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Wood Storage and Proper Drying

As we have seen, burning wet, or unseasoned wood, will dramatically reduce the efficiency of your wood stove. It is a major contributor to creosote build-up and can be considered the number one cause of flue fires.

For these two reasons alone, everyone should be burning only "seasoned" wood. Either you should purchase seasoned wood or know how to air dry the wood yourself. Seasoned wood can be best described as wood that has been split and the wood color has a dull look, often looking slightly gray. Both ends of the piece should have numerous surface checks (shallow cracks) with usually one natural split. On soft-wood species such as pine, fir and cedar, the bark easily falls off when disturbed. For most species this process takes 8 to 12 weeks during dry weather or 18 weeks if the weather is damp.


Stack the wood off the ground and expose it to the sun and wind. Normally the stack should be only as wide as the length of two pieces of wood. The wood should be stacked no higher than the user can easily reach, as the stack can become unstable.

The top should be protected from the rain with a temporary roof of heavy plastic. Build a frame for the roof that is slanted to one edge. In this way, any condensation underneath will flow to the edge and drip off. Leave at least 6 inches of space between the rows for adequate ventilation and even drying. Stacking off the ground allows air circulation underneath and around the stack. If you see mold forming on the wood surface, you probably do not have adequate ventilation and the wood will take longer to dry.



Drawing of Stacked Firewood



Stored wood is subject to infestation from insects and rodents over time. Some insects that attack firewood can also attack exposed building timbers and even home furniture. Wood should be stored off the ground and away from the house. It should be kept dry but exposed to the sun and wind. Remember that a cord of wood (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.) is the size of a sub- compact car. Be sure you have enough space before you buy your wood.

To prevent insect damage in the home, carry inside only enough firewood needed for daily use. Rotate the woodpile, always burning the wood you have had the longest. This helps avoid the build-up of insects and rot and assures that you burn the driest wood. Remember that dry wood is the most efficient and cost-effective way of heating your home with a wood stove.

If you live out in the wildland, where dry grass is a fire problem, don't stack your wood adjacent to a structure. It has been shown in the major wildfires of 1987 and 1988 that fire would sweep through a residential area, sparing the house but igniting the dry grass under the woodpile. As much as 3 hours after the fire front burned through, the ignited woodpile would develop enough heat to destroy the house.

Next: Sources of Wood Supply