If you own a wood-burning appliance, such as a stove or fireplace, then you know the importance of properly maintaining a wood pile. If you need a quick refresher or if this is the first time you have chopped your own wood, here is how to cut and store firewood safely.
When to Chop Firewood
As a general rule of thumb, you want to chop firewood around six months before using it. This is especially true if you are obtaining your firewood from a fallen tree. This time frame will give the wood plenty of time to dry out and lose most of its moisture. With that in mind, the best times to split firewood is in late winter and spring, depending on when you will use it.
How to Properly Cut Firewood for Chopping
If you are cutting from a log, you want to make sure the cut is square so that the wood can stand up on its own. Start by de-branching the log and cutting it into small sections from one end to the other. Keep in mind that the shorter the sections are, the easier it is to chop. When clearing away the branches, cut them off in the opposite way they grew.
You should chop the wood on a sturdy and flat surface. An old stump works well for this purpose. Before swinging the ax, keep an eye out for cracks in the surface of the wood. Striking the cracks will make splitting easier. Avoid hitting knots as they can make chopping more difficult. If the knot is unavoidable, then try and work around it as much as possible. Use a wood splitter or maul if the ax cannot safely get through the knot. When chopping wood, wear safety glasses and make sure people and animals are not in the vicinity of your swings.
Once the wood has been safely chopped it is time to store it for use at a later date. While there are plenty of creative ways to store firewood, there are a few basics that you should always keep in mind. This includes where to store it, how to stack it, and how to protect it until it is time to burn.
You do not want to store your firewood inside the house, unless you do not mind it being infested with spiders, ants, mice, and other small creatures. An ideal spot is around 20 feet from your back door, which produces plenty of buffer space for pests. If you stack the wood near a building, make sure you give yourself a few inches of clearance behind the wood. This will allow air to freely travel through the stack and properly season it.
You should stack the firewood off the ground using a rack, posts, or pallets. This will help drain water away from the bottom of the pile during the wet season. Firewood should be stacked in rows that do not extend higher than 4 feet in the air. If you are storing fresh wood, make sure the bark portion is down so that the water can drain easier. Try and stack the wood as neatly as possible and avoid throwing it all into a pile as this can rot the wood and make it difficult to fully season.
Covering the Stack
Your firewood stack needs to be covered to keep it dry throughout the fall and winter. Only cover portions of the pile that are fully dried out. If the wood is not aged yet, leave the front and back open and cover the top few layers. Once the entire stack is dry, you can cover the whole thing until it is ready to burn. Another option is to stack the wood inside a shed or barn, just make sure the doors are always open and that the wood is getting plenty of air flow.