What Should I Do With a Rotten Wood Pile?


After a long winter, here lies a stack of unused firewood that’s seen better days. After leaving the wood uncovered all winter, it’s starting to rot and decompose leaving behind a nasty mess. So what can you do with all that rotten wood? The good news is those old ugly logs don’t have to sit and continue to rot.

What Should I Do With a Rotten Wood Pile? You have 3 main options when dealing with a rotten wood pile. Rotten wood can usually be burned if it’s not too far gone. It can be used to decorate your garden beds, turned into mulch, used to line a pathway, etc. Or you can move the wood out of the way and back into the forest to decompose naturally in a year or 2.

Anybody that harvests wood around their property or has a nice wooded area in their yard will have to deal with the occasional rotten wood pile. Some people love the look of decaying wood, while others only want to dispose of it. Continue reading to learn a few more ways to get rid of rotten wood.

How Do You Get Rid Of Rotten Wood

Rotten firewood is just going through the decomposition process. The easiest way to dispose of it would be to toss it back into the woods out of eyesight. It will completely decompose and go back into the earth after a year or two. There are a few main ways to dispose of rotten wood.

  • Let it Decompose: Moving the wood somewhere to decompose is the easiest way to get rid of it. Wood moved into the forest should decompose and compost within 2-3 years.
  • Burn The Wood: Rotten wood can be burned, but it won’t burn well. Rotten wood is hard to light and gives off lots of smoke. Just make sure your city allows fires on your property, because black smelly smoke will draw some attention.
  • Find a Drop-Off Location: Most cities have a drop-off location for yard waste. You can call up somebody in your local city office, but they probably won’t know what to do with it. I recommend asking your garbage company. The landfill probably won’t take yard waste but they definitely know where to take.
  • Hire a Waste Disposal Service: Any landscaping company should be able to deal with yard debris. It will cost $200-300 to clean up a small yard and dispose of all the rotten wood.
  • Find Uses Around The Yard: There are countless ways to incorporate large rotting logs into your landscaping. You can line your gardens or use them as decorative pieces. Smaller yard waste can be used as a natural mulch or compost. You can always place regular dyed mulch on top if you don’t like the way it looks.

Move The Wood Somewhere to Naturally Decompose

Allowing leftover wood to rot is better for the environment than burning it. Decomposing wood gives off methane which produces 1/6 of the carbon dioxide output compared to burning. Burning rotten wood isn’t all that bad for the environment since it’s technically considered carbon neutral according to the EPA. Properly managed forests actually improve water and air quality.

Giving your wood time to decompose is surprisingly easy. Just move it back into the woods where you can’t see it and let nature do its thing. The wood will naturally decompose and return back to the earth after a few years. Plus it gives small animals/insects a nice little home.

There are a few major downsides to this approach. The big problem is that you need somewhere out of the way to leave the wood. That’s not a big deal on a big parcel of land, but could cause problems in the city. It’s also an eyesore that you’ll have to deal with for a few years.

Burning the rotten wood or taking it somewhere might be a better option if you’re ready to get rid of it now.

You Can Burn Rotten Wood, But It’s Not Pretty

I usually just burn my rotten firewood in my wood burner. When it comes to firewood, I live by 1 basic rule. It goes in the burner as long as it can be picked up without falling apart. Rotten wood might not be as good as traditional firewood, but it does burn.

The major downside to burning rotten wood is that it’s seriously wet. Wet wood gives off loads of smoke which makes it difficult to sit around the campfire. Plus it will smolder at a low temperature and burn up way faster than regular logs. I recommend mixing in some good wood if you plan on taking this approach.

Make sure your city allows fires before lighting it up. All that black smoke is bound to draw attention from the neighbors. Lighting up a fire of wet rotten wood can be a bit of a challenge. I recently started using a propane torch to light all my campfires.

It’s way safer than using something like gasoline and I’m way more likely to light up a fire when it takes less than a minute. A propane torch is basically a mini-flamethrower so it can light up just about anything. Plus it’s really fun to use. I use a cheap harbor freight torch, but I’ve been eyeing one of these Flame King Propane Torches that comes with an ignitor (don’t need a lighter).

Where Can I Take Rotten Wood?

If there’s nowhere in your yard to dispose of rotten wood, you can usually take it to a local drop-off location somewhere in the city. Dealing with city employees is a pain so I recommend calling up your local garbage disposal company and asking them what to do with it. Most landfills won’t be able to take yard waste but they should be able to point you in the right direction.

My city has a yard waste drop-off that turns the rotten wood into compost/mulch that gets dyed and used around the city. I can drop off 1 truck load of debris per day for free and the 2nd drop-off costs 5 bucks. The price should be fairly reasonable regardless of where you are. Dropping off a truckload of trash at the landfill costs less than $10 so yard waste should be somewhat cheap.

Consider a Yard Waste Disposal Service

You should seriously consider hiring a yard waste disposal service if you have lots of rotten wood or lack access to a truck. My grandma pays a landscaping company to clean up and dispose of all the fallen branches at the beginning of every season.

They give her a good deal because here yards small, but it’s less than $200 for cleanup and disposal. That’s not that bad when you consider the fact that dealing with it will probably take up an entire day off. I like working around the yard, but that price isn’t bad.

Is Rotten Wood Good For Compost?

Rotten wood is one of the best composts. Forest ecologists actually look for at least 15% of a forest to be rotting debris to determine if it’s healthy. When less than 5% of a forest consists of debris the surrounding vegetation will die without intervention.

Wood that gets left out in the elements will quickly rot and turn into compost. All it takes is time and a little bit of water to speed up the natural compost process. That composting wood will turn into an ecosystem for countless animals. Researchers found that the average piece of rotten wood has more than 450 living creatures inside.

Other Uses Around The Yard

You can usually find somewhere to use rotten wood if it’s already rotten and falling apart. Use large pieces to line around your garden or stack them up as a natural decoration.

Smaller pieces can be tossed into the garden for mulch at the beginning of the season. I think natural mulch looks ugly so I buy regular dyed mulch to go on top of it.

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