11 tips for dry­ing fire­wood as fast as pos­si­ble

Now is the ideal time to start think­ing about the fire­wood you’ll need for next win­ter, and sci­ence has tips on how to dry it out as fast as pos­si­ble.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Notebook -

Dry wood is at 20 per cent mois­ture or be­low

If you’ve had fire­wood that is wet and siz­zling this win­ter in­stead of dry and burn­ing, you’ll un­der­stand the im­por­tance of sea­son­ing it to get its mois­ture con­tent be­low 20 per cent.

Above 20 per cent, wet wood puts its en­ergy into dry­ing in­side your wood burner or fire­place, not pro­duc­ing heat. The re­sult is a cold room, lots of smoke, and a sticky cre­osote layer build­ing up on the in­side of your flue.

The Cold Cli­mate Hous­ing Re­search Cen­ter in the USA re­searched the best way to process fire­wood and how long you need to al­low it to cure to get be­low 20 per cent mois­ture.

What they found is if you get it right, it can be a rapid process with many types of wood, some as fast as 6-12 weeks.

The keys to the fastest pos­si­ble dry­ing time were:

cut to the length that fits best, typ­i­cally what fits easily into your wood­burner or fire­place – the test fire­wood in this re­search was 60cm or shorter;

split the wood at least once - wood dries along the grain up to 15 times faster than across the grain, and in their test, un­split wood did not cure over sum­mer, even in ideal dry­ing con­di­tions;

stack in a pile with air space be­tween the pieces;

store wood stacked in sin­gle rows in a shed or out in the sun if you know it’s not go­ing to rain – cover only the top of the pile with a large piece of ply­wood or a wa­ter­proof tarp;

cov­er­ing the whole stack with a tarp can dou­ble the dry­ing time, eg wood that took 6 weeks to dry in a sunny, airy place took 12 weeks when com­pletely cov­ered;

al­low sun and air to reach the sides of the wood pile to help dry the wood;

sea­son for at least six weeks dur­ing the sum­mer months, then cover once it gets into au­tumn or dry wood will soak up mois­ture again;

in au­tumn, it’s too late to start sea­son­ing wood as hu­mid­ity and mois­ture lev­els are too high, which slows or com­pletely stops the cur­ing process; even wood in a shed is un­likely to get be­low 30 per­cent mois­ture. There are lessons to be learned from re­search into dry­ing wood for build­ing.

ori­en­ta­tion is im­por­tant: shorter, nar­rower stacks have the fastest dry­ing rate;

stack­ing wood away from build­ings and trees (which block wind and air flow) in­creases the dry­ing rate;

wood stacked on a con­crete, tarseal or other solid sur­face where wa­ter can­not pool dries sig­nif­i­cantly faster than wood sit­ting on bare or veg­e­ta­tion-cov­ered ground.

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