Wood needs to be dried out in order for it to burn efficiently when used as firewood.
The seasoning process can take multiple months or even years depending on the situation, and so does firewood dry even in the winter?
Firewood can still dry out during the winter months. Exposing the wood to the wind and ensuring that it’s covered and off the ground will help firewood to season even through the winter.
We’ve explained in further detail below why firewood is still able to dry out in the winter and what you can do to ensure that the winter weather won’t be putting a stop to the seasoning process.
Does Firewood Dry In The Winter?
Firewood needs to be dry enough for it to burn effectively when used in a fireplace or stove. If wood is too wet when added to a fire it can lead to fires that are struggling to burn the wood, causing less heat and more smoke to be produced.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that firewood burns its most efficient when the moisture content is between 15 and 20%. If the moisture content of firewood is any higher than 20% then firewood becomes progressively harder to burn in a fire.
Freshly cut ‘green’ wood will typically have a much higher moisture content than 20% and would burn highly ineffectively if used on a fire.
To help wood reach the recommended moisture content for firewood, the wood must be dried out through a process known as seasoning.
The seasoning process naturally lowers the moisture content of the wood by leaving it exposed to the weather elements over a prolonged period of time.
The length of time is takes for wood to season will vary between each situation, and the main factors that influence how long the seasoning process takes can include:
- The time of year the wood is cut.
- The species of tree.
- The health of the tree.
These factors, among others, can affect the starting moisture content of wood before seasoning, and so the higher the moisture level of the wood when cut the longer the seasoning process can take.
It’s therefore preferable to cut logs during the winter months when natural moisture levels of wood are at their lowest, and start the seasoning process in early spring.
If the starting moisture level of wood is low enough and the wood is seasoned using the right conditions, then it’s possible for softwood logs to be fully seasoned by the time winter comes around again.
In many cases the wood won’t have been seasoned for long enough when winter arrives, especially if seasoning hardwood, which can be denser and therefore take a longer time to dry out.
So can firewood still dry in the winter when temperatures are lower and the weather takes a turn for the worst?
Yes, firewood will still continue to season provided that it’s setup correctly to provide the right conditions for the wood to dry out.
To help season wood as fast as possible and to keep firewood dry in the winter, the firewood should be:
- Stacked up with one side of the logs fully exposed to the atmosphere.
- Located under some sort of overhang to provide cover to the wood for the majority of rainfall and snow.
- Placed on a dry and impermeable platform such as concrete, or raised off the ground.
We season our own firewood and this is how we stack our wood to help speed up the seasoning process and to ensure that the winter weather doesn’t stop the wood from drying out.
In order for firewood to continue drying through winter it should be left exposed on one side to allow the air to naturally dry out the wood. It’s important to continue to leave seasoning firewood exposed even through winter months because the wind plays a key role in drying out the wood.
Any wood being seasoned through winter should be kept up off the ground or placed on a dry surface. This will help to prevent moisture from seeping back up into the lower layers of wood, as well as helping any excess water to runoff into the nearby ground.
Ensuring that you’re seasoning your firewood by following the above steps will help your wood to dry out even through winter.
Ultimately, firewood won’t dry as quickly during the winter months as it would during the summer.
As long as you’re keeping firewood off any moist ground, keeping the majority of the rain off any seasoning logs and allowing the wind to continue to dry out the wood, then the seasoning process won’t be stopped when winter arrives.
Should Firewood Be Covered In Winter?
If you’re seasoning firewood in winter it should also be placed under an overhang from a structure or some other form of cover. We stack our logs up against the back of our garage that has an overhang to help keep the wood out of reach from the rain and snow.
If you’re using another form cover, such as a tarpaulin sheet, then it’s important to ensure that it’s not completely covering the wood, and that the wood is still left exposed on one side. Completely covering firewood can prevent the moisture from escaping and cause the wood to rot rather than to dry out.