What is Wood Seasoning and How is it Done?

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Summer has just started, but this does not mean we should forget about the cold winter months that require some careful planning. Staying warm in winter is the ultimate goal, and what better way of achieving this than by using a wood stove or a fireplace? If you have one, you may already be in the habit of purchasing pre-seasoned logs. However, have you ever tried to season your own wood? Although it is not an easy process, seasoning the wood you use yourself can save you tons of money down the line, not to mention that it eliminates many pesky details like waiting for your firewood delivery. So, if you are willing to invest some time and effort and give wood seasoning a try, read on to know how it is done.

What is Wood Seasoning?

If you have just installed a fireplace, you might not know what the term “wood seasoning” means. You’d be surprised how many people do not understand the process, even though they buy firewood every year. In a nutshell, wood seasoning is the process of drying chopped logs to make sure they are ready to be used in fireplaces and wood stoves. So, not only do you have to chop down trees to get your needed firewood, but you also have to dry it for many months.

Why Is It Important?

You may be wondering why you have to season your wood before using it instead of just chucking freshly cut logs in your fireplace. Well, the process of wood seasoning is crucial for the following reasons:

More Efficiency

Greenwood, or freshly cut wood, has a high moisture level, which makes it hard to sustain a fire. When you burn green wood, you might find that you need more logs than you’d normally need when using seasoned firewood. Seasoned logs help you maintain the fire for longer, enabling you to save some money and effort, as you will not have to add logs or tend to the fire every few minutes.

Easier Clean Up

Over time, your fireplace or wood stove accumulates soot and creosote. Creosote is not only hard to clean but can also cause a huge fire in your house if you use your fireplace without cleaning it first, given that it is a highly flammable substance. Due to its moisture content, greenwood produces more creosote when burned. Thus, it is always better to use seasoned wood to avoid having to clean the stubborn build-up of creosote green wood creates.

Less Smoke

One of the many reasons why some people do not like using firewood is the smoke it produces when burned. Nonetheless, firewood is not supposed to produce much smoke if seasoned properly. On the other hand, greenwood produces a lot of smoke, which can be detrimental to the environment and your health, especially if you suffer from respiratory conditions like asthma.

How to Season Wood

Now that you know more about the merits of seasoning your firewood, you are ready to know more about the process itself. Wood seasoning is a four-step process; it includes cutting the wood, drying it, testing its moisture level, and finally storing it. Here is a breakdown of every step:

1.   Cutting

Choose the Right Tree

Not all types of wood are created equal, as some burn better than others and generate more heat. Based on the knowledgeable information on https://www.buyfirewooddirect.co.uk/, there are two types of wood: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood comes from trees like oak, ash, birch, and cherry, while softwood comes from trees like cedar, spruce, and alder. What sets the two types apart is that hardwood can be used to build a more long-lasting fire as opposed to softwood that burns up too quickly. On the other hand, softwood takes less time to season, which makes it a good option if you need firewood as soon as possible. As you can see, it all boils down to the amount of time you are willing to spare for the seasoning process and the result you want to get. Generally, hardwood is better if you are not in a hurry.

Get the Right Tools

Unless you want to go full lumberjack and cut your logs the old way, you need to get a chainsaw. Using an ax to cut your logs takes a lot of time and effort. On the contrary, a chainsaw can help you finish the job faster, not to mention that it enables you to cut and store more logs. Because having a large stack of firewood is essential, ditch your old ax in favor of a new, handy chainsaw.

Select the Right Time

While you can chop down trees at any time during the year, there are optimal seasons for this. Most commonly, winter is the season where the sap moves to the roots, reducing the water content of the wood. This makes the seasoning process a lot faster. However, you can still cut trees in spring, but you will have to wait longer for the wood to season properly. Usually, hardwood takes around one or two years to dry while softwood needs six months only. So, plan accordingly to make sure that you have a nice stack of firewood when winter hits.

Cut the Logs Properly

Cutting firewood is an art, so you cannot just hack it down in whichever way you see fit. The optimal size you should go for is dictated by the dimensions of your wood stove or fireplace. As a general rule of thumb, you should make sure that your wood pieces are no more than 8 inches wide and 15 inches long. You may want to make them smaller if your fireplace is not that big.

2.   Drying

Choose a Good Place

After your logs are ready to dry, you need to find a good place to season them. When choosing a place to season your firewood, make sure that it is sunny and ventilated. Poorly ventilated areas can cause moisture buildup and make your wood rot. Also, make sure that you do not stack the wood too close to a wall to avoid ventilation problems. Thus, look for an area outside your house that meets these criteria; you can build up an open shed to store the wood. Additionally, if it rains often where you live, choose an area that slightly sloped to ensure that the rainwater does not ruin the wood.

Make a Platform

Putting your logs directly on the ground is a fatal mistake because it can cause wood rot. Instead, you need to build a platform to leverage the stack without touching the ground. You can use a pallet to create your platform. Because this step is vital, take your time to ensure that the platform is set up correctly. To do so, make sure to check whether the platform is completely leveled to guarantee that it will support the stack well.

Don’t Wait

You may be tempted to postpone seasoning your firewood until you chop enough logs. However, failing to season the logs as soon as you cut them causes wood rot and renders the logs useless. To avoid wasting time, set up your storage area before you start cutting the logs so that you can move them there directly once they are chopped. Also, it is better to cut the logs near the storage area to prevent rot and fungus from ruining them during the transferring process.

Stack the Logs

As mentioned before ventilation is extremely important. Thus, when drying your logs, you need to avoid stacking them too tightly to allow some air to circulate. Before piling the wood though, you have to seal the ends of every log with wax to avoid over-drying them, as the ends usually dry much faster than the rest of the log. After sealing the ends, place a flat piece of wood that is two inches wide as your base, then start piling the logs. Keep the first layer flat, then put the next layer of logs perpendicular to the first one. Finally, add another flat piece of wood to top the first two layers. You should repeat the same steps, placing a flat piece of wood after every two layers until you finish all the logs.

Keep the Stack Covered

Because the seasoning process usually starts in winter/spring, your stack might be at risk of getting wet due to rain or snow. Of course, rain and snow can interfere with the drying process, cause cracks in the logs, and lead to wood rot. As you need to make sure that all your hard work does not go to waste, you need to keep your stack covered. On the other hand, if your area’s weather conditions are generally favorable and it does not rain or snow often where you live, you can keep the logs uncovered, but you need to keep the bark side up to avoid over-drying the wood.

3.   Testing

Before you start using your firewood or move it to its final storing place, you have to make sure that it is properly seasoned. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs that can help you easily differentiate between the green and seasoned wood.

Check How It Looks

Not all trees have the same color. However, regardless of the type of tree you used to get your firewood, seasoned logs should be paler than they were when you cut them. Also, when inspecting seasoned wood, you can notice cracks in the logs. The bark itself is going to feel different as well. If you try to pry away the bark of seasoned wood, it should come off fairly easily. So, make sure to run all these tests before you use the logs.

Check How Much It Weighs

Again, some trees are denser than others, but all seasoned wood shares the same feel. When compared to how much they weighed when they were freshly cut, the logs should feel a lot lighter. The reason behind this is that the wood’s water content makes the logs a lot heavier. So, when the logs are seasoned and lose their water content, they become much lighter. This sign can be used to test whether or not the wood is ready for use.

Check How It Sounds

This test might sound a bit weird, but it works like a charm. When you tap two pieces of green wood together, you may be able to hear a somewhat muffled sound. On the contrary, seasoned wood produces a crisper sound when tapped. The dryer the wood is, the louder the sound it produces becomes, so make sure to gently tap your logs together to check how seasoned they are.

Check Its Moisture Level

Granted, you will not be able to check the moisture level of your firewood with the naked eye. Nonetheless, you can easily gauge its water content by purchasing a moisture meter. Preferably, the water content of your firewood should not exceed 20 percent or be less than 12 percent. To get a more accurate reading, measure the moisture level of more than one log to guarantee that the whole stack is equally seasoned.

4.   Storing

At this point, you should pat yourself on the back for all your hard work and enjoy the warmth your firewood provides. Nevertheless, you still need to ensure that your wood is ready whenever you need to build a fire. You can do this by moving the wood to a closed but well-ventilated area. However, this does not mean you should store it inside your house. Wood usually contains termites and other bugs you do not want anywhere near your home. So, you need to find a good place outside to store the logs.

 

Seasoning your own firewood has a steep learning curve. Yet, with some determination, you can learn how to do it in no time and save some money in the process. To get quality firewood, make sure that you choose hardwood, chop the logs correctly, store them in a dry, well-ventilated area, and check their moisture level before using them. By following our guide, you can make your home toasty warm in winter without any hassle.