If you are new to heating with wood, you may wonder what is the best way to dry firewood. There are some tricks and methods that you can use to speed up the drying process, but you should also pay attention to important factors. Namely, the thing that firewood and wine have in common is the fact that they both get better with time. When dry or “seasoned” firewood has a moisture content of 20% or less, it is ready to burn. However, how long does it take for it to get there? Now this article should give you some answers to these and other questions so you can get the most out of your solid fuel during the heating season.
Table of Contents
- Why you should dry the natural heat source firewood
Why you should dry the natural heat source firewood
Drying firewood is important to ensure that it burns safely and efficiently. Most firewood matures within 6 – 18 months and there are many variables that can affect this drying time. For example, hardwoods take longer to dry because they are denser than softwoods. Some even take up to 2 years to mature. From the type of tree species used to the climate changes in that year, the length of the log and how you store them all play a role in the drying process. First, you should be able to tell if and how the fuel is drying properly for heating. The following instructions can help you do that.
Freshly cut wood has a moisture content of about 30-50%. Firewood that has been left in damp conditions may be even wetter. There is also a significant difference between wet and green firewood. Some woods have very combustible sap and burn well even when green. Such are pine and broom, for example. Wet wood uses up all the heat of the fire to dry out, and you will be left with a smoky, cold fire that is frustrating to handle. If you’ve had wet and sizzling firewood instead of burning dry and clean, you’ll begin to understand the importance of being able to properly dry your firewood.
Here’s how to spot dried out logs
There are a few tried and true ways to tell if your firewood is ready to burn or not. Whether you cut the logs yourself or choose to purchase logs from a retailer, there are important factors to look for before throwing the wood into stoves for heating.
- Cracks – Properly seasoned wood has a gray, weathered appearance and large cracks at the ends of the logs. The larger these cracks are, the drier the wood. It is better to buy logs that have been split because they have more exposed surface area where moisture can be lost.
- Color – Over time, the color of the wood begins to darken and fade. It goes from a bright, fresh piece of green wood to a dull, grayish piece of dry firewood. In addition, the color is perhaps one of the best indicators of whether the firewood is ready.
- Smell – Using a small hatchet or your favorite cutting tool, cut the log so you can smell it. Then sniff the freshly cut piece. If there is a strong aroma, it is still too wet to use. If you can notice that the cut pieces of wood are moist, this is also a good indicator that they should not be burned yet.
- Weight – Dry wood naturally weighs less than the wet fuel. At this point, you may have noticed that there is water in the wood that is keeping you from throwing freshly cut logs on the fire. As this moisture leaves the wood, it naturally becomes lighter in color. Fresh logs weigh almost twice as much as dry wood.
- Bark – As the wood begins to dry, its bark loosens and eventually falls off. In a full load of seasoned logs, most logs will accordingly have no bark left.
Use a moisture meter
The best way to check the moisture in your firewood is to use a moisture meter. These small devices are usually hand-held and have an LCD display that shows the percentage of moisture in the wood. As mentioned above, firewood is ready to burn when the moisture is below 20%, with something between 15% – 20% being ideal.
- A moisture meter has two prongs on the end. To test the wood, insert them into the wood at the point you want to test.
- To get a more accurate reading, you will need to test several spots. The most important one is the center of the log.
- Use a hatchet or small axe to split the log in half.
- When you are finished, test the center of the log with the moisture meter.
- You can spend as much as you want on a moisture meter.
Is there a danger in burning wet wood?
Burning wet firewood leaves a cold room, lots of smoke, and lots of sticky creosote in your chimney that can cause a chimney fire. However, you don’t have to take that risk, as you’ll see below. Accordingly, with a few steps, it’s easy to turn fresh or wet wood into dry wood quickly and easily. In addition, many types of wood can be dried out in 6-12 weeks if dried properly.
- Kiln-dried firewood can be obtained by taking green or wet wood and drying it in a kiln to a specific moisture content.
- However, it is unusual to buy such solid fuel because kiln drying consumes a lot of energy, so it is usually reserved for drying lumber.
- You can use such wood in your wood stove or fireplace if you have access to dry logs. This provides fuel with a very low moisture content, which is perfect for lighting in a wood stove or fireplace. It ignites very quickly and burns hot.
Here is the fastest way to dry your firewood
Now you know how to determine whether your firewood is seasoned. The following tips for drying wood should show you how to dry firewood faster. Remember that anything over 20% moisture content is not quite optimal. The fastest way to dry wood is to use a kiln. These are typically found in commercial settings where large amounts of wood are processed. However, since most of us don’t own one, there are some second-best methods you can use to get your firewood dried quickly. Also, keep in mind that the year’s climate plays a big role in how long it takes for your firewood to dry. Hot, dry summers will dry out a piece of wood better than a cool, humid summer.
Follow simple steps to speed up the drying process
- Increase air circulation – Increasing the flow of air to and around each piece of wood is one of the best ways to speed up the overall drying process. If possible, stack the wood on a shelf above the floor. This allows the air to flow underneath. Also, do not stack the wood against a wall. Air cannot circulate behind the logs.
- Log size matters – Cutting the logs to fit your fireplace is common sense, but this actually helps with the drying process. In general, a smaller log will logically dry faster than a larger log. Not only does size help each piece dry a little faster, but it also saves you from having to reprocess the firewood before using it.
- Let the sun do the work – Spreading your freshly cut logs out on a sidewalk, driveway or drying rack in the sun is another great way to cut down on drying time. In addition, if possible, it is helpful to expose each log to sunshine. In stacks, the lower pieces don’t dry as quickly because they don’t get direct sunlight. Some people don’t have enough room for this, which is understandable. Instead, pay close attention to the top layer of firewood because it dries faster. When this dries out, move the logs to your storage rack, which will expose the second layer of wood to the sun.
- Stack properly – Moisture mainly leaks out of the wood at the cut ends, rather than the center. For this reason, it is best to expose both ends of the wood to the wind. A firewood rack stacked outdoors with exposed sides will dry faster than a rack stacked against the side of a barn.
So what’s the takeaway from all you’ve read so far? Simple, but timely and smart steps, can speed up the drying process by quite a bit. You’ll have to wait several more months, but it will help. Use the tips above to determine if your firewood is ready to use, and if you get a chance, get a moisture meter to be on the safe side.
What types of firewood dry and burn the fastest?
As described above, softwoods dry much faster than most hardwoods. However, they also burn much faster and at a lower temperature. Considering this, it is best to find a mix of soft and hard woods to burn in your wood fire. Using a good moisture meter will help you check the moisture content of your logs. Woods like pine and willow dry the fastest, but you’ll need lots of them to keep warm over a long winter.
Use trick with dehumidifier on firewood
If you are in trouble and need to dry your firewood super fast, you have the option of bringing it indoors. The hack here is to run a dehumidifier to suck out some of the moisture. This will speed up the drying time of the wood, but it’s best used to remove surface rain moisture from otherwise well-seasoned wood. Also, be sure to stack your pile with enough air gaps. Do not operate your dehumidifier outdoors or in locations where the plug can get wet.