How to Cure Firewood
Properly cured firewood burns hotter and cleaner than green wood. Burning "green" wood can lead to creosote deposits in your chimney. Different types of wood are seasoned for different amounts of time. In general, evergreens cure faster than hardwoods like hickory or oak. Cutting, splitting and stacking the firewood with care lends to proper curing.
Cut the Wood
Choose your tree and fell it with a chain saw or axe. Strip off small protruding branches. Top the tree where it is thick enough to start cutting firewood. Depending on your stove or furnace, mark off the length for each piece. Most stoves work well with about 18 to 24 inch lengths. Measure and mark with an axe, chalk or chain saw. Cut the pieces to length. Support the trunk off the ground with cut pieces so you don't dig into the ground with the chain saw. This also makes the pieces cleave out of the way of the axe or chain saw blade as you cut.
Transport the wood to where it is going to be stacked. Now is the time to split the firewood. You can split firewood on pavement or concrete, but repeated splitting will deform pavement, and clean splits will send your axe or maul into the concrete. The best surface for splitting firewood is a flat tree stump. You can also split firewood directly on the ground, but this impregnates the ends with dirt and makes it harder to light or burn them.
Split the firewood. You can use an axe, but count on replacing the handle from inevitable overstrikes. If you use an axe, get a hard rubber handle protector. The longer the firewood, the harder it is to split. A maul is like an axe but is specifically designed to split wood. For large diameter pieces, make the first split from the outside edges into the center to make two halves. Take off wedges like pie slices from the outside. You may need an iron wedge for large pieces. Thinner split wood will burn faster and also season faster.
Stack the firewood. Always stack the firewood off the ground and never directly against a building. Use a wooden pallet or waste pieces from the trees you have cut to support the stack. You can stack the pieces side by side to save space, but remember that air circulation is what will cure the firewood. Don't pack the pieces too closely. Stacking the wood log-cabin style increases airflow and will decrease curing time.
Cure the firewood. Leave the bark on. Cover the stack with clear, heavy plastic sheeting to let the heat of the sun dry the wood but allow air circulation from the sides. It is not necessary to cover the wood unless you get an exceptional amount of rain--the wood dries out mostly from the ends. It takes four months to a year to cure firewood, depending on the type and size. To see if firewood is cured, look for checking and splitting on the ends. The bark should also come off easily. If you weigh a piece just after it is split, you can determine when it has lost its 20% weight in water. Weigh it again in a month or so to see how it is seasoning. When it has lost 20% of its weight, it is cured. If in doubt, leave it for a full year.
Things You Will Need
- Wedge or logsplitter
- Measuring tape
- Consider cutting hard-to-split wood a little shorter--it makes it easier to split. Cedar and other evergreens make excellent kindling. Mix evergreens in with hardwoods like oak and hickory for a hotter fire. Have your chimney swept and inspected annually.
- Always use proper safety gear when cutting and splitting firewood. Eye protection is absolutely necessary, and a full face shield is even better. Shin and foot protection is also necessary.