Most people know that you’re not supposed to burn green wood, but what many aren’t aware of is the process that takes green wood and prepares it for a stint in the stove, keeping us warm as the winter months draw in.
This process is known as seasoning. Similar to the meaning of the word in other contexts, when it comes to firewood, seasoning is all about optimization for a particular purpose, and that’s to burn easy, long, and well.
Of course, you can buy your seasoned firewood from a reputable seller, but if you’ve been chopping some trees down in the backyard, you may be wondering how you can season it yourself and save a few bucks.
So, to get you started, let’s take a look at how long seasoning firewood takes and how it’s done.
What Is Green Wood?
I’m going to be dropping this term a lot throughout the article, so before we tackle seasoning, I thought I’d hit you with a brief green wood definition.
Simply put, green wood is wood that has only recently been cut from the tree. It has an enormously high moisture content, which makes it nearly impossible to burn.
The adjectives “green” and “wet” are often used synonymously in this context, but technically speaking, they have slightly different meanings.
Granted, we avoid burning them for the same reason, the moisture content, but wet wood normally refers to older wood that hasn’t been properly seasoned.
For instance, if a tree was cut down a year ago, and the wood was left uncovered or against the earth, it would be considered wet wood.
How Long Does it Take to Season Firewood?
Right, let’s get down to business! How long does it take for wood to go from green to seasoned? Well, it depends on the wood in question.
- Softwoods will take around 6 months to sufficiently dry out.
- To fully season hardwood, it needs to be kept in a dry location with good air circulation for at least a year.
I know...it sounds nuts; I was shocked when I first heard as well, but that’s just the way it is. Water resting at the core of a log takes a long time to reach the surface and evaporate.
Chopping your logs smaller can help to speed up the process a bit, so you may want to invest in a quality splitting axe. I’d recommend this Fiskars axe.
It’s 36” long, which means you’ll be able to tackle some hefty tree trunk sections, and Fiskars have nearly 4 centuries of experience in the axe game, so you know you're getting quality when you buy with them.
What Are the Benefits of Seasoning Firewood?
So, after hearing how long it takes to properly season just one measly piece of firewood, you’re probably wondering if it’s even worth the effort, right?
But here’s the thing...once you have a few things in place, seasoning doesn’t take much effort at all.
Yes, it takes a while, but your patience will earn you a ton of benefits when the cold seasons hit!
As you’re essentially trying to light water on fire, it’s never easy getting a blaze going using green or wet wood.
You’ll waste a bunch of lighting tools and materials, and even if you do get it lit, keeping it lit is a constant challenge.
When you burn green or wet wood, most of the thermal energy is spent evaporating the moisture content rather than burning the wood itself — it’s a waste.
This seems a little strange at first. How can burning identical pieces of wood, one dry and one wet, have different environmental implications?
Well, when we ignite green or wet wood, it emits significantly more carbon monoxide because the wood isn’t fully combusting.
The visible aspect of smoke is soot, which is the particulate matter derived from the incomplete combustion of an object.
The moisture content prevents wood from burning, so green and wet wood creates 3 to 4 times the amount of smoke.
Less smoke means less mess and debris to dirty and clog our stoves and chimneys.
How to Season Firewood — A Step-By-Step Guide
Now let’s take a look at how you can season your green and wet wood.1. Make or craft a sturdy wood store.
If you’re handy with a bit of DIY, a wood store is an enjoyable project. If not, don’t worry, you can just buy one pre-made.
It needs to be large enough to accommodate the wood you plan on chopping, and it needs to elevate it off the ground slightly.
Your wood store doesn’t necessarily need to have a roof, but you will need to cover it with a tarp when the heavens open up. The trick is to cover it loosely to prevent the build-up of condensation.
As moisture escapes wood from the cut ends rather than the bark, it’s important you never block these sections off, so avoid draping the tarp over the sides of your wood store. Just layer a section on top.2. Placing your wood store
The wood store needs to be in a relatively sheltered location that has access to quality airflow.3. Chop your wood
Get your wood chopped. You can use a large manual saw if you like, but a gas chainsaw will speed things up exponentially.
It’s best to chop wood in early spring before the rains come. You should be aiming for logs between 4 and 8 inches in diameter.4. Load your wood in the store.
Load the wood as securely as possible with the cut ends facing out towards you.5. Wait
In 6–12 months, you’ll have a bunch of free fuel for your fire — nice!
How Long to Season Firewood - Summing Up
It takes between 6 and 12 months to properly season firewood, which seems like an inordinately long time, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.
You’ll know the seasoning process is complete when your logs look pale, have the odd crack here and there, the bark peels easily, and they make a warm knocking sound when struck against one another.
If they make more of a thudding sound, they need more time.