Wood is a mass of tiny or thick long tubes of cell cavities, that runs the entire length of a tree. In these cell cavities, moisture exists as both “free water” and molecular water, and is tightly locked inside the cell walls. The moment a tree is cut or felled, the slow and gradual process of drying commences. During this process, the free water is first to evaporate. After the free water has evaporated, the moisture content of the wood drops to around 30 percent. Soon after, water in the cell walls begins to leave, causing the wood to shrink and crack gradually. When this occurs, it simply means the wood is dried.
Generally, all freshly cut (green) wood retain a lot of water, and for this reason, lighting and sustaining a fire becomes quite difficult. Even if you eventually get your green wood to burn, the wet wood will give off less heat, will burn out quickly, and produce more smoke and soot. This is why the drying of wood is very essential, but it does take time. This is whyit is wise to plan at least five months ahead. Once you cut the wood to the size that you need and stack it, all you just need to do is allow the sun and air to do their work and dry the wood out.
How to Dry Wood for A Fire Place
The most used and cheapest method to dry firewood is air-drying, and takes at least six months to two years to completely dry out. Cut the logs in uniform rounds, and where needed split them. Stack the split wood on a raised bed and cover it. Don’t forget to start early with the drying process
Whether you are heating your home during winter or you’re simply trying to stay warm during a camping trip, dry firewood is essential for keeping the fire burning and essentially keeping you warm. This is why fresh, newly cut wood must be well seasoned before it is dry enough for it to burn efficiently. As stated above, greenwood smolders and does not produce much heat, so they must first be properly dried. For drying firewood, the greatest tools you’ll find are the sun and the air. Also, there are a few more techniques that can help the process. To achieve optimal burning, firewood should be dried to a moisture content of less than 20 percent. If firewood has a moisture content higher than that, although it may eventually burn, it will be hard to light and just as hard to keep it burning. More importantly, your furnace or high-efficiency stove will end up performing poorly as it struggles to burn the freshly cut green firewood. This is because a great amount of the heat and energy produced in the process are wasted on drying the excess moisture of the wood. Do you want to know how to dry wood effectively for your fireplace? Don’t look too far. This article will guide through the best ways by which you can dry firewood for your fireplace.
Best Way to Dry Firewood
If you’re planning to heat your home with wood, then you would most likely spend a lot of time preparing for the winter months. This is usually a year-round process since firewood requires nothing less than six months (roughly six months to two years) to completely dry out. The late winter period and early spring are the best times to cut and prepare your wood for the following year. By doing this, you’ll be giving your wood enough time to dry over the summer months, seasoning in time for winter.
In case you’re new to burning wood as a source of heat for your home, it is very understandable if you have not planned so far ahead. Whether you plan to purchase your wood elsewhere or you’ll be cutting your wood for future use, it is very important to dry the wood properly before burning it. We have carefully gathered some important tips on the best way to dry firewood:
● Gather the Wood Early
Whether you’re planning to purchase or cut your wood yourself, you should always make sure everything is ready in no less six months before you plan to burn it. To achieve the best results, you can even do it earlier to give your wood enough time to dry out. If possible, you can collect the wood a year ahead to ensure proper seasoning. As you already know, the climate is the main factor that affects the drying rate of wood. So if you live in a cool region, or you’re dealing with a denser species, allow for more time.
● Choose a Safe Work Area
If you’ll be cutting or splitting your firewood by yourself, choose an open area outside your home to get it done. Make sure the area is wide and open enough for you to use a saw or an ax without any obstructions. Choose a more level ground over uneven ground to ensure a good footing while you work. Also, make sure you keep people and pets away from your work area for safety purposes. Also, while you’re working, always make it a deal to check behind you frequently to ensure that no one is approaching.
● Cut Whole Logs into Uniform Rounds
The first thing you need to do here is to measure the dimensions of your fireplace, furnace, or any area where you plan to burn the wood. Then remove three inches (7.6 cm) from the length or width of the fireplace, depending on how you will be placing the wood into space. Cut your wood into rounds of equal or uniform length using a saw or an ax. Because wood shrinks as it dries, some people prefer to cut the rounds larger than what’s needed. However, as a beginner, you should take caution and cut smaller pieces instead, until you become familiar with how much shrinkage to expect. If you stay in a wet climate, you should cut the rounds even smaller as these will dry faster than large rounds.
● Split the Wood
To do this, place your chopping block on a level ground, then set a round of wood on top of the block, with either of the cut side facing up. Split the round into equal parts from the top down using a saw or ax. Repeat this as much as required, making sure each subsequent half will fit into your fireplace, furnace, or any other wood-burner you’re using. The wood’s bark is known to seal in moisture, hence, it is important to expose as much inner wood as possible. To achieve an even quicker drying time, you can split the wood into smaller pieces than needed. Also, split the wood into various sizes. You can use small pieces for kindling and larger pieces to ensure that it burns longer.
● Stacking Your Split Wood
Pick an ideal area ideal for stacking, that is, an outdoor area with little or no shade for maximum solar drying. To properly utilize the air, choose an area that is very open to prevailing winds. Try and avoid areas that are prone to flooding or standing water as these will reduce the drying time. To determine the direction of the prevailing wind, you can hold a light material in the air; whatever direction it flows to is most likely the direction of the prevailing wind.
● Create a Raised Bed
Make sure your firewood is not in contact with the ground as moisture may collect below, causing it to rot. You can use any material that won’t absorb water, such as a grid made of horizontally-placed poles. You can also use wooden materials like lumber or pellets that you no longer have a use for. If you’re using a wooden bed, line the top of the bed with tarps, plastic sheeting, or any material that can block the transfer of moisture from the wood underneath to the wood on top. Also, make drainage holes in the materials to avoid water pooling on top.
● Test the Dryness
When testing the dryness, first inspect the color of the wood. While the color varies from species to species, your wood should grow darker as it dries. So, when you first split the wood, take note of how bright it is on the inside to monitor the color change and to ensure it burns properly.
● Smell for Sap
When you first split your wood, smell it, and familiarize yourself with the smell of its sap. Then after drying, pick a sample piece, split it open, and sniff. If you still smell sap, then it needs further drying.
● Test the Bark
To know if your wood is safe for burning, most or all of the bark should have fallen off on its own. If they haven’t, slice the bark off using a knife and inspect the wood underneath. If any pieces appear greenish, then it needs further drying.
● Judge by Density
When you first split the wood, take note of how heavy each piece feels. The same piece should weigh less once it loses enough moisture weight. To double-check that it is dried, hit two pieces together. If they sound hollow, then you’re good to go.
● Build a Fire
If you’re still uncertain, assemble a few pieces of dried wood for a rest fire. If none of the kindling or larger pieces catch fire, then you should give them more time to dry. Also listen for hissing, which is a sign of water.