Lying Firewood Guy
January 20, 2010 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for accelerating the seasoning of firewood?

This wood ain't burning because it was probably split early this season. I bought this from someone who insisted over the phone that it was seasoned but it's not. The logs are heavy -- a sure sign that plenty of moisture is still inside. Any ideas for drying them out, say putting them in the area around the furnace (at a safe distance of course) or something else? I got screwed by someone non-trustworthy. Am I stuck with not using this until next Winter or can I salvage the cord this season? Any suggestions welcome.
posted by terrier319 to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You don't say where you're located, so you may be surprised to know that it could matter. Firewood sales are highly regulated and depending on where you are there may be laws that can protect you. Typically and based on a cursory Google search, seasoned firewood should have a moisture content of less than 50% (and really closer to 20%). You should also have received a receipt with the name/contact info of the seller along with the amount purchased.

I don't know how to accelerate seasoning, but it's likely a slower process than contacting your state consumer protection agency, your county DA, and the USDA (who sets federal standards). If you decide to go this route and you do have a receipt, the quickest method may be to give the seller a heads-up as to your intentions and get a refund. I certainly wouldn't buy from him again or let him exchange this wood for other wood that he has.
posted by rhizome at 3:55 PM on January 20, 2010

I've had moderate luck with splitting wet wood into smaller pieces and mixing them with dry wood during the burn process. But, the fire requires constant tending. Also, as you probably know, burning wet wood produces alot more pollutants than burning dry wood.

Personally, I would save the cord for next season and, while you're at it, buy a 2nd cord (from another seller, of course) for the subsequent season.
posted by surfgator at 3:59 PM on January 20, 2010

We have small and pretty infrequent fires, and dry our wood out by putting the wood for the next fire on the hearth while we burn our current fire. If you like larger fires, or longer-burning fires, this will be too low-volume to be practical (and also maybe a hazard if you don't have sufficient space between your burning wood and drying wood).
posted by psycheslamp at 4:06 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have a decent-size fireplace, put unseasoned logs off to the side (inside the fireplace, on the left and right walls, right next to the fire). You can start a fire with seasoned logs, and then once they burn down, add the newly-dried logs to the fire and replace the unseasoned logs to the side. You can keep the fire going indefinitely this way. All you need is enough unseasoned wood to get the fire started.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:18 PM on January 20, 2010

Firewood sales are highly regulated

Perhaps in theory. In practice, mostly it's a guy with a pickup truck and a chainsaw and possibly a permit to cut wood on federal land, or maybe he has permission to cut on private land, or maybe he's just out there cutting illegally. So he puts a small ad in the paper or on a bulletin board at a grocery store, you call him up, and he and one of his nephews comes by and drops off the wood in exchange for cash. You have all the chance of getting a receipt as you do of getting a massage with happy ending.

Anyway, unless you have a really dry and warm place to put the wood (a kiln, if you are really in a hurry), the best you can do is mix it in with seasoned wood and burn it that way. Better to do what surfgator suggests and buy new wood to burn now, allowing this cord to season for next year. Every firewood seller I've ever dealt with always claims the wood is "seasoned," just like they claim it's a "full cord." But if you instead ask when it was cut, they'll usually give you an honest answer; knowing when it was cut will give you a fair idea of how dry it might be.
posted by Forktine at 4:55 PM on January 20, 2010

Point 1: Are you sure it's wet? I'm going through a load of Douglas fir right now. I know it's well seasoned, because I cut, split, and stacked the wood myself.

This wood is exceptionally heavy, and it's also incredibly difficult to get started. It takes at least 3x longer to get it burning than "regular" wood. But once it's going, it burns like crazy, heats the place up 3x better than "regular" wood, and burns more cleanly (i.e. leaving far less ash).

If the wood is wet, it will not have a hollow sound when you knock on it. It will make more of a "thud." And of course the classic giveaway is if you put a piece on the fire, and it starts steaming out a wet foam at the end.

Point 2: All firewood guys lie. Trust me on this. Yes to stacking your wood around the wood stove, this is a common practice out here in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest where everyone heats with a wood stove.

You'll develop a conveyor belt of firewood coming into the house and getting 1-3 days near the stove to dry out. Keep it at least a foot or two away from the stove. It's really not that big a fire risk.

Point 3: The best way to dry firewood outside is to stack it in "pens" or "chimneys." This is space-intensive, but it dries the firewood out very quickly. For each layer, use 2 pieces, and stack them crosswise:

[] []
[] []

Um, that ASCII sucks, but does it make sense? Sadly it's pitch dark out here, so I can't show off a pic of my own lovely firewood stacks.
posted by ErikaB at 6:02 PM on January 20, 2010

Keep the wood in orderly racks, no more than two rows of logs thick (so that the air can get through them). Definitely don't have it all dumped into a pile in your yard.

Tarp the top (but don't let it hang down a whole lot on the sides) of the pile. This will keep water out while letting the breezes blow through the pile to help dry the wood.

If your 'wet' wood is not already split, split it yourself, right now. Split wood dries way faster than unsplit rounds. A wedge and a maul (I like this one -- you really don't need more than 8# for most stove length stuff.) will be helpful if you don't have a hydraulic splitter.

As others have suggested, it really does help to move some (hopefully pre-split) wood into stove/furnace area so that it can dry out under the influence of the stove/furnace. This will help, particularly if you can split some of it down to about 1" square cross-section pieces.

Also, if you're going to be buying firewood from some dude with a saw and a pickup, you should know your woods so that you don't get ripped off. Wood is not wood. It matters what kind of wood you have. Learn to recognize your logs by wood/bark. My personal preference (northeast U.S.) list is as follows (most desired wood first): red oak (splits beautifully, burns very well), white oak (harder to split than red), hickory, cherry, black locust (difficult to split, beautiful heat), black walnut, tulip poplar, sugar maple, red maple, black birch... and yeah, I can tell 'em without leaves or a field guide.
posted by which_chick at 7:35 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Worry, be happy.   |   Why can't I just be a liberal? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.