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Steve Nix

Do Trees Have to be Split and Stored to Make the Best Firewood?

By January 20, 2010

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"My husband tries to tell me all wood will burn the same. He never starts cutting firewood until late October. The only seasoned wood we have will be what is left over from last year, which is quite a bit. Instead of burning that wood, he burns what he cuts and leaves on the ground through the year. I try to tell him that wood will not cure out good until it is blocked and has time to dry out. What is your opinion?" - Shelby

Hi Shelby!

I'm not going to get into a family spat but I can see both sides. Theoretically, all wood does burn the same. In actuality, all wood species don't because of varying wood densities and moisture contents.

I prefer air dry wood of a species that has the ability to burn with a high BTU content over the longest possible period of time (called "coaling"). Ideally, it should be split (more exposed surface area, quicker seasoning), stacked and placed out of the weather for a long enough period of time to get the wood below 15% moisture content.

Do I always do that? No.

Wet or green wood takes much of the energy of burning to drive off water - very inefficient. Wet or green wood creates creosote that reduces the effectiveness of the stove dirties the flue and is a potential fire hazard. Wet wood is harder to start.

Trees felled for a year tend to approach ambient moisture. If you are having a dry season, you have potentially dry firewood so try to process fallen trees at extended times of lower humidity (dry wood is actually easier to split). Try to keep that processed wood covered and out of the weather for immediate burning. In any event, all wood will burn but with different efficiencies, which is mainly controlled by how it was cured and stored.

Comments

January 26, 2009 at 6:11 am
(1) skidder says:

Judging by your answer, you could be a politician. I expected your answer to be “You are correct Shelly, wood will not cure out good until it is blocked and has time to dry out.”

January 26, 2009 at 7:37 am
(2) Richard Diefenbach says:

I have found that splitting green wood when it’s frozen is the easiest. It will literally “pop” open. Of course, crotches and knots will always be a problem but if one learns to “read” them you can figure out the best way.

January 27, 2009 at 2:30 am
(3) Steve Wilson says:

How does driving off the water decrease the efficiency (not the rate) of a burn? I suppose steam or water vapor that goes up the stack and does not condense on the surface of the higher reaches of the stack does carry heat but is water vapor any more greedy, any less likely, to give up its heat than other flue gases? Or is it the decrease in the rate of combustion and the lower temperature in the fire box that reduces efficiency of the burn of wet wood? A smoldering fire of wet wood is obviously not efficient as indicated by the heavy smoke. But what about a hot fire of wet wood?

I like my wood dry because I like to be able to regulate the fire without creating condensation in the chimney and smog in the neighborhood.

January 27, 2009 at 8:30 am
(4) Black Swamp Man says:

My dad would tell me stories of his youth, when we would cut wood together. He and his grandpa would fell Black Ash in the fall, buck them into 8′ sections. Then after a hard freeze in the winter they would split the logs in half then quarter, with a wood mallet and wood wedge. These were stacked into fences in the spring. Spliting wood by hand after a freeze is a lot less work, he also talked about the sound it made as it zipped throuh an 8′ log in one motion. From my observations dry wood is the only way to go. Its more work for me but well worth it. My house and safety is worth the extra effort. As this year has gone if I was burning wet wood it would have been hard to heat my house in these temps. And my flue would need cleaned 2 to 3 times by now, instead of one. Just my 2 cents worth, now I’m broke and must go times are tuff……..

March 4, 2009 at 10:06 am
(5) Jerry Bolding says:

I cannot find this question or answer. Maybe you can help. How long does firewood last after you cut it? I’m stacking and covering it on blocks? If you don’t slit it does it last longer? How many years of firewood can you bank? Do some trees last longer than others? I’m working with black luctas,white ash,walnut and silver maple.

January 25, 2010 at 2:41 am
(6) SteveR says:

There is no question that dry wood burns better and hotter. Heat is what you want, isn’t it? Wet wood may burn but a lot of the energy is going to drying the wood and combustion is not complete at lower temperatures which means wasted energy is going up the chimney and little is getting in to your house.

Ok, your next topic is the question, which wood splits easier, green or dry? I’ve now heard it both ways( let’s discount the frozen wood stories for the time being, where I am, there is no freeze).

I just finished splitting and stacking my wood for next winter ( I am in the polar south, so our winter is just coming up in 5 months). My wood was dry and it was relatively easy to split. In th winter I will be splitting green which will be used for the following year. Which is going to be easier?

January 25, 2010 at 4:34 am
(7) Ilyan says:

A well designed house has a two foot roof extension on the lee side to shelter a years supply of wood from rain, and inside something like a Jotul 118 which takes a log about two foot long so minimizes sawing.

With a stone chimney, I used to deliberately ignite a chimney fire every week so sufficient tars could not accumulate to cause a damagingly hot chimney fire.

I saw one let woodburning house that had six months accumulation in its chimney, where the occupants left the stove door open when they fell asleep after their Christmas lunch. They awoke to a roaring chimney fire that melted the lead flashings to the Chimney, and blistered the plaster off the bedroom wall.

I am a bit alarmed to see what woods are sometimes used for firewood. I paid good money for small pieces of Walnut to make handles for my pistol.

January 25, 2010 at 9:00 am
(8) Jonella says:

I live in upstate New York and burn wood, at this time, as my sole source of heat. Some of my wood has been in the covered “shed” for over six months and burns like a dream – and some of it has been lying in piles in the rain and snow and sun for a month or two or three. All of it split. I was once told that what “seasons” wood is the alternating wetting by rain & snow and then drying out. I don’t know if this is true but I don’t have much trouble burning any of this wood – so long as it’s reasonably dry by the time it goes into the wood stove. What works very well is mixing the wood pieces from the 3 different piles. That way I have no problems burning at all.
I also use an excellent product weekly and that is Creosote Remover made by Rutland, a company in Vermont. Can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowes, I think. $10 worth lasts me about a year. It changes the composition of the creosote in the chimney so that it’s more cleanable. I also burn the Creosote Sweeping Log two weeks before the Chimney Sweep comes (yearly) and that makes his work really easy! These things really work well! – and people should know about them. They’re very effective.

January 25, 2010 at 9:16 am
(9) John says:

When I burn wood in my Franklin stove, I add an empty beer can, having read that the metal will reduce the collection of creasote in the chimney. The can is usually consumed except for the rim. Is this correct?

January 25, 2010 at 11:14 am
(10) russ says:

Firewood can be seasoned on the stump (standing) to.

January 25, 2010 at 5:44 pm
(11) Clif says:

I cut down a mulberry tree in my backyard and thought I would use the result for firewood. I put a section inside the house and let it alone for a couple of years. It definitely dried out because the weight dropped significantly and it cracked from the shrinkage. Even so, when I put it in the fireplace it stubbornly refused to burn well. It charred and eventually turned to ash, but I could never get a sustained flame from it, though the fireplace has an excellent draft.

September 15, 2011 at 10:09 am
(12) Skipper says:

My Dad and I always cut trees down in the early spring (march), left the branches and leaves on them until about August or September, then cut them up. The leaves help to draw the moisture from the tree, by the time we were cutting them up the wood was seasoned good for burning and for splitting. (Of course we had a splitter)

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