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.
If you are looking for a step-by-step guide on how to season firewood effeciently, I have put together this guide for more information.
Table of Contents
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. It is called ‘seasoned’ because it has been drying for over a ‘season.’
Freshly cut wood (aka green wood), 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 green wood into something that you can burn more efficiently.
Explaining the Drying Process
The drying process removes moisture from freshly cut firewood to prepare it for burning. Here’s how the drying process works.
Moisture is naturally present in the cells of freshly cut wood and can affect the burning quality of the firewood.
Over time, the sun and wind will evaporate the moisture in the firewood. This can take several months to a year or more, depending on the type of wood, the humidity, and other environmental conditions.
Sap is a sticky substance in the cells of freshly cut wood and can make it difficult to burn. Over time, the sap in the wood will dry out and become less sticky, making it easier to burn.
Dry wood burns hotter and produces fewer particulates, making it easier to light and safer to use.
Moisture can also be reabsorbed back into the wood, so protect your dry wood from rain.
Hardwood vs Softwood
Hardwood and softwood take different amounts of time to season because of their distinct physical and chemical characteristics. Here’s why:
- Density: Hardwoods are denser than softwoods and have smaller, more tightly packed cells. This means it takes longer for moisture to evaporate from hardwoods, as less surface area is exposed to the air. As a result, hardwoods typically take longer to season than softwoods.
- Resin content: Softwoods contain more resin than hardwoods, making them more difficult to dry. Resin is a sticky substance that can make the wood more resistant to moisture evaporation and contribute to creosote buildup in chimneys.
- Moisture content: The initial moisture content of the firewood can also affect the seasoning time. Freshly cut firewood can contain up to 50% or more moisture, which must be removed before the wood is ready to burn. Woods with higher moisture content will take longer to dry than woods with lower moisture content.
It’s important to note that the seasoning time can vary depending on environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and air flow.
Hardwoods generally take 6 to 12 months to season, while softwoods take 3 to 6 months to season.
It’s also important to store seasoned firewood in a covered, dry place to prevent it from reabsorbing moisture.
Check With a Moisture Meter
Depending on the wood type, it will take different lengths for your wood to season. A moisture meter is the best way to tell if your wood is seasoned. 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.
Check 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.
The sound test is a simple and effective method for checking if firewood is seasoned. To perform the sound test, you tap two pieces of firewood together and listen for the sound they make. Here’s how it works:
- Tap two pieces of firewood together: Hold one piece in each hand and tap them together.
- Listen for the sound: If the firewood is seasoned, you should hear a dull thud when you tap the pieces together. If the firewood is not seasoned, it will make a higher-pitched, resonant sound.
The sound test works because seasoned wood is denser than unseasoned wood. As the firewood dries, the moisture inside the wood evaporates, making the wood denser and less likely to produce a resonant sound when tapped.
You can always try setting a piece on fire to test it. If it burns cleanly without smoldering, your wood is seasoned enough.
Benefits of Seasoning Firewood
Seasoning firewood before burning it has several benefits:
- Improved combustion: When wood is seasoned, it has less moisture, which leads to more efficient burning and less smoke.
- Better heat output: Dry wood burns hotter, meaning you will get more heat from a given amount of wood.
- Longer burn time: Seasoned wood burns longer, making it more convenient and cost-effective.
- Reduced creosote buildup: Creosote is a byproduct of burning unseasoned wood, and it can build up in chimneys and cause fires. Burning seasoned wood minimises the risk of creosote buildup.
- Improved air quality: Burning dry wood produces fewer particulates, meaning you will breathe cleaner air when using seasoned wood.
- Less Smoke: Due to the lower sap content, less smoke will be generated when burning dry wood compared to green.
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.