So you have a big pile of firewood sitting there and have no idea what to do with it. Don’t worry! Stacking and storing firewood doesn’t have to be difficult. Get it up off the ground, put a cover on it, and you’re good to go. So, why should firewood be off the ground and how high does it need to be?
Get firewood about 6 inches off the ground to prevent water damage, reduce insect infestations, and speed up the seasoning process. Don’t let your firewood go to waste and get rotten, moldy and fungus covered. All you need is a few inches between firewood and the ground to prevent a host of problems.
Deciding not to stack your firewood on a rack is a costly gamble. Look at how rotten the wood is in the above picture. Do you really want that to happen to your firewood throughout the course of a single winter? I’ll go over a few simple, cheap solutions, to get your wood up off the ground.
How Far Off The Ground Should Firewood Be Stored?
Is stacking firewood on the ground the end of the world? No definitely not, but it’s not great for your firewood either. There’s really only one reason why you wouldn’t place your firewood on some kind of rack before stacking it. You’re too lazy to find a rack!
Definitely take the time to find a rack to get your firewood off the ground. I recommend getting your wood at least 4-6 inches off the ground. That’s about the same height as a ground contact pressure treated 2×4 or pallet (Hint Hint). You can go higher if you live in an area with heavy snow or want easier access to the lower rows due to injury.
Raising wood off the ground is all about reducing moisture and increasing airflow. Those two things will significantly speed up the seasoning process and reduce rot, mold/fungus, and bug infestations. I’ll go into more detail in the sections below.
I recommend building a firewood rack from scratch or using set of firewood rack brackets that can be put together in with pressure treated lumber in less than 5 minutes, but that will cost you a little bit of money. Setting your wood on two pressure treated boards screwed together like a rectangle will get you 99% of the way there. That will cost you about $15 to go that route.
If you’re short on cash head down to your local grocery or big box store and grab a few pallets sitting next to the dumpster. Drive behind a few stores for 5 minutes and I guarantee you’ll see a stack of scrap pallets. You don’t even have to ask to take them. Stuff that’s next to a dumpster is generally up for grabs (not a lawyer).
So why would I need to raise my firewood off the ground? I’ll explain that and more in the following section.
Why Should Firewood Be Off The Ground?
Ground contact isn’t the end of the world if you plan on using up your firewood fast. I’m talking throughout the summer kind of fast! Once winter rolls around wood that’s left exposed to the elements will quickly rot away, and continue going through the natural decay process.
That’s fine if you’re willing to let the bottom 2-3 rows of wood go to waste. That’s a lot of wasted time or money, but maybe you don’t care about that. If you fall into this camp you might want to check out my post describing what you should do with rotten firewood.
The Dangers of Ground Contact
Keeping your firewood off the ground will reduce water damage and increase airflow. I’ll go over most that below, but you might want to check out my other post explaining why you shouldn’t stack firewood on the ground.
- Prevent Wood Rot: Lets start off by saying that rot is a part of woods natural degradation process. There’s no way to completely stop rot, but you can easily delay it for decades. Firewood rot won’t make you sick or anything, but it will make your fires burn like hot garbage. All you have to do is reduce water level in your wood by going through the seasoning process. Lifting wood off the ground will get your bottom rows out of the snow and pooling water.
- Excessive Moisture: Trying to start a fire with wet wood is a recipe in frustration. It takes forever to light unless you have a propane torch (my favorite) and then smokes, cracks, and creates a terrible fire. Getting your wood up off the ground will drop the moisture level by increasing airflow and taking it out of pooling water.
- Slow Seasoning: The seasoning process relies on 4 crucial factors that all need to be met. Wood has to be off the ground, covered up, airflow by opening the sides, and it needs direct sunlight. Removing one of those factors will significantly slow down the seasoning process. The bottom rows may never season before they start to rot.
- Mold Lichen and Fungus: When you have water and a food source there will always be mold, fungus and lichen(you can burn lichen but it’s nasty). Burning any of these things will release spores into the air, which can cause breathing problems in people with allergies/asthma.
- Bugs and Other Pests: I give you a 100% guarantee that if you don’t lift firewood off the ground you will have to deal with a bug infestation. Carpenter ants and termites will go hog wild on firewood that’s left to rot. It will also increase the chance of encountering rodents, spiders, and snakes so that’s fun! That’s the main reason why you shouldn’t stack firewood in the garage or stack wood against the house.
How Can I Keep Firewood Off The Ground?
There are countless ways to get your firewood off the ground. You can build/buy a rack, use pallets, railroad ties, pressure treated lumber, warehouse racking, etc. It really doesn’t matter how you get the wood off the ground as long as it’s up a few inches and out of pooling rain/snow. A little bit of rain on your firewood (or snow) will dry fast, but it will still slow down the seasoning process.
If you’re handy with tools you might want to build a small firewood shed like the one pictured above. The one pictured above would cost $200-300 depending on the type of lumber you use. I use a bunch of pressure treated deck boards ($1.87) on the sides/bottom to keep prices down. They can also be used on the roof to save some money there.
You may also want to consider purchasing a commercial firewood rack if woodworking isn’t your thing. I’ve tried a bunch of different commercial firewood racks and there’s only one solution that holds up to the weather. Buy firewood rack brackets (my favorite) and attach them to a few pressure treated 2×4’s.
It takes less than 5 minutes to screw them together and you can quickly swap out the boards if they start looking bad. You will spend less than $50 on the rack when you factor in the cost of lumber. Just make sure you cover up the rack leaving the sides open for airflow. I really like the REDCAMP Firewood Cover, but a tarp will also work if you’re building a bunch of them or need to save money.
Lots of people like using pallets to store firewood on as well. That’s what I did for close to a decade when I bought my first house. It wasn’t until after I had kids that I decided to build a proper rack. I didn’t want the wood falling over on them. Here’s a brief post explaining how high you should stack firewood to prevent tip overs.
How Far Off the Ground Should Firewood Be Stored?
How far off the ground firewood should be stored depends on where you live. Going up about 6 inches is all you really need throughout most of the United States. That’s about the same height as a standard pallet. A few pressure treated 2x4s screwed together in a rectangle will also work even though it’s slightly lower.
The primary goal of raising up your wood is to get it out of pooling water, away from bugs, and allow airflow. Height really doesn’t make that much of a difference. I get a lot of snow living in north east Ohio so I raise my racks up a few extra inches by building them on 4x4s and an extra 2×4 on top.
Getting wood up off the ground a few extra inches will keep it out of most of the snow. Plus it’s nice for your back when working from those bottom rows. I describe a few other methods for protecting firewood from snow in this post.