Dry Firewood

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

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

In order for wood to burn efficiently on a fire it needs to be dry enough. Firewood can be dried out through seasoning which naturally lowers the moisture content of the wood.

The seasoning process can take months or even years, so how can you tell if firewood is seasoned?

Seasoned wood will be darker in color than green wood, and may be cracking at the ends. Seasoned wood can also lighter in weight and the bark can be peeled off more easily than unseasoned wood. A moisture meter will be able to provide an accurate reading of whether firewood is fully seasoned or not.

We’ve explained how to tell whether firewood is seasoned or not in more detail below by showcasing what seasoned firewood should look like.

How To Tell If Firewood Is Seasoned Or Not

Freshly cut wood will be too high in moisture content to burn effectively on a fire, and so wood needs to be dried out before it can be used as firewood.

Firewood can be dried out through a process known as seasoning where the wood is left outside to naturally lower its moisture levels over time.

Wet wood will burn very inefficiently when used in either a fireplace or stove because a fire will need to burn off the excess moisture in the wood before it can be properly combusted. When green wood is used on a fire it will be:

  • Harder to catch alight.
  • Harder to burn.
  • Producing more smoke than if burning seasoned wood.
  • Making hissing or popping noises as the fire attempts to burn off the excess moisture.
  • Generating less heat overall.

To help understand whether your firewood has been properly seasoned it should be compared to unseasoned ‘green’ wood.

So what does unseasoned ‘green’ wood look like?

Green will have different characteristics compared to dry wood, including:

  • Having a greenish looking color.
  • Can feel moist to the touch.
  • The wood will be harder to snap or tear apart and leave more strands of wood when doing so.
  • The bark will be soft and moisture may be seen underneath the bark when peeled back
Green Wood
Freshly cut and unseasoned wood will have a greenish color
Green Wood
Unseasoned wood can also be a lighter brown color compared to seasoned wood
Green Wood
The bark of green wood will peel away in strands or layers and be moist underneath the bark
Green Wood
If you try to tear green wood you’ll see the strands of wood and bark

If your firewood has any of the above characteristics then it most likely hasn’t been seasoned for long enough or under the right conditions.

In order for firewood to season properly it should be stacked the right way to ensure it’s able to dry out naturally, and to not go bad as a result of too much moisture.

We season our own wood to ensure that it dries out as quickly as possible. Here’s how we season our firewood:

To help wood to dry out we follow recommended procedures of stacking wood so that it’s open to the weather on one side. This allows the sun and wind to help dry out the wood, even through the winter.

Our firewood is also placed on a dry and impermeable platform, and in this case it’s concrete. This helps water to runoff away from the wood into the adjacent ground and to also prevent moisture from the ground from seeping back up into the lower layers of wood.

Finally, we have an overhang over the wood stack to help protect it from the snow and rain. Any form of cover will work well here as long as it doesn’t prevent the wood from being open to the atmosphere on one side.

To accurately measure the moisture content and to tell whether your firewood is seasoned or not, you can use a moisture meter to read its exact moisture level.

A moisture meter is a small and inexpensive but essential tool but helps you identify whether your wood has reached recommended moisture contents levels for used as firewood.

Here’s what our moisture meter looks like:

Moisture Meter

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that firewood burns most efficiently when between 15% and 20% moisture content. The aim of the seasoning process is therefore to bring the moisture level of wood down to below 20% before it can be used on a fire without any issues.

As well as looking out for any signs that your logs haven’t been properly seasoned, you can also use your moisture meter to test the wood.

Green Wood Moisture Content

In this example, this piece of green wood had a moisture content level of 45%: much higher than the recommended level of 20%. If the look and feel of the wood wasn’t as distinguishable from seasoned and dry wood then a moisture meter would have confirmed whether the wood was suitable to burn or not.

As well as displaying the actual moisture content of wood, our moisture meter provides a color coded system to help quickly identify whether the wood is dry enough. The display on the moisture turns red when the moisture level is 20% or above, and amber for when the level is between 15% and 20%. Anything below 15% will show up green, helping us to quickly identify which of our logs have been properly seasoned or not.

Depending on the starting moisture level of the wood, and other factors such as the species of tree and whether the wood is being seasoned in the right conditions, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years for firewood to dry out.

The looks and feel of a dry log can give an indication of its moisture content.

So what does seasoned firewood look like? A seasoned log will be:

  • Browner and darker in color with little or no hints of green.
  • Course at the ends and dry to the touch.
  • Can be splitting at the ends.
  • The bark can be coming away and will be easier to peel off.
  • Lighter in weight than a dry seasoned log of similar size and shape.
  • Will make a hollow sounding noise when hit against each other.
Dry Firewood
Dry wood will be a darker drown color with no hints of green
Dry Firewood
The bark on dry wood can be coming away and will be easy to peel off
Dry Firewood
The ends of the logs can be course and splitting

Seasoned firewood will also be lower in moisture content than green wood.

The reading for properly seasoned firewood should be below 20%. As the moisture content of the firewood increases above 20% it becomes increasingly harder to burn.

Firewood will also never be able to be seasoned below a certain level. The humidity of the atmosphere will dictate how low the moisture content of firewood can be.

We tested some of our older seasoned firewood logs and even after several years they still all had a moisture content level of around 10%.

Moisture Content Firewood
Moisture Firewood

Therefore, you can tell whether your firewood is seasoned or not by inspecting the wood for common characteristics of dry wood and using a moisture meter to confirm whether it’s dry enough to burn well on a fire.

If you don’t have a moisture meter you can see our recommended moisture meters right here.

A moisture meter will not only be able to help you identify whether your wood has been properly seasoned, but will also allow you to have longer, hotter, cleaner and more successful fires in your home thanks to being able to identify which logs are the most suitable ones to burn.

If you’re buying in ‘seasoned firewood’ then a moisture meter will also help identify whether the firewood has actually been seasoned to recommended moisture levels or not.

Further Reading

How To Use A Moisture Meter To Measure The Moisture Content Of Firewood.

Should Firewood Be Covered?

Does Firewood Season In The Winter?

What Does Seasoned Firewood Mean?

Does Firewood Need To Be Seasoned?

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