Don’t get me wrong, a good quality fire burner or fireplace is a great start, but it’s the fuel that you’re burning that really makes a cozy night in, well...cozy, when the weather’s looking grim outside.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but there are actually a few different classes of firewood, one of which is known as seasoned.
Some forms of firewood are superior to the rest, and let’s just say that with a store full of seasoned logs, you won’t even feel the winter.
There are a number of reasons why seasoned wood is one of the best ways to keep warm when the nights draw in and a chill settles on the home, and we’ll get into that in just a moment, but first, let’s briefly discuss what seasoned firewood actually is.
Seasoned Firewood - What Is It?
You may have already encountered “seasoning” in a culinary context. It’s the process of heating oil in a pan to fill pores in the metal, creating a slick-non-stick surface.
It’s also, of course, the word given to the addition of salt, herbs, and spices to enhance the flavor of a meal.
While these definitions don’t share a specific link to the seasoning of wood, in a more general sense, they’re exactly the same thing.
Seasoning, in any context, refers to the preparation of something, a process that fundamentally changes a living thing or object, so it can better serve a particular purpose at a later date.
That’s all seasoning firewood is. You’re preparing the wood to burn better in your stove. A piece of firewood can officially be referred to as seasoned once its moisture content drops to 20% or below.
Why Is It Important To Season Firewood?
The reasons for using seasoned firewood are five-fold…
1. Seasoned firewood is easier to ignite.
Have you ever tried to light green wood? It’s nigh on impossible, and even if you persevere and somehow get a burn going, most of the thermal energy produced will be spent on evaporating the excess moisture content.
2. It’s far more efficient than green wood.
Seasoned firewood burns hotter for longer, and requires minimum effort to keep going.
3. It’s more environmentally friendly.
The environmental impact of burning wood as a source of heat has been a serious concern over the past two decades or so.
Each time you light up a rager to warm your toes on a winter’s eve, your chimney is spewing harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The good news is that by being careful and always using seasoned wood, you can turn your stove into a carbon-neutral appliance.
The general idea is that the carbon emitted by burning the wood needs to be less or equal to the carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by the tree before it was cut down.
This balance is simply impossible when burning green wood, as it emits more pollutants than properly seasoned logs.
4. It doesn’t produce anywhere near as much smoke.
Contrary to popular belief, smoke isn’t a gas. In fact, the only reason it rises as if it is one is that it’s riding on the updraft created by hot air.
Smoke is actually a particulate solid. It’s the product of material that isn’t fully combusting, even though it’s aflame.
The moisture content in green wood inhibits the burning process to such an extent that smoke production is multiplied 3 to 4 times.
Some of this excess will inevitably escape the draft of the chimney and billow out into your room, staining furniture, leaving nasty smells, and damaging your respiratory health.
5. It’s cleaner in a literal sense.
All those extra by-products created when we burn green wood can clog a chimney in a flash, comparatively speaking.
How To Season Firewood
Seasoning firewood takes way longer than you might think — we’re talking 6 months for softwoods and a whole year for hardwoods.
If that timeframe doesn’t seem doable for you, you can simply purchase some pre-seasoned wood online or contact a reputable local supplier.
If you do want to give seasoning your own wood a go, here’s what you’re going to need…
- Some green wood (possibly an axe, saw, or chainsaw if you’re going to cut the tree down yourself).
- A sizable and secure wood store.
Planning is everything when it comes to seasoning wood. Before you chop any green wood, you’ll need a decent wood store.
It should be large enough to accommodate the intended load, completely sheltered from rainfall, and situated somewhere with a good airflow.
In regard to chopping, you’ll want to kick things off in early springtime before the heavens open up.
Also, if you’re seasoning softwoods such as cedar or spruce, they’ll be primed and ready to go just in time for the autumn, when the temperatures start to plummet.
Bear in mind that smaller bits of wood dry faster than hefty logs, so you’ll need a quality splitting axe. I’m a big fan of the German axe company Helko Werk myself.
Stack the logs as neatly as possible in the store to prevent any falling out, and cover them either with a store roof or loosely with a tarp. Try not to cover the ends of the logs, as that’s where the moisture escapes from.
Once the green wood is loaded in the store, it’s time to play the waiting game. In 6 months to a year, they’ll be ready for burning.
How To Differentiate Green Wood From Seasoned Wood
There are three telltale signs that a piece of firewood has been properly seasoned.
Knock two pieces together. If the noise sounds like more of a hollow knock than a thud, you’re good to go.
Once a certain amount of moisture has evaporated from the wood, it will be remarkably light.
You’re looking for a pale color, a few cracks here and there, and loose-ish bark.
Is Seasoned Firewood The Best?
Properly seasoned firewood is fantastic and certainly better than green wood, but kiln dried wood is even better.
With basically zero moisture content, kiln-dried logs are a more efficient energy source. The only problem...I don’t know anyone with a kiln, do you?
Seasoned To Perfection - Summing Up
That’s all there is to it, folks. Seasoned wood is just wood that has been properly stored, dried, and prepared to burn efficiently.
It’s greener, cleaner, and easier to use than wet wood, and as long as you have an appropriate store, you can season wood yourself.
I now officially declare you a seasoned expert of seasoned wood!