Dry Firewood

Does Firewood Need To Be Split To Season?

In Firewood, Indoor Fireplaces by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

The process of turning wet wood into useable firewood through seasoning can be lengthy.

There are a number of things you need to consider to help firewood season properly including stacking the wood correctly, placing the wood under a suitable cover and keeping the wood off any moist ground.

But does firewood need to be split to season?

Firewood doesn’t necessarily need to be split to season but splitting wood when it’s green can help speed up the drying out process. If you’re looking to season your wood as fast as possible be sure to cut the logs to length and split them prior to stacking.

We’ve explained in more detail below why firewood doesn’t need to be split to season but why it can help to do so, as well as discussing why we don’t split our own firewood before it’s seasoned.

Does Firewood Need To Be Split To Season?

In order for wood to burn efficiently when used on a fire it must be dry enough so that it doesn’t lead to issues such as struggling to burn and producing more smoke.

The moisture content of firewood should be between 15 and 20% for it to burn effectively on a fire, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The moisture content of freshly cut ‘green’ wood can be much higher than the recommended 20% maximum for firewood. A branch from a deciduous tree on our property showed a moisture content of 45% in early spring, which if used in a fireplace or wood stove would burn highly ineffectively and potentially lead to a fire that keeps going out.

Green Wood Moisture Content
The moisture content of green wood is far too high to be used as firewood

The seasoning process is therefore required in order to bring the moisture content of wood down to a level that allows it burn well when used as firewood.

Moisture Firewood
The moisture content of firewood needs to be 20% or lower to burn efficiently

Although there’s minimal cost to seasoning your own firewood, it can be a very long process depending on the type of wood you’re drying, its starting moisture content and how well setup the wood is to dry.

Depending on your situation, you may want to be seasoning your wood as fast as possible so that it can be ready for the next winter season.

One of the other factors that can determine how quickly firewood dries is its size.

Larger sized logs can take longer to season than smaller sized ones. If you’re looking to season your wood as fast as possible then it can be preferable to split the wood down to size before its left outside to dry.

If you have a large supply of firewood and don’t need to season it quickly in order to get it ready to use before the next burning season then it’s not as necessary to split the wood beforehand.

Ultimately, it’s down to your preference whether it’s better to split wood green or seasoned.

Splitting wood before seasoning is only one of the factors that can influence how well and how quickly firewood dries. Other variables that impact how well and quickly firewood seasons includes whether:

  • The wood stack has a cover over it and how efficient that cover is. A roof on a wood shed or overhang from an adjacent structure works best. Tarpaulin sheets work quite well but moisture can build up under the cover if some of the wood stack isn’t left open.
  • The firewood is kept off the ground. Placing wood directly on soil will cause moisture to seep up into the lower layers of the stack, and these logs will start to go bad rather than season properly. We place our logs on a dry concrete platform to season.
  • The stack is open to the atmosphere. The wind and sun play a key role in drying out the wood so it’s important that at least one end of the logs is open to the air.

We follow these recommended guidelines and here’s how we season our firewood:

Our firewood is stacked up against the back of our garage, which has an overhang that helps to keep the majority of the rain and snow off the logs.

The wood is also stacked on a concrete base allowing any excess water to runoff into the adjacent ground, and to also prevent moisture from the ground from seeping back up into the wood.

You’ll also notice that we don’t split our wood prior to seasoning it.

Much of the wood gathered from our property is also small enough in diameter to burn in our wood stove. The logs are simply cut to the right length so that they can be used straight away as firewood as soon as they have been properly seasoned to below 20% moisture content.

We also have more firewood than we typically burn and so we don’t need to worry about how quickly the wood needs to dry. For the larger sized logs we’ll therefore split after it has fully seasoned.

When buying in your firewood you’ll typically find that your seasoned or kiln dried firewood has already been split.

Dry Firewood
If you buy in your firewood you’ll notice that it’s already split so that it could season quicker

As it’s the seller’s business to get the wood ready quickly to sell, they split the wood before seasoning to help ensure that the firewood is drying out as fast as possible.

If you’re looking to improve the time to takes for your wood to fully season then look to split your logs prior to stacking them to start the seasoning process.

If you aren’t constrained by time you can choose to either split your wood prior to or after seasoning, depending on your preference. The majority of the moisture is lost through the ends of the logs and so leaving the stack open at one end to the air can be more important when drying out your wood.

Further Reading

What The Moisture Content Of Seasoned Firewood Should Be

How To Use A Moisture Meter To Test Firewood

How Long Firewood Should Be Seasoned For

How To Tell If Firewood Is Seasoned (What It Looks Like)

Whether Firewood Can Go Bad

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