The Spectacular Science of Stacking Firewood
Say that 10 times fast!
I know this is a long post…I’ve tried to cut it down as much as possible – ha! pun totally intended.
An underrated and often under practiced “art form”, stacking firewood is an age old technique used to season and prepare wood to use in the fall and winter months. Being August, now is the perfect time to explore the proper method of preparing, stacking and seasoning wood – to welcome a crisp and golden autumn, and to combat the cold.
First, let’s talk some terms. You can buy pre cut firewood from any wood merchant, Seasoned (aged), or Green (Fresh, right off the stump). The most popular cuts of wood are oak, maple and cherry, with birch, pine, elm and chestnut following close behind. Depending on the age of the wood, price can range anywhere from $100 per “cord” (128 cu ft of 4-ft-long logs and air in a stack 8 ft long and 4 ft high), with Green wood starting at a lower $80. While both are a reasonable price to some, you can save money and make splitting easier by seasoning it yourself at home.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that wood needs to be stacked so it will continue drying. Whether bought, or grown and cut at home, you should be giving the wood as much sun as possible; wood stacked in a moist or damp cool shaded area will never dry properly. Wet wood is a waste, you don’t get the heat value when burning it compared to seasoned wood; this means you need to allot a space in your backyard. When you’re done seasoning, There are many unique and funky ways to store wood in the house, and can be looked upon even as a decorative piece, but we will get into that later.
Laying the Logs
Most people stack firewood in their backyard, where the sun can easily reach the wood at all times, and where the wind can circulate from any direction. Take a moment to look around your backyard and observe which part receives the most sunlight, has a great position, and accomodates the amount of wood you have.
Your woodpile can be as big as you want, or a small dainty thing. It really doesn’t matter; and depends only on how frequently you burn firewood. If you live in an area that gets heavy cold and snow or you depend on a wood stove or fireplace to heat your home, (such as up north – trust us, we’re from Canada), chances are you’ll want to build a medium to large woodpile.
Draw out and measure the area where you want to place your stack. Concrete blocks work well to create a solid base that sheds rain, repels ground water, and gives a level and flat surface for you to build upon. You don’t want to stack your logs against the side of buildings or other structures, however, because this prevents proper airflow and light penetration.
Rectangular piles allow for airflow and efficient drying, they’re the most typical pile style there is. This gives a more even airflow, and room for the wood to breathe. The long side of a rectangle allows more wood to be stacked, and also the sun to reach through to the other side.
You can shelter your pile with a tin roof, shingles or a Weather Resistant Coated material. These are best to use to protect your wood from the elements. Tarps and plastic coverings can be sold as heavy duty, but they are not ideal due to moisture buildup that can occur on the undersides.
Here is a list of the most popular woods, as well as a helpful description on the splitting, seasoning and burning properties of each.
While your wood is being seasoned, make sure to check every month or two and track the progression; this includes weighing and smelling the wood. Well seasoned and dry wood will weigh very little, due to the lack of moisture from stacking.The bark attached to the wood will also diminish due to lack of moisture; this is a great notification that your wood pile is on its way to being ready! Keep an eye on this, it’s a good thing. Another factor to keep in mind is the smell. Freshly cut wood will be more potent, where seasoned and aged wood will have no scent to it.