Moisture Content Firewood

What Does Seasoned Firewood Mean?

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

Firewood can typically be sold as ‘seasoned firewood’ that can denote wood that has the right qualities to be used as firewood.

If you’re burning wood taken from your own property then you’ll also need to ensure that it’s properly seasoned so that is burns well in your fires.

So what does seasoned firewood mean?

Seasoned firewood is wood that has been left outside to dry for an extended period of time in order for it to burn effectively when used in a fire. The moisture content of firewood needs to be low enough so that it doesn’t lead to issues when burnt, and this can be achieved through the seasoning process.

We’ve explained what seasoned firewood means in more detail below, as well as detailing why firewood needs to be seasoned, what seasoned firewood can look like and how long the seasoning process can take.

What Does Seasoned Firewood Mean?

Trees are naturally high in water content and so when wood is cut it will typically be high in moisture content. The actual moisture content of freshly cut wood can depend on the type of tree and the time of year the wood was cut, but the wood will almost always be too wet to be used as firewood.

In order for wood to be used effectively as firewood, the moisture content of the wood needs to be lowered to recommended levels.

The process of drying out wood in order for it to burn efficiently on a fire is known as seasoning.

The seasoning process involves leaving wood outside to dry for an extended period of time. Over many months or even years the moisture content of the wood will decrease to levels that are acceptable for use in fires.

There are many factors that affect how quickly wood dries out and so the time that it takes for wood to reach the recommended moisture content levels for use as firewood can vary between each situation.

In order for wood to dry as fast as possible through the seasoning process the wood should be stacked in such a way that it allows the wood to be exposed to the weather.

This image below shows how we season our own firewood:

This setup helps to dry out the wood as quickly as possible. The main factors that help to increase how quickly our wood dries include being:

  • Stacked to allow once side of the logs to be open to the weather.
  • Placed on an impermeable platform (such as concrete) that allows any water to runoff into the adjacent ground and to also help prevent ingress of water from the ground back into the lower layers of wood.
  • Located under a form of overhang to help keep the majority of the rain and snow off the logs.

Seasoned firewood is therefore wood that has undergone this process of natural drying in order for it to burn its most efficiently when used as firewood.

There’s minimal cost to seasoning wood but it’s an essential process required if you want to use it as firewood in a fireplace or stove.

If you’re buying in your firewood you’ll want to be looking out for seasoned wood, which is essentially the term used to describe that the wood has been dried out for a long enough period of time to ensure that the moisture content has reached an acceptable level for it to burn well.

It’s important that wood is seasoned before being used as firewood because wood that is too high in moisture content will burn highly ineffectively in a fire.

Wood that is too wet when used in a fire can be:

  • Harder to catch alight.
  • Harder to burn.
  • Producing more smoke than usual due to incomplete combustion of the wood.
  • Staining any glass in your fireplace or stove at a faster rate.
  • Building up creosote within your chimney or flue at a faster rate.
  • Producing much less heat compared to properly seasoned wood of the same size.

Ensuring that you’re buying in seasoned wood or making sure that you’re seasoning your own firewood for the right amount of time will help you to have more successful, longer lasting and hotter fires in your home, and help to prevent any of the issues outlined above from occurring.

Not all ‘seasoned’ wood will be dry enough to burn however.

As there are many factors that influence how well and how quickly wood can dry out, it’s not always possible to bring the moisture content of wood down to acceptable levels within similar time frames.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that the moisture content of firewood should be between 15% and 20% for it to burn the most efficiently.

If wood isn’t left to season for long enough, or not dried out within the right conditions, it can mean that some ‘seasoned’ firewood may still have higher moisture content levels than the recommended maximum of 20%.

Dry wood has some clearly defined properties compared to ‘green wood’. The main traits for low moisture content wood are:

  • Brown in color rather than having a greenish tint.
  • The logs are course at the ends or can even be seen to be cracking.
  • Lighter in weight compared to a newly cut logs of similar size.
  • The bark can be easy to peel off.
  • Logs sound more hollow when hit against each other.
Dry Firewood
Dry Firewood

The only way to really tell whether firewood is at the recommended moisture content level is to use a moisture meter to get an accurate reading.

Green wood will typically have a much higher moisture content value than 20%. As an example we simply cut a branch from our property and used our moisture meter to read it’s exact moisture content.

Green Wood Moisture Content
The moisture content of newly cut ‘green’ wood is far too high for it to burn well in a fire

This wood would have burnt highly ineffectively if used in a fire, and would have needed to be left out to dry in order for it to be used as firewood.

If we take a look at some of our seasoned logs that we bought for use in our open fireplace, the moisture meter gives readings of around 10% moisture content for these seasoned logs.

Moisture Content Firewood
Firewood should be seasoned long enough until the moisture content is below 20%

Although this level is below the recommended moisture content range, it will still burn very efficiently in a fire. Such low moisture content wood may simply burn a bit quicker when added to a fire compared to a log that has a moisture content within the recommended range.

As long as firewood has a moisture content of under 20% it will burn very effectively when used in a fireplace or stove. As the moisture level of firewood increases above 20% it becomes progressively harder to catch fire and burn.

Seasoned firewood is therefore wood that meets the right qualities of firewood that will burn its most efficiently on a fire, as a result of being left outside to dry to naturally lower the moisture content of the wood over time.

A moisture meter is an essential tool for any fireplace or stove and will help you to identify whether your wood has been properly seasoned before being used in your fires.

You can find our recommended moisture meters over in our list of essential fireplace and stove tools page.

Moisture Meter
We recommend getting a moisture meter so that you can accurately understand whether your wood has been properly seasoned

Further Reading

Does Firewood Need To Be Seasoned?

Should Firewood Be Covered?

How To Use A Moisture Meter To Check The Moisture Content Of Firewood

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