Firewood: Ten hints that your firewood “is not” seasoned
1. Firewood looks weathered but still looks recently cut
2. Pungent smells, of freshly cut wood
3. No obvious dry cracking on the butt ends of the wood
4. Tree bark still tightly adheres to the wood
5. You hear a hissing moisture sound when the wood starts to burn
6. It is rather hard to get a fire started even using kindling wood or fire starters
7. Sluggish or stalled smoke in the firebox
8. Due to moisture the wood actually feels heavier than expected
9. Hitting two pieces of wood together, there is a deeper thud sound. Not that of a lighter baseball bat ringing sound
10. The best indicator is found in using a moisture meter; a bad moisture reading is that of above 25%
How do I know if my firewood is dry; and properly seasoned?
Often I’m asked when is firewood seasoned enough and ready to burn?
First let me tell you a quick story about a customer. Let’s call him Tommy Engineer.
Tommy was preparing to receive a delivery of firewood, in the middle of November. He had negotiated on the phone, for what he felt was a fair price. For a cord of wood to be delivery and to be stacked on the side of the garage. Tommy was told that it has been cut, split and well season and is ready to be burn for the Holidays.
When Tommy’s firewood order was being delivered to his home, he said it looked like a full cord of wood 4’high x 4’wide and 8’foot long as it was stacked on the delivery truck. It looked reasonably seasoned and grayish in color, but as the truck was backing into the driveway he said that the smelled freshly cut wood.
Tommy being an engineer at heart took out his moisture meter and pulled off a couple of pieces of wood. He had to check for the moisture content of the wood delivery before it was going to be unloaded and stacked. The screen on the moisture meter read 37 %, which was rather high for what was to be ready to burn seasoned firewood. He refused that first firewood delivery and then found another supplier, at a higher price, but the second cord of wood was properly seasoned. His fireplace was cleaned and now pretty much uses his fireplace daily, from the week of Thanks Giving, over the Holidays and throughout the Sundays playoff football games, leading up to the “Big game Day
Wood that has not dried below the 25% moisture content mark, will burn less efficiently and will generate a lot more smoke and less heat.
More smoke; means a high potential of building up of creosote in the fireplace chimney flue system. It takes a lot of burned fire energy to boil the water found within the green wood.
The heat needed to burn wet wood also means that the fire burns much cooler. This causes less real fire combustion and much higher emissions of smoke. Freshly cut firewood can contain a significant amount of water. And comes with a lot of problems in sluggish draft and creosote. If the wood is not fully seasoned, you may need to store and cover your wood before it is ready to be burned. Repeat your checklist looking for signs that your firewood might still be green before starting your fire.
So it goes without saying, just because wood looks gray on the delivery truck, doesn’t mean that it has been seasoned
The proper seasoning time for firewood will vary drastically in different parts of the country, as well as from, season to season. The ideal moisture content for firewood is between 15 to 25%. The natural seasoning process can take years if stored, as an “uncut log” . Or just leaving it as a big pile of uncovered wood. It is important to have your firewood split and covered as it will dry at a much faster rate.
Personally, I cover our firewood, and just on the top of the woodpile and down on the sides, about 16’’. This shower capping of the fireplace provides so more circulation through the wood stack. Wood will season naturally (air dry) because the water eventually evaporates from the wood surface until it reaches a so-called Equilibrium Moisture Content or being that of the humidity of the surrounding air. Think of this in regards to rainy Portland vs the hot dry air of Phoenix of even down into Florida.
For all of our homeowners that are reading this blog, here are the best ways that I know of for checking to determine your firewood is seasoned or not, is by checking it with a moisture meter.
Hence, the real issue is how are you drying our firewood, and when do we plan to use it. Order your firewood in early spring and in most case it will be the properly seasoned in the fall. This is where that little handy dandy moisture meter will be your truth teller.