that big of a deal, but it will slow down the seasoning process. Covering and stacking your firewood will help the wood dry out, but you have to know what you’re doing. You can’t just cover your wood up with a tarp and call it a day.

Covering wood with a tarp might benefit the top layer of firewood, but it’s detrimental to the rest of the stack. Think about how much of the stack actually gets wet when it rains. The top of the stack and ends might get a little wet, but that will dry fast.

Most of the wood is actually protected by the top layer of firewood. Considering that’s the first layer that gets used, it’s highly unlikely a little bit of rain will lead to degradation and rotting. Covering up your wood with a tarp might help the top layer, but it hurts the rest of the stack.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend covering your wood up with a tarp. All the tarp does is block airflow and trap in moisture. That will slow down the seasoning process and may lead to premature rotting. The top is the only part of the wood pile that needs to be covered.

Look at how the wood is covered in the picture above. If you plan on using a tarp that’s how you need to use it. Cover the top and maybe the back side if the tarp is 2 big for the pile. A cheap 6×8 tarp is about perfect but I would personally go with a commercial firewood cover if you’re gonna spend $10-15 on a tarp anyway.

Buy A Commercial Firewood Cover

You should seriously consider picking up a commercial firewood cover instead of covering your wood with a tarp. They’re designed with air vents in the side to maximize airflow while keeping the top/sides of your pile dry. The only downside is you would have to buy or build a 4ft or 8ft rack that the cover can fit on.

I’ve found that the metal firewood racks are somewhat flimsy. They last about 5-10 years and eventually rust out. I switched over to purchasing firewood rack brackets that work with 2×4’s(pictured below). You can do the same thing with wood/screws, but the brackets make it so much easier. I found that buying the extra 4×4’s, screws, etc would cost about the same as the brackets which I think are nicer.

You can choose any of the cheap firewood covers off of Amazon. They’re all about the same quality level, but make sure you get one with vented sides. I bought the 8ft REDCAMP Log Rack Cover, and it’s pretty awesome. The fact that it’s split into 2 smaller 4ft compartments makes it so much easier to use.

It would be nice if the covers came with air vents on the sides. I usually leave the sides open during the seasoning process and close them up after 3-4 months. That gives the wood plenty of time to dry out and season. You can’t burn unseasoned wood anyway so it really doesn’t matter if a little bit of rain blows into the sides.

Will Firewood Dry Under a Tarp?

Firewood might eventually dry under a tarp, but it will take forever. There are three main problems with tossing a tarp over your wood.

  1. Traps In Moisture: Think about what it takes to grow mold and fungus. All you need is a dark, wet environment and a suitable food source. That’s exactly what you’re providing when covering wood up with a tarp. You’ll end up with a pile of rotten fungus covered wood if you’re not careful. You can burn fungus covered wood and rotten wood, but it’s way worse than properly seasoned wood.
  2. Blocks Airflow: Increasing airflow on your wood pile will seriously speed up the seasoning process. Leave at least one side of the pile exposed so the wind can dry out the wood evenly. You also want to stack it up on pallets or 2×4’s so the bottom row doesn’t rot and sink in the mud.
  3. Less Heat and Sunlight: Nothing will speed up the drying process faster than the sun. Direct sunlight will always be better than a covered pile.

As I mentioned earlier the only thing that you want to cover is the top row of wood. Tarping over the whole pile of wood will trap in moisture and reduce airflow. Generally speaking, tarps will be hard to handle. The cheap ones will deteriorate, rip and collect water making matters worse.

A tarp isn’t the only thing you can use to cover up your wood. I recommend building a wooden shelter, but there are cheaper options you can use. Even setting a single sheet of aluminum roofing or plywood over your wood pile is better than using a tarp.

It’s ok if some rain gets on the sides of your wood stack. With the sun shining down and all that airflow it should dry fast.

Alternatives to Use

So if tarps are out what else can I use to cover up my wood pile. You don’t want your wood to get rained/snowed on, but you can’t cut off the airflow. So what other alternatives can I use?

You’re better off with something solid instead of using a tarp that will drape over the sides. A piece of old plywood, roofing material, plastic or any kind of metal will work. The only downside to this approach is that it looks god ugly.

I recommend building a small lean-to or wood shelter to store your wood. All it takes is a few leftover pallets, scrap wood, 1 sheet of metal roofing and a few 2×4’s. You’re looking at $100 tops if you know where to find free pallets. I go down to a local custom cabinet veneer store and they give me a truckload of pallets for $5.

The rack in the picture above would cost around $200-300. All the boards on the bottom/side are cheap pressure-treated fence pickets($2 Each) cut in half. All the other wood is standard 2×6 and 4×4’s that you can buy at any hardare store. The top has a cheap roof panel that I had laying around, but that’s about $30 for an 8ft long piece.

It would probably be cheaper to use polycarbonate sheets or additional fence pickets on the top, but I liked the finished look of the metal roofing.

A Few Other Firewood Storage Tips

Finding a place to stack and store your firewood isn’t rocket science. All you need is a dry sunny spot for the wood to properly season. Here are a few tips to help you store your firewood so it dries fast.

  • Keep The Logs Elevated: Keeping your wood off the ground will help reduce moisture from rainstorms and allow the air to circulate through the wood stack. You don’t want moisture to soak into the logs and cause premature rot, fungus and decay. Elevating your wood will speed up the seasoning process and guarantee clean even burns. Stack your wood on a sturdy pallet or a few pressure-treated 2×4’s spread 12-16 inches apart. Don’t set your wood on a tarp! All it does is trap the water and cause pooling around the base of your wood pile.
  • Store Wood Away From The House: Wood piles tend to attract lots of pesky little critters. Most of them are harmless, but you don’t want to draw mice, snakes, bugs, and who knows what else near your house. Whenever possible, store your firewood at least 10ft away from your house. Stacking wood along the house may also cause mold and moisture problems in your siding.
  • Don’t Store Wood In The Garage/House: Storing wood in your basement/garage can be tempting. Nobody wants to deal with soaking wet firewood. Storing your wood inside isn’t the worst thing you can do, but it does pose some problems. Bringing wood into the house brings all the burrowing insects in with it. I accidentally caused a nice ant infestation in my basement because I accidentally brought in an ant filled log.
  • Choose a Sunny Spot: Use the sun and wind to your advantage. Setting up in a sunny spot will significantly speed up the seasoning process. A few months in the sun can turn the usual 1 year seasoning time into a few months.
  • Cover The Wood(Allow Air Circulation): Covering your wood is nice, but it’s not entirely necessary. If you choose to cover your wood make sure that the sides are exposed to allow proper ventilation. Don’t just toss a tarp on top of your wood, which will trap moisture. Build some kind wood storage shed or at the very least set a 4×8 sheet of old plywood on top.
  • Properly Stack The Wood: Pay attention to the way you stack your logs and try to make sure the pile won’t fall over on somebody. Start with the biggest logs on the bottom and slowly make your way up. I usually store kindling in a separate pile or on the far right all by itself.
  • Know When to Dispose of Rotten Wood: Wood that falls apart when you pick it up needs to be taken out for compost. Most of the energy has already decomposed so there’s no point in burning it. All it’s going to do is smolder in the fire and take forever to burn up. I use the general rule that if you can smash it with your foot it’s time to toss it out.