Treat your firewood right

By Martin Klein

There’s an old saying but I can’t quite remember it word for word, so I’ll hijack it for my own purpose (writers and poets can do that). It says, “You only get out of your firewood what you put into it”. Having been in the business of selling firewood for many years, I could tell you some real-life horror stories about firewood neglect, such as, “Just unload it out back. Stack it on top of the wood that’s already there”. Well, how do you stack a load of clean, well seasoned, premium hardwood on top of a pile of rotten pulp and still sleep at night? It pays cash money, but it hurts. You get the idea.

So let me give you some tips on how to keep your firewood happy and dry so when the last goose has gone south and the snow begins to fly, you’ll be able to feel the heat.

Whether putting up green split wood for the next season’s use, or already seasoned wood for present use, always consider ahead of time where you will stack it. In my neck of the woods, the winds usually prevail from the west and that’s an important factor in the drying process. Because that’s the same direction from which will come the most precipitation. And contrary to a popular belief that letting it rain on your firewood helps it season, I firmly believe that it simply makes it wet.

I don’t want rain blowing through my stacks of wood, so I stack it all east-west lengthwise in rows however long. In my case, 24 foot rows. In this position, most of the rain will be aimed at the end of the stack instead of the side, thus keeping the wood much dryer, and since drying is what it’s all about, I never let my wood touch the ground. Wooden shipping pallets are the way to go when stacking wood.

In this life there are no free lunches,but there are gobs of free pallets. Many businesses are glad to have them taken away, but I always ask before I take. Never stack your wood directly on the dirt. This not only rots the bottom layers, it also invites bug infestation. A good method of preparation is to lay down a length of black roofing paper and set the pallets on top. This deters bugs and keeps the grass from growing under the stack.

So, now for the stacking. The best method of stacking green split firewood for seasoning that I know of is the chimney-stack method. Since wood must rest on wood, and air flow is king in the drying process, I always start the stack by laying down two pieces E/W about 16 inches apart, then two more on top of that in N/S position, back and forth until I reach the desired height of about 4 to 5 feet, and it looks somewhat like a wooden chimney with plenty of airflow between pieces and up through the middle. I repeat the process one chimney formation after another until my entire row is finished. Some stackers may wish to use three pieces on three.

Chimney-stacking is quite a form of art, and with time, one can learn how to manipulate the varied shapes of the firewood to form a good sturdy stack that is pleasing to the eye as well. After all, nobody wants to look at an ugly stack of wood. My rows are usually two stacks deep, but no more than that. Two stacks side by side tend to be more stable, especially if they lean slightly against each other. Most pallets are wide enough for that, and then some. I place my rows far enough apart so that a lawnmower can fit between them comfortably. A bagger-mower, for the obvious reason.

Finally, cover the top of your stacks. I use the old ripple-style metal sheet roofing. I have holes drilled down the length of each side of the sheet for tying it down against the wind. Plywood works, as well. Polytarps tend to sag and collect rainwater. They also leak with exposure to the elements, so I use them only as a shield against snow in the winter.

Hey, where did summer go? It’s late September, and 50 degrees feels cold. I think I’ll fire up the stove!

Happy Woodburning!

Add your comments to Martin's Letters from the Woodlot

Do you have a comment or anything to add to this story? Share it!

Return to Firewood Home Page

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Share it with your friends! Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.