Firewood Stack

How To Season Firewood (A Complete Guide)

In Firewood by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Seasoning is an important process that’s required in order for wood to be useable as firewood.

Whether you buy in your firewood or take it from your property, it must have been properly seasoned in order for firewood to burn efficiently in a fire.

Unseasoned ‘green’ wood will burn highly ineffectively in a fire and so must be seasoned outside for an extended period of time to reduce the moisture content down to acceptable levels.

Burning wet wood can lead to a number of issues with fires, which can include more smoke being produced, wood that is harder to light and harder to burn, and less overall heat being produced.

The process of drying out wood is known as seasoning, so what does it mean to season firewood?

To season firewood is to dry out pieces of wood that are too high in moisture content for them be used effectively as firewood. Wood is left outside to air dry for an extended period of time under preferred conditions that help to reduce the time it takes for the wood to dry out.

In this article we’ve explained everything you need to know about how to season your own firewood and the best methods to use, including how to stack firewood, how long firewood should be seasoned for and how to tell whether your firewood has fully seasoned.

Seasoning Firewood

The seasoning of firewood is another name given to the process of naturally air drying wood until it has the right conditions to be used as firewood.

Unseasoned ‘green’ wood will burn very poorly if used in a fire because of high moisture content levels. Using green wood as firewood would lead to fires that are struggling to get going and struggling to keep going. As a result of the excess moisture content in the wood the fire can also produce more smoke because the fire can’t combust the wood as effectively.

Green Wood Moisture Content
Green wood needs to be seasoned because it will be high in moisture content and unable to burn effectively

Properly seasoned firewood will burn much more efficiently, and thanks to having a lower moisture content a fire won’t struggle to burn it.

Seasoning is therefore an important process that turns your wood into firewood that will allow you to have more successful, hotter and longer fires.

The end result of the seasoning process is seasoned firewood. Properly seasoned firewood will have a moisture content of lower than 20%.

Moisture Firewood
The aim of the seasoning process is to bring firewood down to an acceptable moisture level

How quickly and effectively firewood seasons can be down to a number of factors, which will be discussed throughout this article.

Stacking Firewood For Seasoning

Stacking firewood in a particular way can help to reduce the time it takes for wood to fully season, and to also help ensure that all of the logs properly season without going bad.

The best method for seasoning firewood is stacking firewood outside on a dry or raised platform, with at least one side of the stack open to the sun and wind.

In order to help your firewood season as fast a possible, it should be stacked:

  • Located in an area that isn’t secluded from the wind or sunshine.
  • On a dry platform such as concrete or pavers, or raised up off the ground.
  • In a single row with the ends of the logs facing outwards.
  • Not too tightly packed together, nor stacked right up against an adjacent structure without leaving a gap.
  • Leaving at least one side of the stack completely open to the atmosphere.
  • Up to a height you’re comfortable with.
  • With the bark of the logs facing upwards.
  • Covered by a roof or lean-to if located in a climate where wet weather is frequent.

Firewood should be stacked in an area that will benefit from receiving both the wind and sun, as both play an important role in how well and quickly firewood seasons.

Firewood should also be stacked on a dry base or raised up off the ground. Placing a stack of firewood directly on moist ground can lead to the lower layers of wood not seasoning properly due to prolonged contact with moisture.

The logs should therefore be laid on a dry platform such as concrete or block pavers, or raised up off the ground by placing treated timber under each end of the stack.

We season our firewood on a concrete base, which helps to prevent moisture seeping up into the lower layers of logs from the ground while also allowing excess water and moisture to run off into the adjacent soil.

Our firewood is seasoned stacked on a concrete base to help keep it dry

The logs within the stack should be placed with one of the cut ends facing outwards towards the sun and wind. This is because wood loses the majority of its moisture through the ends.

The firewood should also be stacked in a single row and left with a small gap between the logs to allow the wind to circulate around the stack.

It can also be beneficial to stack your logs with the bark facing upwards. This can help the stack to drain moisture more freely and can prevent excess moisture from building up underneath the bark if the logs were to be stacked with the bark facing downwards.

Furthermore, if you’re stacking your logs up against an adjacent structure, leaving a gap between the back of the stack and the structure will also help with airflow around the back of the logs.

We stack our firewood up against the back of our garage and ensure that there’s gap between the stack and the wall.

We season our firewood stacked up against the back of our garage

When it comes to seasoning firewood quickly and effectively, the height of a stack of seasoning firewood isn’t too important, but is common to be stacked up to between 4’ to 6’. The higher the stack the more unstable it can be become and so only stack your firewood as high as you’re comfortable with.

Lastly, if you live in area where it’s likely to rain or snow during the seasoning process then the stack of firewood should be protected by a from of cover to help keep the wet weather off the logs.

The best cover for your stack comes in the form of a roof or lean-to from an adjacent structure. This will help to keep the rain and snow off your firewood but also won’t directly cover over your logs meaning that the wind and sun will still be able to get to the stack.

In contrast, it’s not recommended to use a sheet such as tarpaulin to fully cover over a stack of seasoning logs. Moisture can build up under the sheet and lead to a logs that go bad rather than dry out.

Our stack of seasoning logs is protected from the majority of the rain and snow thanks to an overhang from the adjacent structure.

An overhang from the garage helps to keep the stack of seasoning firewood dry

For more information we have a complete guide on how to stack your firewood for seasoning.

How Long Should Firewood Be Seasoned?

Firewood should be seasoned until the moisture content of the wood has reached below 20%. The time it takes for firewood to fully season can depend on a number of factors including the type of wood, but can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

As each environment and circumstances are different between each stack of wood there isn’t a specific time period for exactly how long firewood should be seasoned for.

However, the average time it takes for a stack of firewood to season can be between six months and a year, but potentially up to two years if the recommended conditions for seasoning firewood haven’t quite been met.

What’s more important than how long firewood should be seasoned for is ensuring that the wood always reaches a low enough moisture content before being used as firewood.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that firewood burns most efficiently between 15 and 20% moisture content.

It’s also generally recognized that properly seasoned firewood will have a moisture level of lower than 20%. A stack of firewood should therefore be seasoned for as long as it takes until the moisture levels of the logs have reach 20% or below.

The actual time it takes for firewood wood to season will differ between each stack, but the factors that can influence how long it takes include:

  • The starting moisture content of the wood.
  • The time of year the seasoning process starts.
  • The type of wood.
  • The climate.
  • How exposed the stack is to the sun and wind.
  • How well the wood is stacked.
  • How well protected the stack is to wet weather.

The starting moisture content of the wood can affect how long firewood should be seasoned for. A higher starting moisture level means that firewood can take a longer period of time to fully season because more moisture needs to be removed from the wood before it reaches the recommended 20%.

Wood is more commonly cut in winter when natural moisture levels are at their annual low. The seasoning process can then start in the spring with the logs potentially being dry by winter. Wood cut in the summer months can have a higher starting moisture level and may need to be seasoned for a longer period of time as a result.

Green Wood
Cut wood in winter to start the seasoning process with a lower moisture content

Starting the seasoning process in spring can lead to a shorter seasoning process because the sun and wind can help dry out the wood at a faster rate during the summer months.

Hardwood logs can take a longer time to season because they’re typically denser compared to softwood logs.

The climate can also have an affect on how long firewood needs to be seasoned for. The seasoning process can be quicker in dryer and hotter climates.

A firewood stack more exposed to the sun and wind can take a shorter period of time to dry out compared to a stack that is more sheltered.

A stack that isn’t well protected from wet weather can also hamper the seasoning process and take a longer time to fully season as a result.

For more information see our more in-depth article covering how long firewood should season for.

Telling Whether Your Firewood Is Seasoned

There are some indicators to let you know whether your firewood has been seasoned but the best way to confirm whether firewood has fully seasoned is to use a moisture meter.

A moisture meter can read the exact moisture content level of your seasoning firewood.

Moisture Meter
Invest in a moisture meter to understand how far your firewood has seasoned

If your firewood has properly seasoned it will have a moisture level of below 20%. At this level the firewood will burn very well on your fires. As the moisture level increases above 20% it can become progressively harder to catch fire and burn.

Simply checking the moisture content of random logs in your stack of firewood every so often will allow you to keep an eye on how well and quickly the wood is drying out.

Moisture meters are an essential tool for any seasoning process. You can see our recommended moisture meters right here.

You can also visually inspect the wood to give you an indication of how far the seasoning process has progressed.

As a comparison, unseasoned ‘green’ firewood will have:

  • A greenish tint to it.
  • Moisture visible under the bark.
  • Bark that comes away in strands.
Green Wood
An example of unseasoned wood

On the other hand, seasoned firewood will:

  • Have no hint of green.
  • Be Coarse or rough looking ends.
  • Have a weathered look to it.
  • Be lighter than an unseasoned log.
Seasoned Firewood
An example of fully seasoned firewood

For more information on how to tell if firewood is seasoned and what it looks like check out another one of our articles here.

Tips For Seasoning Firewood

Our top tips for seasoning firewood quickly and efficiently are:

  1. Location. Choose a location for your stack of wood to be seasoned that isn’t going to be secluded from the sun and wind.
  2. Off moist ground. Place your firewood stack on a dry platform or off the floor on treated timber to prevent the lower layers of the stack from going bad.
  3. Stacked spaced. Don’t stack your wood too tightly packed together. Leaving a small gap between the logs helps with airflow through the stack and can reduce drying times.
  4. Bark facing up. Stacking your firewood with the bark facing upwards can help prevent moisture from pooling in between the bark and the logs, and also help improve drying times.
  5. Open stack. Keeping at least one side of the stack of wood completely open to the air without anything blocking the wind is important for seasoning wood quickly. Leave a small gap between the back of the stack and any adjacent structure to further help with airflow.
  6. Keep the stack covered. Keep any wet weather off the stack by providing a cover over the wood in the form of a wood shed roof or a lean-to from an adjacent structure. Don’t completely cover over a stack with a sheet as this can trap moisture and lead to wood that goes bad rather than drying.
  7. Cut wood in winter. Wood is naturally lower in moisture during the winter months and so starting with a low moisture level can help to speed up the seasoning process.
  8. Start in spring. Star the seasoning process in spring to take advantage of the warmer weather through the spring, summer and autumn months.

How To Store Seasoned Firewood

Once firewood has fully seasoned it can either be left in the same place if already stored under the right conditions, or moved to a firewood rack.

The most important thing when storing seasoned firewood is keeping it dry.

Although seasoned firewood won’t easy absorb moisture and rise back up in moisture level, constant and prolonged contact with moisture can cause the wood to rot.

It’s therefore important that seasoned firewood should be kept in the same dry conditions as recommended for when seasoning the firewood, but also to ensure that the stack is covered to keep the wet weather off.

Once our own stack of firewood has seasoned we simply leave it in the same place because it’s under the right environment to help keep it dry.

Our stack of seasoned firewood is:

  • Protected from moisture in the ground thanks to being stacked on a dry base.
  • Protected from the majority of wet weather thanks to an overhang from the adjacent structure.
  • Left completely open on one side to allow the sun and wind to help keep the firewood dry.

You can also opt to move your seasoned firewood to a more suitable form of shelter such as a firewood rack.

Whether you’re seasoning your own firewood or buying it in, a firewood rack or shed is great place to store all your seasoned wood. It provides the right environment to help keep your firewood dry including helping to keep the firewood off the floor, protected from the wet weather thanks to a roof while still keeping one side of the stack open to the air.

We also have a wood rack that we use to store some of our seasoned wood closer to our home for burning.

Firewood Shed
A firewood rack is a great place to store seasoned firewood

When it comes to storing firewood inside your home, we like to bring in the required amount of firewood a day before being used in our stove.

This helps to bring the firewood up to room temperature before being burnt, as a fire can struggle to burn cold wood.

We simply store our firewood that we bring inside in a storage box located next to the fireplace.

Wood Storage
Firewood can simply be stored inside your home in a storage box

Seasoning Firewood Q&A

Should I Cover Seasoning Firewood?

Firewood should be protected by a suitable form of cover when seasoning firewood in wetter climates. Suitable forms of cover include a roof of a wood rack or a lean-to from an adjacent building.

To help season wood as quickly as possible in wetter climates a form of cover should be provided to the stack to help keep the rain and snow off the wood.

A lean-to or overhang from an adjacent building works very well but a roof of a wood shed will also work great. We season our firewood stacked up against the back of our garage, which allows the overhang of the garage to protect our wood from any wet weather.

It’s not recommended to use a form of sheet such as tarpaulin as a form of cover for seasoning firewood. If such a sheet is used to cover over the entire stack then moisture can build up under the cover. Without suitable airflow through the stack and with the sheet in close proximity of the logs, using a sheet can lead to a stack of firewood that starts to go bad instead of drying out.

If a form of sheet such as a tarpaulin must be used then look to only cover over the top of the stack, which will help to ensure that the air can still circulate around the stack.

For more information we have another article that discusses whether seasoning firewood should be covered.

Should Firewood Be Split Before Or After Seasoning?

To help speed up the seasoning process and to have firewood wood that is ready to be used, firewood should be split before starting the seasoning process.

Firewood doesn’t have to be split prior to stacking it for seasoning but it can help to improve drying times if it’s split beforehand. Smaller sized logs will be able to lose their moisture at a quicker rate.

Furthermore, if firewood is split while it’s still green then the firewood can remain in place in storage even after it has fully seasoned, and will be ready to be used as and when required.

We split our logs down to the required size to fit in our stove before they’re stacked and seasoned.

Seasoning Firewood Stack
The logs in our stack of seasoning firewood have been cut down to size ready for use in our stove

The majority of moisture in wood is lost through the ends and so if you’re looking to season your firewood as fast as possible then be sure to split your firewood before seasoning.

For more information see our other dedicated article on whether firewood needs to be split to season.

Does Rain Help Season Firewood?

Rain does not help to season firewood. For firewood to season quickly and effectively it must be kept dry throughout the entire process.

Rain can hamper the seasoning process because extra moisture from the rain must be dried out before the firewood can continue to season. Constant contact with moisture due to rain can lead to firewood that goes bad rather than properly drying out.

What If Seasoned Firewood Gets Wet?

Firewood won’t go bad if it has been subject to a short amount of wet weather. If seasoned firewood gets wet look to move it to a dry location for a couple of days to allow the wood to dry out again.

It’s important to ensure that seasoned firewood isn’t exposed to the wet for long periods of time. Seasoned firewood that is in constant and extended contact with moisture will lead to firewood that can go bad and become unusable as firewood.

It’s therefore important that seasoned firewood is kept dry throughout storage.

However, even if seasoned firewood get’s rained on, simply providing a suitable form of roof over it to prevent any further rain from getting to the wood will allow the firewood to dry back out over a number of days.

For more information on whether rain on seasoned firewood matters see another one of our articles here.

What Is A Popular Seasoning Time For Firewood?

To take advantage of the warmer weather the seasoning process is commonly started in early spring, with fully seasoned firewood being possible by the next winter season.

Cutting firewood in the winter months is also beneficial because natural moisture levels of the wood will be at their lowest. A lower starting moisture content can help reduce the time it takes for firewood to fully season.

By cutting wood in winter and stacking the wood for seasoning in early spring, firewood can be seasoned and ready to burn for the next winter season.

Can Firewood Dry In The Winter?

Ensuring that the firewood is protected from any wet weather, stacked off any moist ground and open to the wind will allow firewood to dry out even through winter.

Although firewood will dry out at a faster rate through the summer months, firewood will still continue to dry out in winter.

The wind plays an important role in seasoning firewood and so the wind can help to season firewood even in winter.

If seasoning firewood in winter be sure to provide sufficient cover over the stacked of logs to help keep any rain or snow off.

For more information about drying firewood in the winter click here.

Can You Season Firewood For Too Long?

Seasoning firewood for longer than what is required won’t cause any harm to the firewood if kept under the right conditions.

In order for firewood to become properly seasoned the moisture content of the wood needs to reach below 20%, at which point it will burn its most efficiently when used as firewood.

As a result of the natural humidity of the atmosphere the moisture level of firewood will never drop below a certain level. This means that firewood can’t be air dried (seasoned) past reaching this point.

As an example, we have seasoned firewood stored that has remained at around 10% moisture content for a number of years.

Moisture Content Firewood
Firewood will only ever be able to season down to a certain moisture level

Once firewood has fully seasoned is should be stored in the right conditions, which you can find out more about the best ways to store your firewood here.

You can also find more information about how long firewood should be seasoned for in another one of our articles here.

What Is The Fastest Way to Season Firewood?

The fastest way to season firewood is to take advantage of both the sun and wind by ensuring that a stack of seasoning firewood is open on at least one side, while also keeping excess moisture away from the firewood.

Keeping the stack open will allow the sun to help dry out the logs, and for the wind to circulate around the stack to further help dry the wood.

Furthermore, keeping any wet weather off the firewood by using a suitable form of cover, and keeping the stack off moist ground will also help the firewood to season as fast as possible.

Will Firewood Season In A Pile?

Firewood may be able to season in a pile, but will season at a slower rate compared to if it was stacked in the recommended way.

Air needs to circulate around the pile of wood for it to season effectively. If a pile of firewood is too closely packed together it can lead to an ineffective seasoning process. The sun will also struggle to get to pieces of wood that are buried under the pile.

If seasoning wood in a pile be sure to keep it off any moist ground, and under a suitable form of cover if seasoning wood in wetter climates.

Will Firewood Dry Under A Tarp?

Covering firewood under a sheet of tarpaulin can have a negative effect on the seasoning process and can cause firewood to rot rather than dry out.

Covering a stack of firewood completely over with a sheet of tarp can cause moisture to become trapped under the sheet and prevent the firewood from seasoning properly.

The wind and sun will also struggle to help dry out a stack of firewood covered by tarp.

If a tarp must be used then only the top of the stack of firewood should be covered, whether it’s for a stack of wood that is seasoning or keeping a stack of firewood dry.

Will Firewood Season In The Shade?

Firewood will still be able to season if located in the shade. The wind will be able to season the firewood effectively if the stack of firewood isn’t closed off from the air.

If you’re seasoning firewood in the shade be sure to leave at least one side of the stack fully open to the atmosphere to allow the wind to help dry out the wood.

Are Dead Trees Seasoned Firewood?

Dead trees are not seasoned firewood. Dead trees will have been in prolonged contact with moisture that will have caused the wood to become unusable as firewood.

Further Reading

A Complete Guide To Seasoned Firewood

A Complete Guide To Kiln Dried Firewood

How To Stack Firewood For Seasoning

What Is A Cord & Rick Of Firewood?

Leave a Comment