For many woodburner owners, seasoning your own wood for use as fuel is ideal. It can certainly be more cost effective than buying petrol-forecourt bags of wood. However, before you even sharpen your axe and don your plaid shirt, you need to understand the purpose of seasoning, and plan your process.
Seasoning wood means, on a basic level, to reduce the amount of moisture in the wood in preparation for burning. Moisture takes the form of water and sap, and the more moisture in the wood, the less heat you’ll get when you burn it. The fire’s energy is spent boiling the moisture out, and you are left in the cold. Also, poorly seasoned wood can cause a build-up of creosote in your chimney, as sap and moisture are drawn up and cool as they travel higher. This can be a fire hazard if not swept regularly. Therefore, you should allow plenty of time, no less than 18 months to two years minimum, for your wood to be fully seasoned. Nobody said this would be a quick process.
This is where you learn the literal meaning of Henry Ford’s quote: ‘Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.’
The first thing to do is plan where your wood is going to go once you have split it and are ready to store it. Ideally, locate your would-be-wood-pile somewhere that gets sunlight and is relatively dry. It doesn’t matter too much if it will get rained on, but under an eave or canopy would be perfect. You may also want to consider how close to your house you want the log pile. Nobody fancies a late-night dash through the snow to the other end of your garden to fetch some fresh logs.
Once you have your wood, either from your own land or perhaps kindly donated by a neighbour, you’re about ready to get chopping. You should know the ideal log length for your woodburner. If your logs are too long, they won’t fit. Once you know the length you want, cut your logs into the perfect length – but don’t stack them just yet!
A split log seasons better and quicker than a log covered in bark. The bark will keep the moisture in for longer, and reduce the amount of wood exposed to the air outside. Take your axe (or splitting maul if you want to get specific) and split the logs. This is where you learn the literal meaning of Henry Ford’s quote: ‘Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.’ It can be hard work if you have a large amount of wood to split, but in the end, it is worth it, and incredibly satisfying.
A quick note with regards to using your axe, be sure to wear steel-toe capped boots and goggles when you’re splitting, and avoid letting the blade of the axe hit concrete as this will blunt it and you’ll find yourself working even harder to split wood. At the same time, don’t split wood on soft surfaces like grass as you’ll find yourself forcing the wood into the ground and not actually splitting it. A tree stump or block of hardwood is often a sufficient chopping block.
If this sounds like too much effort, take a look at our selection of pre-chopped kiln-dried hardwood, available in bulk.
Now your logs have been split into ideal seasoning shapes, you can begin stacking. It is important to ensure your logs will not come into contact with the ground, so lay a pallet down or some bricks. Logs that come into contact with the ground are likely to grow mould, begin to rot or simply absorb more moisture, so keep them raised.
Alternatively, purchase a purpose built outdoor logstore.
When stacking logs on your log pile be sure to remember that air circulation is required. If you stack your logs too closely, the air won’t be able to circulate and you’ll slow the seasoning process. If you have a lot of wood, consider several waist height rows of wood as opposed to one enormous wall, as this could become dangerously unbalanced, the wood poorly seasoned and it is notoriously difficult to actually get the wood from the top when you come to burn it.
During the summer months, leave uncovered to allow the sun to work its magic and to allow the moisture to escape – a tarpaulin may end up with condensation on the inside and keep your logs damp. In the winter, keep covered.
The easiest way to gauge how well your seasoning logs are coming along is to use a moisture meter. Simply poke the moisture meter into a log and take a reading. A moisture content of 20% or less is perfect, giving you plenty of heat, but with this just enough moisture to keep the log from burning too quickly.
Finally, when you come to burn your logs, it is a good idea to bring them in the morning before the evening you plan to burn them. This allows any condensation to dry, especially if they’ve come in from the cold outdoors.
How do you season your wood? Have you got any tips for us? Or perhaps you can send us a picture of your logstore! Let us know in the comments below!
If you like the sound of a woodburner, take a look at our huge selection of woodburning stoves.