When you heat your home with a wood burning stove, there are a few things you need to know. One of the most important is what is seasoned firewood and why you need to use it.
The optimal burning temperature for a wood stove is 300-500 degrees. If your fire doesn’t heat up to at least 300 degrees then you are producing creosote. Creosote creates pollution and can build up in your chimney and cause a fire. Even if you are keeping up with regular maintenance on your wood stove, it can still build up too fast.
Plus, a fire that doesn’t heat up enough smolders, is hard to light, hard to burn, and doesn’t produce as much heat. You’re putting in more work for less heat and using more wood to do it. If these problems sound familiar to you, chances are you are burning green wood.
What is Green Wood?
While some green wood can have a greenish cast to it, it usually is not actually referring to the color. Green wood is wood that is full of moisture.
Trees use their roots to pull water from the ground. This is why they’re so great at storing water in your yard and slowly releasing it through transpiration from the leaves. After a tree is cut, the moisture from the tree cells and the sap begin to evaporate.
This green, moisture filled wood doesn’t burn well. The energy that would have been producing heat is going towards evaporating moisture. It produces more smoke and ash, and you may even be able to hear your fire making a sizzling noise as it burns.
How To Identify Seasoned Firewood
Seasoned firewood is dryer and more grey colored than green wood or partially seasoned firewood. Often it has cracks on the ends, and the bark may come away from the wood. When you burn it, it catches more easily, produces less smoke and ash and has a more pleasant smell.
Wood is seasoned once it has less than a 20% moisture content. Because it has so little moisture it is often a lighter weight and sounds more hollow if you thump two pieces together.
Kiln dried wood can be very dry, even less than 15%. If your wood is extremely dry it will burn quickly and may not produce as much heat. However very dry or kiln dried wood can be a great way to start your fire quickly.
If you want to know exactly how dry your wood is you can buy a moisture meter. They are very simple to use and will give you a reading of the moisture content of your wood. Select pieces from multiple locations in your stack to test.
Identifying the moisture level of your firewood is very useful. If you are getting free or low cost wood, it likely isn’t already seasoned.
How Do You Store Seasoned Firewood?
When you have new wood, it will likely take 6-8 months to season. Hardwoods can take 12 months to season. Oak may even take up to 2 years to completely season. One of the benefits of kiln dried wood is it can be done seasoning within days.
To season newly cut wood, cut it into rounds and split it. Stack it off the ground and allow for plenty of airflow. Wind and sun speed up seasoning, but you should keep your wood out of rain or snow.
It’s best to store firewood off the ground as it can rot. The more open to air it is the faster it will season. Most wood sheds have a solid wall in the back for support and a large overhang on the front to allow for airflow and protection from rain.
If you keep your firewood dry it can last you for years. If it does get wet it will have the same issues as green wood when burning. It should dry out in a few days to a week once you get it covered again.
You can also help wood that’s been rained on dry a little faster by bringing it indoors. (Of course don’t dry it ON the top of the wood stove, as that can cause a fire. Just saying. Not like I’ve done that or anything. Cough, cough. Ahem.)
Seasoned wood that has less than 20% moisture content from being allowed to dry for at least 6 months is the best wood to burn in your wood stove. It will burn hotter, cleaner, and be easier to use. Make sure to season your firewood!
University of Tennessee – Moisture Content of ‘Seasoned’ Firewood
Burly Beaver – What Is Seasoned Firewood? And 6 Other FAQs
Farm and Dairy – How to tell when firewood is seasoned
Firewood For Life – Seasoned Vs Unseasoned Firewood
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