What a wonderful time of year. For many of us, the Christmas tree is now up, the gift-giving shopping spree has commenced and the festivities that surround this time of year are in full swing.
But for those cosy nights in – snuggled up in your PJs, watching Christmas classics with a hot chocolate or mulled wine to hand, nothing beats a traditional crackling hot wood-burning fire to really set the festive mood.
If you’re a wood fire owner, as the festive season sets in, now is the time to stock up your wood store for the weeks ahead.
There’s certainly a knack to keeping your wood store in tip-top condition in order to get the best out of your wood burner or fireplace. After all, there’s something rather disappointing about throwing wood on the fire that has become spoiled due to incorrect storage.
If you’re a newbie to the science of wood-burning fires and log storage or looking for some helpful tips and advice, this article is for you.
We’re here to provide you with our top tips for storing firewood so that you can keep the fire toasty and warm this Christmas.
Before we delve into the best practices of storing firewood, it’s important to know what different types of wood can and can’t be burnt on a fire.
In short, no.
It’s a common misconception that freshly cut wood from trees can be burnt on a fire. We call this type of timber green wood.
Burning green wood will cause creosote build-up in your chimney which can seep into the brickwork of the chimney. It’s much harder to light than dryer wood, there will be minimal heat output and it won’t burn for long.
However, most importantly, burning green wood will cause a dangerous amount of smoke in your home, as well as a carbon monoxide build up as it burns off the moisture, which is incredibly dangerous.
This is because green wood is unseasoned, meaning it hasn’t dried out. The process of drying wood out is called seasoning, and it can take up to 2 years. During this time, the moisture can evaporate off before you put it on the fire, making it much safer and far cleaner when you burn it off.
Once the wood has been seasoned, the moisture percentage drops and it is safe to burn indoors. It is recommended that you only burn wood with a maximum of 20% moisture.
So, when it comes to choosing wood for your fire, you can either buy pre-seasoned wood, or you can season the wood yourself.
Seasoning your own firewood is one of the most eco-friendly ways to source firewood.
If you have access to your own wood source – maybe you or a neighbour has recently cut down a dead tree or you have a friend or family member who has their own source of wood, why not make use of the timber available to you?
The best time of year to start your seasoning is in the spring. Softwoods can be dried within 6 months, but it’s important to note that hardwoods can take up to 2 years to reach optimal dryness.
Examples of softwoods include Spruce, Alder, Cedar and Fir. Hardwoods include Cherry, Birch, Ask and Oak.
There are two natural elements that play a key role in seasoning firewood. The first being sun and the second being wind.
The best place to store your unseasoned firewood is within a log store, positioned in a space where it gets plenty of sunlight and wind exposure. But, the most important thing is that the timber is protected from the rain.
Any exposure to moisture will slow down the drying process.
A log store will ensure that the stack is kept dry, whilst enabling air to circulate around the logs, which is essential for the drying process.
Without proper circulation – for example, if you stack your woodpile on the ground without a log store, the air cannot circulate, the logs will not dry and mould spores can form.
Once mould spores form, the logs are no longer suitable for burning indoors.
In order to stack your log timber for drying, you’ll need to chop the wood into smaller pieces.
You can cut your logs to any size, but bear in mind that the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will dry. Typical log sizes are around 14-17 inches in length and 6-8 inches in diameter, but of course, if you’re seasoning the timber yourself, you can cut the logs to a size that works for your fireplace.
As we have said, air circulation is really important for the drying process. If you tightly pack in your logs, you risk damp building up within your store.
You should never stack logs directly on the ground. Moisture can move up from the ground and through the entire store. If you’re using a log store, the bottom pallet will be raised, enabling you to raise the stack off of the ground.
The best practice is to stack the logs in a criss-cross formation so that you keep an adequate amount of airflow. Stacking with the log ends facing out of the store will support the drying out of the wood.
Try not to over cram the log store. Log stores are available in a range of sizes and shapes, so find a store that works for you.
You’ll want to aim for maximum wind and sun exposure when drying out your logs.
But let’s be honest, we live in a rather rainy part of the world, and when you’re trying to season your timber, rain isn’t ideal for the drying process.
To keep the rain off, you can cover your store with a tarpaulin sheet for a short period of time. However, keep the tarpaulin loose, rather than pressed up against the end of the logs. This will allow the logs to breathe and any evaporating moisture will be able to escape.
As soon as the rain stops, take the tarpaulin off to allow the drying-out process to continue.
You can get a rough gauge based on the type of timber you have used, how long you have been drying it for and how successful you’ve been at keeping it dry.
You can buy a moisture metre which will give you a reading of the log moisture content. Fully seasoned wood should read between 15 and 20%.
However, if you don’t have a moisture metre, there are a few physical checks that you can do to ensure that your timber is firewood-ready.
should be fragile, flaky and loose
should be lighter in colour
should have some physical cracks and splits
should feel lighter than a piece of green wood of similar size
should have a higher knocking pitch when you tap to pieces of seasoned log together
Well, it’s not ideal…
The best place to store your firewood is outside. And there are a few reasons for that.
Firstly, logs are the perfect home for spiders, mice, ants and other creepy crawlies. So, unless you’re willing to welcome some additional housemates, it’s best that the wood stays outside.
But from a practical standpoint, we know that timber needs air circulation, and indoors there is less available airflow than outdoors.
You’ll want to choose a dry and breezy spot. A log store is the best way to keep your logs all in one place, dry and well ventilated.
A paved or shingle surface is better than a lawn or decked area as there will be less ground moisture underneath the store.
If you have an overhang on your house, garage or outbuilding, this can also be the ideal spot for your log store.
If you have a garage, with available space, it’s absolutely fine to store logs in your garage, as long as it is dry and damp-free.
It’s also important to ensure that the wood its self is dry before you store it. If it is still damp, you may be better leaving it to dry outdoors in the sun for a while, before bringing it into the garage.
You’ll still need somewhere raised off the ground to store your logs, just in case there is a leak or flood in your garage. For that, a log store is still your best option.
And of course, if you use your garage as a workshop or somewhere to store cars, motorbikes or other vehicles with a fuel source, it’s really important to keep the firewood well away from any ignition sources, welders or other flammable or heat sourcing equipment.
Don’t just chuck your logs into the store. You’ll completely defeat the object of using a log store if you neglect the stacking process.
Keep your store organised. Give them a bit of love and stack them neatly, whilst ensuring there are gaps between logs and remember to rotate your stock.
Like anything outdoors, the log store its self will be exposed to the elements. On a dry day, clear your logs store and remove any weeds or cobwebs that have formed.
Sweep away any leaves and debris from flaking logs from underneath the store that could be trapping moisture.
Under the right conditions, firewood can have a shelf life of around 3-4 years. You may be picking up on a running theme here, but it’s all in how you store the firewood.
Keeping the stack away from moisture and in a space where the air can circulate is the key.
As soon as moisture builds up, the wood will rot and will be no good for burning.
A log store in the right place, and covered, when necessary, will ensure that your logs last through the seasons.
Here at Equestrian Fencing, we specialise in all things timber. We sell a range of logs stores, available in a selection of sizes. They are specifically designed for log seasoning and storage throughout the seasons.