Tips for Properly Seasoning Your Wood – The Why, How & Best Practices
What is seasoned wood?
Seasoned wood is wood that has been stored and dried for one entire season, reducing its moisture content and making it perfect for burning in a wood stove, insert, or fireplace. A good target to hit for moisture content is 15%.
Burning wood with higher moisture content will result in your wood burning stove being less fuel efficient, producing less heat (BTUs), and an increased level of creosote emissions. If your moisture content is higher than 35% it can cause damage to your wood burning unit.
How to tell if your wood is properly seasoned?
Freshly cut wood will have moisture content anywhere between 60-80%. It should take anywhere from 12-36 months to get wood to the appropriate 15% moisture level
The following are good ways to tell if your wood is properly seasoned
- Color Fades
As the wood ages it will lose its color and become increasingly pale. The paler the wood the better indication that it has been seasoned for a long time.
- Size of Pieces
The larger a piece of wood, the longer it will need to season. Chances are unsplit or very large pieces are not properly seasoned. When stacking and seasoning your wood make sure it is adequately split prior to storage.
- Weight & Hardness
As wood dries it losses moisture and therefore weight. As a result, it also becomes harder. Properly seasoned wood will seem, relatively, light and be very hard.
- Peeling Bark
When wood is very dry the bark tends to peel, fall off, or dry out. If the wood is missing large chunks of bark it is most likely well-seasoned.
In addition to bark falling off well-seasoned wood, dry wood tends to split or crack as it is drying.
- Sound of Hitting
When you hit two pieces of dry wood together you will hear a hollow thud, however when wet wood is hit it will be a dull sound.
Split Test – When all else fails try simply splitting a piece of wood – if the wood is dry in the center the wood has been somewhat seasoned. For an accurate reading however, try purchasing and using a moisture meter.
What is the importance of properly seasoning wood?
Properly seasoning your wood helps to improve the efficiency of your unit, increase the heat output, and most importantly avoids potentially damaging the unit. High moisture content can cause damage to the fireplace or cause creosote to buildup quickly in the flue.
Tips for Effectively Seasoning Your Wood?
- Split wood into manageable pieces
The smaller the wood is – the faster it will season. By splitting large rounds into more manageable pieces, you can season wood faster.
- Keep dry and out of elements
Keep your wood dry and out of the elements as much as possible by stacking in a wood shed or under a shelter.
- Time, Time, Time
Try planning 12-18 months ahead of time. By giving your wood more time to dry it will only benefit you in the long run.
- Ensure good airflow
Stack the wood to allow air to move and flow around it. The more airflow the better. Try stacking wood on top of a pallet and in an alternating patter to keep space to aid with seasoning.
- FIFO – First In First Out
Make sure to rotate your wood throughout the storage shed to ensure that the oldest wood is being used first and that the youngest wood is given the right amount of time to dry.