What Is Seasoned Firewood? How Long to Season Wood For?

Updated on January 16, 2023 by

You’re used to reading about seasoned food, but what about when you’re shopping for firewood, and someone says it is seasoned? Not only do you have to know about the properties of different types of wood, but you also need to know what it means when wood is seasoned.

Luckily, it’s easy to understand what seasoned firewood is.

Seasoned firewood is wood that has been dried to remove its moisture. When wood is cut fresh, it contains a lot of water inside the wood fibers, which makes it difficult to burn. Seasoned firewood is dry, burns much more easily, and generates more heat.

Here is your guide to everything you need to know about seasoned firewood, including how to make your own.

What Is Seasoned Firewood?

Seasoned firewood is not firewood that smells nice because you rolled it in cinnamon or other seasonings. Seasoned firewood is dried wood. The drying process prepares the firewood for burning. 

Freshly cut wood, or greenwood, contains a lot of moisture, up to 50%. Wood is hygroscopic, which means that it can absorb water. Plus, some tree species contain internal sap and other sources of moisture. Seasoning is the process that removes this moisture and turns greenwood into something that you can burn.

hemlock firewood

How to Season Wood

Most firewood you get at the store is already seasoned because greenwood is not very efficient to burn (more on that later). However, if you are splitting your own firewood, you need to know how to season it. 

Seasoning is a complex process that involves a bit of patience and precise timing, but if you follow these steps, it is easy to do.

1. Give Yourself Enough Time to Season Your Wood

Getting rid of all the moisture stuck inside the wood takes a lot of time, so you want to give yourself enough time to season your wood. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with green wood when you desperately need to heat your home. If you want to start burning wood in late fall, at the latest, you need to start the seasoning process in spring or early summer.

2. Split Your Firewood

Large logs of wood take much longer to dry than smaller chunks because less of the wood’s surface area is exposed to air. To get the seasoning process kickstarted, split your firewood into the size you will use for your furnace or heater. That also means that once you burn the firewood, you don’t need to break out your axe again.

3. Stack Your Wood

Your firewood will season as it rests in a stack. Have your storage area ready. It should be protected from the rain since that will add more moisture to the wood but be open to the environment so air can circulate, and hopefully, your wood can also get some sun. A great option is log racks with a roof that are open on the front, which can go along the side of your house.

Once your stacking location is ready, stack your wood, making sure that you only stack one log deep and don’t place the wood directly on the ground. Make sure the stack is loose enough for air to circulate.

Then, all you have to do is wait!

What Is Seasoned Firewood? How Long to Season Wood For?

How to Tell if It Is Seasoned with a Moisture Meter

Depending on the wood type, it will take different lengths of time for your wood to season. The best way to tell for sure if your wood is seasoned is with a moisture meter. A moisture meter is an instrument that measures the moisture content of the wood. To use a moisture meter, insert the prongs into the wood and look at the display reading. Ideally, firewood should contain less than 20% moisture. 

I personally recommend this General Tools Moisture Meter. It allows you to accurately gauge how wet your firewood is and whether it is sufficiently seasoned or not. Over time you can also see how quickly the moisture is dropping and how much longer you need to keep your firewood dropping until it is seasoned and ready to burn.

Press the sharp pins into the wood and you will quickly see the readout show the moisture ranging from 5% to 50%. It also has a Low/Mid/High indication depending on whether the wood is dry enough, so you don’t need to remember the actual values.

General Tools Moisture Meter
Use a Moisture Meter to Avoid Burning Wet Wood

How to Tell if It Is Seasoned Without a Moisture Meter

You can’t always have a moisture meter on hand, but luckily you can tell if the wood is seasoned enough without it. If the wood is pale in color, noticeably lighter than fresh-cut wood, flaking, or sounds hollow, then it is seasoned. You can always try setting a piece on fire to test it. If it burns cleanly without smoldering, your wood is seasoned enough.

Green vs Seasoned Firewood

What Happens if You Burn Green Wood?

The reason you need to go through this lengthy process before you can burn your wood is that burning green wood is inefficient and unpleasant. The high moisture content makes it difficult to burn. Plus, you won’t enjoy a fire with burning green wood because it causes:

  • Smoke
  • Soot
  • Bad smells
  • Pollution

Final Thoughts

Seasoning wood dries out the moisture and makes green wood easy and pleasant to burn. Seasoning wood takes time, but it is a hands-off process if you stack it properly and keep it away from the rain.

Photo of author

Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performed logging services for Oregan's forestry industry for over a decade. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I enjoy timbersports and have ranked in my local lumberjack competitions. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help. I also have a large collection of restored vintage axes that I carefully maintain.