Properly storing firewood is an important step in preparing wood for efficient burning. There are several key factors to consider when storing wood sticks:
Keep the Wood Dry
One of the most important things is to keep the firewood dry. Wet or damp wood will not burn as well and will create more smoke and creosote buildup in your chimney. Here are some tips for keeping wood dry:
- Stack the wood off the ground on pallets, blocks, or a gravel bed. This allows air circulation and prevents moisture from being wicked up from the soil.
- Cover the top of the stack with a tarp, metal roofing, or store it under an overhang or shed roof. This prevents rain and snow from soaking into the wood.
- Store the wood sticks in a sunny location so they can fully dry out after getting wet.
- Allow for air circulation around and under the stack. Do not tightly pack the wood or stack it against a building.
Hardwoods like oak, maple, ash, and hickory need to dry for 6-12 months after splitting. Softwoods like pine, fir, and spruce only need 2-6 months of drying time. Properly dried wood will feel lighter and should have visible cracks in the ends of the sticks.
The size of the firewood stick matters for efficient burning. You want wood that is the appropriate size for your wood stove or fireplace:
- Medium sized sticks 2-5 inches in diameter are good for most applications.
- Larger sticks over 6 inches can be split if needed. It’s best to split logs to 6 inches or less before stacking to dry.
- Small sticks under 2 inches are great kindling for starting fires.
Cutting or splitting the wood into uniformly sized sticks makes for tidy stacking and efficient fires. Make sure to use sharp axes, mauls, and splitters for safety and best results.
The standard length for cut firewood is 16 inches. But the length can vary depending on your needs:
- 16 inch length is convenient for handling and stacking.
- Smaller 12-14 inch lengths work well for shorter stoves and fireplaces.
- 20-24 inch sticks allow longer, slower burns for overnight heating.
Try to keep your firewood sticks to a consistent length for tidy stacking and even burning. Make sure to position the wood pieces the same direction in your stacks.
Certain wood species are better for heating than others. The best firewoods are dense hardwoods that provide excellent BTUs per cord. Here are some top choices:
- Oak – Long burning with excellent BTUs. Slow to season.
- Maple – Very hot burning with good coaling qualities.
- Ash – Easy to split and seasons quickly.
- Beech – Burns slow and steady while producing lasting coals.
- Hickory – Produces very high heat output and nice aroma.
Softwoods like pine and spruce are not ideal as they burn fast, spark, and build creosote. But resinous softwoods like fir can be good for quick heating in shoulder seasons. Avoid woods like aspen, basswood, willow, cottonwood, poplar, and cedar as they have little heat value.
Proper stacking allows the wood sticks to dry while keeping them contained and tidy. There are several good ways to stack firewood:
Log Cabin Stack
This involves stacking the wood in alternating cross patterns, like building a log cabin. Start with two end pieces and then build up the sides with rows stacked perpendicular to each other. This interlocking pattern is stable and self-supporting.
A holzhausen is a rounded, beehive shaped stack. It sheds water well while allowing airflow. Start crisscrossing sticks over a base layer and build up while angling the sticks inward to create the rounded shape.
For the most protection, stack wood in an enclosed shed structure. Make sure to allow for generous ventilation to prevent moisture buildup and rotting. A wood shed keeps snow, rain, and sun off the wood.
Along a Wall
Stacking firewood along an outer house wall or garage wall takes up minimal space while keeping the wood tidy and accessible. Angle a sheet of plywood or metal roofing to protect the top of the stack.
When stacking against a wall, keep a few inches of space between the wood and wall for airflow. Stack the wood perpendicular to the wall supports so the pieces don’t roll off.
Tips for Stacking
Follow these tips for neatly stacked firewood that will stay put:
- Place wood pieces bark side down or bark edge toward the inside.
- Crisscross pieces at right angles for stability.
- Align the pieces side-by-side flush for a tidy appearance.
- Keep rows level and even in height for best drying.
- Limit stack height to about 5 feet so it stays stable.
- Slope the top of the stack slightly to shed moisture.
Neat, uniform stacks will look attractive while protecting the firewood. Make sure to use sturdy corner posts or containment to prevent the stack from collapsing.
Certain critters are attracted to stacks of firewood for food and shelter. Here are some ways to deter pests:
- Elevate stacks off the ground to reduce contact with insects and rodents.
- Keep grass and weeds cleared away from the stack – decaying vegetation attracts pests.
- Store wood away from your home’s foundation to keep insects out.
- Use wire mesh covers or pallets to create barriers.
- Applying natural insect repellents around the stack can deter nesting.
Check your firewood regularly for signs of termites, ants, mice, and voles. Discard any infested pieces you find away from your wood pile. Keeping your firewood stack clean and organized will help avoid pest problems.
Consider a Firewood Shed
For the ultimate in firewood storage, build or purchase a dedicated firewood shed. These are structures designed specifically for neatly storing firewood sticks and easy access. Features to look for include:
- Ventilation – Vents in the roofline, gables, and doors allow for airflow to keep wood dry.
- Moisture barriers – Tarps, metal or asphalt roofs prevent water getting to the wood.
- Rodent proof – Small mesh keeps mice and voles from nesting inside.
- Large doors – Doors wide and tall enough to handle wheelbarrows full of wood.
- Level site – Flat site prevents water pooling around the shed.
Firewood sheds provide handy covered storage while keeping your stacks neat and organized. Models with divided bays make it easy to store different types of wood separately.
Maintaining Your Firewood Supply
Properly stored firewood can remain good for burning for about 2 years after splitting. To always have wood ready for your stove or fireplace, here are some tips:
- Get new logs cut at least 6-12 months before you’ll need them for winter heating.
- Replenish your supply as you use up wood over the winter months.
- When purchasing wood, inspect the ends to ensure proper seasoning.
- Rotate your stored wood to use up older pieces first.
- Monitor your stacks and discard any rotting or infested pieces promptly.
A good rule of thumb is to have about 2 cords of seasoned firewood on hand for winter when actively heating with wood. Maintaining an adequate stockpile will prevent you from running out mid-winter.
Storing firewood does involve some safety considerations. Follow these tips to avoid accidents:
- Use proper lifting technique when moving wood to prevent back strain.
- Wear protective gloves, shoes, and eye protection when handling wood.
- Operate chainsaws, splitters, and other power equipment cautiously.
- Stack wood away from power lines or other utilities.
- Have a well-stocked first aid kit on hand for minor injuries.
- Inspect wood for nails, screws, or other embedded metal before bringing inside.
Storing your firewood properly will make for safer handling. Keep stacks orderly and consolidated so the wood is easy to access when needed for your stove or fireplace.
With proper storage methods, you can keep firewood sticks in peak condition for efficient burning. Key steps include:
- Allowing the wood to air dry fully before stacking.
- Splitting and sizing the wood for your needs.
- Stacking neatly and systematically.
- Providing protection from rain, snow, sun, and pests.
- Rotating your supply to use older wood first.
Putting in the effort to store your firewood properly will reward you with better performance in your stove or fireplace. Neat stacks also contribute to an attractive landscape around your home.