How to Season Wood for your Wood Burning Stove
Burning properly dried wood on your multi fuel or wood burning stove is of utmost importance, read our Why Is It Important to Burn Seasoned Wood? article to find out why.
You can buy wood that is ready seasoned but this is usually much more expensive and in some cases not as well seasoned as advertised! Kiln dried wood is virtually guaranteed to be dry if bought from a reputable supplier but this is costlier still. Seasoning your own wood often proves to be much cheaper and is easy to do providing you have the space and time. Firstly a moisture meter should be purchased to record the water content of the logs. You can go off visual cues such as the wood splitting, bark peeling and by feel but it can take a while to learn what to look for and a moisture meter is insurance against mistakes.
Firstly the logs should be cut and split to a suitable size. A good rule of thumb is to cut the logs 75mm shorter than the width of the fire box. 300mm seems to be a good universal size for most stoves. Logs should be split along the length so they are small enough to ignite, have a good surface area exposed in which to dry them and not too large so as to smother the fire when placed in the fire box. If you are ordering your wood ready cut and split be sure to check they are of a suitable size for your stove.
The next task is to select an area which is suitable for storing and drying the wood. The area should be exposed to wind and sun and should not be covered. Ready made log stores can be purchased that are designed for the task and look good too but a log store can be as simple as a wooden pallet on the ground with the logs stacked on top. As long as the wood is raised off the ground then you are good to go.
Wood should be stacked in layers all facing one direction, preferably with the ends of the logs facing out into the prevailing wind. The idea is to get as much draught passing through the stack as possible, the more draught the quicker they will dry. The top of the stack can be left uncovered and in most cases will dry quicker that way, as well as avoiding problems with covers blowing away in the wind. However if you live in an excessively rainy climate then you can cover the top with a piece of tarpoline. Tying a half brick to the ringlets of the tarp using a shoelace on each corner is a good method of keeping the tarp on top of the stack in windy conditions. If the tarp doesn't have ringlets then you can cut a rope a couple of feet longer than the width of the top of the stack. Tie half bricks to each end and lay over the top of the stack with the bricks hanging over the edge to pin the tarp down.
A clue for how long logs should be dried for is within the name, seasoning. Wood takes at least a season to properly dry but in some cases can take up to 2 years. Check the wood every couple of months with a moisture meter as per the manufacturers instructions. A reading of 20% is suitable for burning but we find a reading of 15% to be ideal.
Don't worry about surface water on the logs, this dries off quickly in the sun and wind. Any dampness on the surface of the log will soon dry once you bring a load inside for burning. Snow settling on the stack should ideally be brushed off but if you are reading this from the UK then the amount of snow we get is seldom problematic, those in colder climates, where snow can stick around for several months should clear snow from the stack or take steps to cover the stack. Snow settling on the stack for prolonged periods can make the logs soggy or even lead to rot.
Article written by Ryan Brocklehurst