When firewood is first chopped down, it usually contains roughly 40-60% water. Due to the high moisture content, it doesn’t burn as efficiently as drier firewood. This is why it’s important to “season” your firewood before burning it. By allowing your firewood to dry out and season, it creates drier wood that’s easier to burn. So, how exactly do you season it?
The term “seasoning” can be somewhat confusing. When used in the context of firewood, it refers to drying out the wood naturally. Wood is highly porous, containing countless holes (known as pores) that absorb and release moisture. Before you can burn firewood, you’ll need to release most of its internal moisture content — a task that’s accomplished through seasoning.
First and foremost, you’ll need to identify the species/variety of wood. Different woods require lengths of time to season. Pine and similar softwood varieties, for instance, season in about 6 to 12 months, whereas oaks and other hardwoods take a bit longer, often requiring one or two years before they are fully seasoned.
If you cut your firewood too large, it will take longer to season. A good rule of thumb is to chop firewood no longer than 18 inches. Keep in mind, though, that 16 inches is the appropriate length for a face cord. As long as your firewood is around 16-18″, it should season with relative ease while also maintaining a suitable size for use in fire pits, campfires, stoves, etc.
You can’t expect firewood to season properly unless it’s stored out in the open. Here’s where the problem lies, though: it it’s stored in the open, it needs to be protected from the rain; otherwise, it will become saturated with moisture whenever it rains. Consider creating an open shed with a covered roof but open walls. Storing your firewood here allows it to season while also protecting it from the rain. Just remember to keep your firewood off the ground, as the ground contains a significant amount of moisture than can leach into your wood.
If you can’t tell whether or not your firewood is properly seasoned, you can buy a special testing tool. Known as a wood moisture test meter, it lives up to its namesake by measuring the water content of wood.
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