Leaving firewood to season and dry out helps to reduce the moisture content of the wood to acceptable levels before being burnt.
Storing firewood either inside or outside for long periods of times helps the seasoning process to occur, but should firewood be covered?
Firewood should be covered when being stored outside to protect it from rain, ice and snow, but doesn’t need to be covered when being stored inside as it’s already being protected from any wet weather.
Firewood shouldn’t be covered on all sides, but instead protected from above to ensure it’s protected from wet weather. It’s also important to leave at least one side open to allow the wind to dry out the wood, and to also place the wood on a dry platform.
While I store my own firewood in my garage, my family leaves their wood to season outside under a cover. I’ve explained below how they use a cover over their firewood to their advantage when drying the wood out for use in their wood burning stoves.
Should Firewood Be Covered Outside?
Wood should be covered by an overhang, lean-to, open shed, or tarp when being stored outside to protect it from wet weather, but left open on at least one side of the stack to receive sunlight and wind.
Firewood is the fuel that helps to keep your house warm when burnt in an open fireplace or a wood burning stove. Dry and well-seasoned wood is essential for having a fire that is easy to light and doesn’t go out, and ensuring that the fireplace or stove produces as much heat as possible.
The seasoning process for wood can take anywhere from 6 months to three years, but the actual length can depend on a number of factors including the local weather conditions, the season of the year, and how well the wood is stored and covered from wet weather.
Keeping firewood covered while it’s being stored outside can help speed up seasoning of the wood because it helps to protect the wood from the majority of wet weather, including rain, snow and ice. Wood that is subject to regular and prolonged wet weather can remain damp, and in turn prevent the wood from being dried effectively.
Wood that remains damp can go moldy, begin to rot and smell bad. Wet firewood is also a lot harder to use when being burnt in a fireplace or stove, as it’s harder to light, harder to maintain alight, and much of the energy is wasted burning off the excess moisture instead of being released as heat. Burning wet wood can also release more creosote and require you to have your chimney swept more often.
It’s generally therefore a good idea to keep firewood covered when being stored outside if possible, and particularly if living in a wetter climate. The wood should be protected from wet weather from above using an overhang from a building or shed, or even using a piece of tarp.
Firewood shouldn’t be completely covered, but left open on as many sides as possible. One side left open to the weather will usually suffice, as allowing the air and wind get to the wood helps it to dry out quicker.
In many cases, it’s more important to keep the wood off the ground than to keep it covered.
Wood stacked directly on the ground can cause it to suck out the moisture in the soil, and pieces wood located at the bottom of a stack will never properly dry out. Wood doesn’t soak up rain like a sponge, and so a period of warm and sunny weather can help to negate the effects of any previous wet weather.
Outside Covered Firewood Example
My dad stores his firewood outside behind his garage. An overhang that protrudes out from the garage helps to protect the wood from any wet weather.
This location was chosen because it faces the sun as it moves across the sky throughout both the summer and winter month, helping the wood to dry out quicker as it catches the sunlight throughout the year.
Although the wood is covered and protected on top and on one side by the garage, the other side is left open for the wind to help dry it out.
The wood is also protected at the base of the stack by a concrete slab. This provides a dry platform for any moisture to runoff into the adjacent ground, and helps keep the logs at the base of the stack dry.
The wood is left to season in this covered area for a number of years, to ensure that it’s as dry as possible before being used in his wood burning stove.
Should Firewood Be Covered In Winter?
A study by Nord-Larsen et al, titled ‘Drying of firewood – the effect of harvesting time, tree species and shelter of stacked wood’ in 2011, concluded that:
‘Shelter was found to be of great importance to maintain an acceptable moisture content of firewood in storage during winter.‘Nord-Larsen et al.
Should Firewood Be Covered With A Tarpaulin?
Using tarpaulin is a convenient way to cover firewood to protect it from wet whether when located outside.
The tarp should only be used to protect the top of the firewood, with a small length draped over the sides to keep the tarp in place if required. This helps to keep the wood from getting wet while also allowing air to flow through the stack.
The tarp can be tied down with rope, or something heavy put on top to keep it in place.
Tarp doesn’t need to be used if the stack of wood is already located in an area covered by an overhang.
Should Firewood Be Completely Covered?
Firewood should not be completely covered when located outside as it prevents the wind and air from helping to dry out the wood.
Completely covered firewood also helps to in trap the moisture, especially when using an impermeable material for the cover such as tarp.
My mother stores her firewood in a purpose built wood hut, which is open on one side to allow the air to flow through the firewood while also protecting the wood from wet weather on all other sides.
Should Firewood Be Covered To Season?
Dry firewood burns much more effectively and cleanly compared to firewood with higher moisture content. Covering stacked and split firewood when being its being seasoned helps to ensure that the wood is as dry as possible before being burnt.
A cover over firewood can be more important in wetter climates than areas with drier weather, and it’s also typically more important to cover firewood during the winter months than the summer.
Firewood can be covered using a form of structure such as a overhang from building or a purpose built shed, or even using a piece of tarpaulin to protect the wood from wet weather.
Ensure that any stacks of wood aren’t completely covered, as it prevents air from circulating around the wood helping it to dry out. Firewood should also be stored on a dry platform when located outside so that any wood at the base of the stack doesn’t suck up moisture from the ground.