4 Signs that Firewood is Ready

Firewood on the side of a house.

If stored firewood is not properly dried, it will be very difficult to light, burn unevenly, and cause more frequent cleanings of the wood stove or chimney. Different types of wood take longer to dry such as oak and other hardwoods. Firewood needs to be properly stored and left to dry for a long time before it can be used to burn. Otherwise, you will not only be wasting the wood because it burns inefficiently and you will also have a harder time even getting a fire going.

Firewood Storage

Firewood needs to be stored off of the ground, preferably on something such as a pallet. It should have as much air space as you can allow between each piece. Stacking it in a crisscross formation is best. It should be kept out of the rain and covered with a piece of polyethylene with the exception of the sides. Sunlight will get in to help it dry, and the open sides will help with air ventilation. Freshly cut hardwoods may take as long as a year to properly dry and cure to be ready for burning.

4 Signs Firewood Is Ready

There are a number of ways you can tell that firewood is ready for the oven or fireplace. The state of the bark, the wood’s color, and other features will help you know when the wood is ready to burn. Even though wood may feel dry, that is not sufficient in itself to indicate ready firewood. To help expedite the process, may sure you split the wood soon after cutting it fresh.

1. The State of Bark

If bark remains on the split wood, when it is ready to burn the bark will be falling off. Don’t solely rely on this, though, as your only indicator.

2. Color

Wood that is still too moist to burn is generally richer in color than ready-to-burn wood. Sufficiently dry wood lightens throughout as it gets closer to being ready.

3. Sound

Dry wood, when knocked together, will make a cracking noise. You may see pieces of wood with cracked, split ends which means the ends are dry but not necessarily the middle. Knock pieces together to listen for the crack. If you hear what sounds like a dull thud, the wood is still too moist.

4. Moisture Content

A more scientific approach is to measure the moisture content of the wood. Although this is a bit complicated, it will give you a good idea if the wood is ready. To do this, cut a slice of wood from the middle of a split log and measure its weight. Heat it in an oven between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours and weigh it again. The difference will be the weight of water in the wood. Divide that weight by the weight of the wood after having been dried to get a fractional amount. That amount is the percentage of water in the wood.

Wood that has less than 20% water is ready to burn. Burning firewood before it reaches that state is inadvisable because it is highly inefficient and will be very difficult to light, making it a wasted effort.