Spring isn’t here yet, but it’s time to think about next heating season. If you heat with wood, now is the time prepare your firewood, if you haven’t already done so.
Why plan ahead? Burning clean, dry, seasoned firewood to heat your home saves money, ignites easily, and lessens the impact on local air quality. To burn efficiently during the colder months, wood should be split, stacked and loosely covered for at least six to twelve months, depending on the type of wood.
When people have trouble with wood-burning systems, a common problem is that the wood is not dry (or seasoned) enough. Wet firewood is hard to ignite, slow to burn, and creates excessive smoke. Wood smoke contains many chemicals and is harmful to our health when inhaled.
Whether you get your firewood on your property, on public lands, or from an independent firewood seller or retailer, it needs to be seasoned. Seasoned wood has been split and air dried for at least six months (longer for hardwoods). It tends to be dark in color, cracked on the ends, and lightweight, and its bark is easily broken or peeled.
The ideal moisture content for firewood is 15-20%. Spokane Clean Air has firewood moisture meters to loan to interested Spokane County residents.
Steps for well-seasoned firewood:
- Wait at least 6 months and up to 12 months for dry firewood depending on type of wood. Hardwoods like oak and maple dry more slowly than soft woods like pine and spruce. To ensure dry firewood, wait at least 12 months before burning. To test, bang two pieces together; dry wood sounds hollow, wet wood sounds dull.
- Cut wood to the right length. The wood should fit easily in your woodstove. Make sure it is about three inches shorter than the firebox width or length.
- Split wood before stacking. Split the wood to the right width, no more than six inches in diameter. Splitting the wood before stacking increases exposure to air, which improves the drying process.
- Stack wood in alternate directions. This improves circulation and further reduces moisture.
- Store firewood off the ground. Use pallets or build a woodshed to keep firewood six inches or more off the ground to protect the wood pile from moisture.
- Cover the top of the wood pile, but leave the sides exposed. A structure with a roof is ideal, but you can also use a tarp. Remove the tarp to speed up drying in the warm summer months.