What is the Best Way to Store Firewood Outside?


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There are many ways to store firewood. Since there are several factors to consider, there is no one good way to store firewood. Factors include whether the wood is dry or green, what the weather is like in your locale and at the current time of year. Local codes and fire department regulations may also play a part, as they may state that your firewood cannot be stored within so many feet of any building.

Basically, if your storing firewood outside in the open it needs to be stored off the ground and the top protected from rain, either with some kind of roof or a temporary tarp or cover.

Should Firewood be Stored Outside?

Firewood should be stored outside to facilitate seasoning and to prevent unwanted visitors that may be in the wood from visiting you in your home. While having a few logs near your fireplace is one thing, the main stack should always be stored outside.

How Do You Store Firewood and Keep it Dry Outside?

Stacking firewood is a matter of convenience, as it takes up less space and makes it easier to get what you need. It doesn’t affect the wood. Keeping the wood away from the ground is important. Not only will any ground moisture seep up into the wood, eventually leading to rot, but ground contact will also allow termites and the several species of wood-boring beetles from making a home in your wood.

Some people think that putting the wood on a tarp or even a concrete slab will do the trick, but actually, the bottom pieces still will get damp. A storage rack made for firewood will be a big help in keeping it all drier and keeping it away from insects. Read my article How Do You Make a Simple Firewood Storage Shed? if you need help building a simple firewood shed.

Is it OK for Firewood to Get Rained On?

Dry wood needs to be kept from moisture to prevent rot. If it gets rained on before fall a time or two, it won’t make much difference. When burning time is near, it should be kept dry. Covering the stack with a tarp will be sufficient. It’s not necessary to cover the whole stack. In fact, only the top of the stack should be covered, leaving the sides open for moisture to escape.

Is it OK to Store Firewood in a Shed?

It’s really not a good idea to store firewood in any enclosed space. It needs airflow to season properly and to keep dry once it’s seasoned. Keeping it in a shed will prevent it from drying thoroughly. In addition, you might just end up bringing ants or other insects or spiders into your shed that were hidden in the wood. Black widow spiders love to live in woodpiles.

Is it OK to Stack Firewood Next to House?

Many people do this for convenience in getting wood, but it is not a good idea. Some fire codes don’t allow this practice. You’re also covering up one cut end of each log by doing this, cutting off airflow. In addition, you’re bringing any insects, spiders or rodents that may find the stack attractive closer to your home where they may investigate ways to get into your house.

What Do You Stack Firewood On?

Drying firewood sufficiently and keeping it dry are important to make it usable as firewood. Sometimes this seasoning process can take months, or even years for the wood to get to the right condition. It depends on the type of wood, how green it is when it is received or harvested, how it is stacked and stored, and the climate and its usual humidity tendencies.

Fortunately, there are many sizes and types of firewood racks available that keep the wood off the ground and away from ground moisture. A rack will also keep your wood away from insects. Termites aren’t the only insects that will be attracted to your wood.

There are also several species of wood-boring beetles that are looking for some dead wood in which to lay eggs for their hatching larvae to feet upon. Bringing some wood into the house for a future fire and later finding what looks like grubs or maggots crawling around your hearth does not make for a romantic fire.

Basically, your wood should be kept away from moisture as much as possible and exposed to sun and wind as much as possible. If possible, look into building some sort of lean-to from an outbuilding or some sort of small structure with a roof for the wood. It doesn’t have to be very large or tall. In fact, you can construct a small roof over your purchased wood rack or build a rack yourself with a roof. If you have a place with a building overhang that is deep enough, you can stack your wood against the wall under the overhang.

This would protect the wood from rain without having to keep covering and uncovering the stack with a tarp. In fact, this would be a better situation for drying the wood than a tarp, as the top of the stack would be exposed to air all the time. Keeping the weeds and grass from growing up around the stack helps keep the dampness and insects away as well.

If you don’t want to invest in a rack, it should be stacked on some sort of platform to keep it off the ground. This could be a concrete slab or a frame made from pressure treated 2 x 4s. It should be stacked with the cut ends exposed to the air. The logs should not be stacked too tightly together, such as trying to cram smaller diameter pieces between the larger ones to fill space. The more airspace around each log the better.

Try to keep your stack away from play areas if you have children. While a properly constructed stack is not easy to topple, a child running into it or bumping it hard in the right place could cause it to happen. In addition, since the cut ends are facing out, this adds to the likelihood of scrapes when a child bumps against the wood while playing. Check out my article How to Build an Outdoor Firewood Storage Rack for tips on building a simple firewood storage rack made from 2x4s.

Should I Cover My Firewood with a Tarp?

Dry wood should be covered with a tarp only when it’s going to rain. Only the top of the stack needs to be covered. The sides should be left open to allow for airflow. Keeping the airflow around the stack is important to keep the wood from absorbing and holding any moisture in the air.

When you get a load of wood, it’s important to find out what shape it’s in. If it’s already dry, you don’t want to keep it covered. The stack needs to get air, and unless you expect a lot of rain during a certain period, the tarp should be removed once the rain is over.

If your wood is wet or green when you get the load, covering it won’t do the wood any good, as it’s already damp. In fact, covering it will slow down the drying process. If the wood is really green or wet, you may as well just leave it uncovered in the rain, since it can’t get much wetter or moist than it already is.

A tarp will just hold in the moisture and extend the drying time, which can lead to fungus damage and decay. Actually, a tarp should be left off as much as possible to facilitate and maintain drying. Your stack should always get as much airflow as possible.

Should You Stack Firewood Between Trees?

If you live out in the country, you no doubt have seen firewood stacked between the trunks of two trees. While this seems to be a great free wood rack, this is not a good idea. Tree bark can hold dampness which will seep into your wood, keeping the wood pieces on the sides continually damp. Your wood can turn musty from fungus growth or even start to decay and will not be good to burn.

In addition, the tree trunks give insects a great highway for searching out your logs for their homes. You may have never seen a wood borer on your property, but if you start stacking firewood they will find it. They bore holes into the wood and lay eggs. The larvae hatch and start eating the wood, turning it into a powdery mixture of sawdust and waste.

You may not be aware of a problem until you pick up a log and some of this sawdust mixture sifts downward. Some species prefer laying their eggs in green wood, so they have a head start before you even know it. Some species of ants will also make their homes in wood. If you have medium or large trees on your property, you’ll likely see ants moving along the trunks after watching for a few minutes. They would just love to make a detour onto your woodpile.

Does Firewood Need to Be Split to Season?

The wood will season without splitting, but splitting the green wood will speed up the process. The best way is to cut the logs to the desired length and split them before stacking them. Seasoning dries the wood, making it easier to start a fire and keep it going.

Wood containing too much moisture is hard to catch fire, makes a smokier fire, and the fire tends to keep going out. Green wood can have a moisture content as high as 45% in early spring. In order to burn properly, the content needs to be brought down to no higher than 20%.

Your split wood should be stacked with the bark up. If the bark is down, moisture can collect between the bark and the wood as the bark gradually tends to start to separate from the wood as the drying process goes along. This can make a curved shape for moisture to collect and remain, keeping the wood from seasoning as quickly as it could.

How to Tell When Wood is Seasoned

Seasoned wood usually turns a little darker than green wood. It’s lighter in weight than when it was green, and the bark will peel off seasoned wood more easily than from green wood. If you use a lot of firewood, you may want to invest in a moisture meter or hydrometer to tell when your wood is ready for burning.

Seasoning can take as long as a couple of years, depending on the tree species cut and the climate conditions. If you buy or cut wood loads a few months apart, you may want to keep separate stacks, so you aren’t mixing wood that is more seasoned with greener wood.

Tips for Buying Firewood

Consider density. The species of wood that you buy will make a big difference in the burning process. Dense woods or hardwoods, such as oak, maple, hickory and walnut will burn hotter and longer than the softer woods, such as pines and firs. In addition, the softer woods may tend to hold sap inside even when dried.

Pines especially can do this. You may end up seeing black tarry stuff bubbling up from your wood as the crystalized sap starts to melt and burn. This forms the creosote that coats the inside of your chimney and can start chimney fires when it builds up.

While creosote forms from any wood not properly seasoned, most of the time it evaporates invisibly to coat your chimney, but using softer woods speeds up the process. Of course, hardwoods are more expensive, but you can save money on less frequent chimney cleaning.

Old lumber. Don’t burn lumber scraps or old lumber in your fireplace, even if it looks clean. It can contain substances such as glue, varnish, or chemicals intended to prevent moisture or other problems. You can end up with toxic fumes wafting through your house, not to mention more creosote. Even if it was free, it’s not worth the risk.

Conclusion

Having a fireplace is a good way to get the dampness out of the house on a cool day without turning on the furnace. When placed in the right part of the house and equipped with a blower system, a fireplace can heat the whole house. It’s also a great thing to have in case an ice storm knocks out power to your neighborhood for days.

Whether you have a fireplace or heat your home with a wood stove, storing firewood is an important part of the care. Keep your wood dry and away from pests, and you’ll be rewarded with that warmth that a furnace just can’t replicate.

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