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.
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.