The frustration of wood that won't burn!
by Joan Logan
(Lake Grove, NY)
I purchased a cord of wood in August and, in hindsight, didn't ask the right questions. Since I am single it took me almost 1 month to carry the wood from my driveway and stack it on my wood rack. I tried to cover it up so moisture wouldn't touch it. I guess that wasn't necessary? When the weather was cold, the wood seemed to burn ok but the fire needed a lot of tending. Then we had major snow storms and the wood rack was completely covered with snow.
It was then that the wood wouldn't burn at all. The wood that was completely covered by the tarp and then the snow on top of it won't burn. No matter what I use...starter bricks, starter pellets, newspaper, etc., the fire seems to just go around the wood. I have never seen anything like it as I have had fireplaces before. Once the starter goes out I am hard pressed to keep the fire burning. Sometimes if I am lucky and I tend the fire intensely, I can keep it going but the enjoyment is gone. The funny thing is that I thought this was the best job I ever did of keeping the wood covered!
SO, what did I do wrong? I was under the impression that no moisture should get on the wood and it should stay completely dry otherwise I would render it useless. Does rain reverse the seasoning process? I am so frustrated! What can I do to make this wood burnable?
I'm sorry to hear about the problems that you are experiencing. I'll try my best to explain things so that you can avoid problems in the future.
It appears that you bought firewood that wasn't fully seasoned, transferred it to a firewood rack and then covered it. The problem with covering firewood is that doesn't allow the wood to continue to season because it eliminates the two factors that affect drying - sunlight and air circulation. The only time that I recommend fully covering firewood is when it is already fully seasoned and you live in a wet climate. Otherwise, it's best to only cover the top of the stack and allow the air and sunlight to be exposed to the sides of the stack.
Can firewood absorb moisture? Absolutely, but unless it rains constantly, firewood will dry more effectively without any covering compared to being fully covered. The only time that you need to worry about rain reversing the seasoning process is when you are dealing with fully seasoned wood. From the sounds of it, the wood that you ordered was not fully seasoned.
What can you do now? Not much, I'm afraid. The only thing at this point in the year would be to split the wood into smaller pieces. This makes burning a little bit easier when dealing with wet firewood. That being said, it is still going to be an endeavor that requires attention.
I hope this helps.
All the best,