Firewood Drying Tips
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When every dollar counts, it is important to get the most heat you can from your firewood. The solution is to make sure it is dry before you burn it. That can take 12 months or more. If you burn dry wood in your wood stove or fireplace regularly, you’ll experience great savings. And, it will take less work to build a fire with dry firewood.


 
 

Use a wood moisture meter to check. Just insert the meter tip into the long side of a split piece of wood and test it. If you don’t have a meter, there are other ways to tell if your wood is seasoned. Moisture meters are available at retail locations and online for $25 and up.

  1. Cut the wood to the right length.
    The wood you purchased or cut yourself should fit easily in your wood stove or fireplace. A good rule of thumb is to make sure it is about three inches shorter than the firebox width or length.
  2. Split your wood before stacking it.
    After you determine the proper length, split the wood so it is the right width. This is usually no more than six inches in diameter. Splitting the wood in advance of stacking it increases exposure to air, which improves the drying process.
  3. Check the moisture content.
    After splitting the firewood, use a moisture meter to check the starting moisture content. The goal is 20 percent moisture content.
  4. Stack your wood in alternate directions.
    This spacing allows for better circulation and further reduces moisture content.
  5. Store your firewood off the ground.
    Build a wood shed or a structure to keep firewood six inches or more off the ground. This will help protect the bottom of the wood pile from moisture.
  6. Cover the top, but leave the sides exposed.
    The best option is to build a structure that has a roof. You can use a tarp to cover the top of the woodpile. When using a tarp be careful not to have the tarp hang over the sides so moisture is trapped. In warm summer months, you might want to remove the tarp to speed up the drying process.
  7. Store the wood for at least 12 months.
    It’s hard to wait, but the best way to know you are burning dry wood is to not burn it for at least 12 months.

Attend a local “Get More Heat from Firewood” Event. Check out the latest wood burning tips and tools that can help you get more heat from your firewood.

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Wet Wood Is Water. Wet firewood boils when it burns. With wet wood, it can be harder to get a fire going and more difficult to keep it burning. Wet firewood also produces a less than cozy fire with little heat. Knowing these things, it just makes sense to burn dry firewood.

All Wood Needs Seasoning. No matter where you get your wood – on your property, on public lands, or from an independent firewood seller or retailer – it needs to be seasoned. Don’t trust that it has already been dried. Test it.

Follow Master Burner Traditions. All wood burners who follow the traditional method of building wood fires make sure to burn firewood that has been seasoned for more than 12 months. There are other steps to the Master Burner Code of Conduct, but this is the most important.

Dry Firewood is the Right Fuel. When you mix the right fuel with the right actions, the potential for a hotter fire increases. This applies whether you are using a wood stove or a fireplace.

Wood Stove or Fireplace Insert Tips

  • Remove extra ashes before you start the fire, but leave an inch of ash.
  • Start with a small fire with dry kindling or firestarters and a few pieces of firewood.
  • Start fire with the damper or air control completely open.
  • Burn the fire for a while to get the chimney or flue hot before adding more firewood.
  • Adjust the damper or air flow control as the fire burns.
  • Keep space between the firewood as you add more wood to the fire.
  • Do not let the fire smolder.
  • Keep the doors closed unless you are adding more wood.

Fireplace Tips

  • Remove extra ashes before you start the fire, but leave an inch of ash.
  • Start with a small fire with dry kindling and a few pieces of firewood.
  • Make sure the damper is completely open.
  • Keep space between the logs as you add more wood to the fire.
  • Do not let the pieces of firewood smolder.

Fireplaces are Not Heaters. If you are using a fireplace to try to generate heat, you are more likely to be wasting your time and money. That’s because an open fireplace draws heat from your home up through the chimney. A fire from a fireplace feels cozy because it warms the area right in front of the fireplace. However, a fireplace—without a fireplace insert installed—is better for ambiance or comfort in a home versus heat. To save your firewood and resources for your wood stove, use a manufactured firelog in your fireplace. If you do use firewood, make sure it is well seasoned.

Burn Untreated Wood and No Garbage. It is illegal to burn anything except untreated wood and manufactured firelogs. It is important that you do not burn household garbage, plastics, chemically treated paper or garbage.

Burn Safely. Always remove and dispose of ashes carefully. Other good safety tips include having your wood stove serviced, or at a minimum, replace your stove door gasket and have your chimney cleaned annually. It is also wise to use stove or fireplace accessories when building a fire.

For more information, watch the Clean Home Heating Video

Dry Firewood Correctly

  • Season firewood for 12 months or more.
  • Build a wood shed or structure to dry firewood.
  • Keep firewood covered correctly.
  • Use firewood that contains less than 20 percent moisture.

Pass on Traditional Firewood Drying Techniques

  • Invite a fellow wood burner the next time you purchase or cut firewood so you can share the techniques.
  • Invite fellow wood burners to your house to see how you dry firewood and ask them to join you as a Master Burner.
  • Help a neighbor build a wood shed and set up his/her firewood drying process.

Strive to Improve Techniques with Innovation

  • Be sure to follow the Master Burner Firewood Drying Tips.
  • Constantly seek to improve your skills to become more observant and a better Master Burner.

Burning Techniques Matter, Too

  • Always build hot fires to get more heat and reduce smoke.
  • Never let a fire smolder, especially overnight.

Respect the Community

  • Show respect for your community by only burning dry firewood.
  • Check WaBurnBans.net for a possible burn ban before lighting a fire.
  • Always follow burn ban guidelines.

Understand Wood Buying

  • Always get a permit to cut firewood on public land.
  • Always verify that the wood purchased from an independent firewood seller contains less than 20 percent moisture. If it isn't, you will need to dry it for several months before you can burn it.

Build Safe Fires

  • Exercise caution at all times.
  • Have your chimney cleaned annually by a CSIA certified chimney sweep.
  • If smoke leaks out of your appliance, have the problem fixed ASAP.

It’s important to get a green light before you start burning wood in order to protect the ones you love and the people you value in your community. Weather patterns and terrain in the Pacific Northwest can create challenges for burners. There are some nights when weather conditions create a situation in which smoke can get trapped low to the ground. This is especially a health problem for young children and people with asthma.

You can help by checking the weather patterns and by seeking the advice of weather professionals at local agencies (contact info below) or by visiting WaBurnBans.net for information that applies to your community.

Burn Ban Information
Washington Department of Ecology
Chimney Safety Institute of America
AirWatchNorthwest
Firewood Cutting Information
Wallace Stoves
Northwest Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

This site is funded by the Northwest Air Quality Communicators and its partner air quality organizations. For questions, contact Administrator at AirWatch Northwest or visit your local air agency's website, linked below.

Benton Clean Air Agency
(509) 943-3396

Northwest Clean Air Agency
(360) 428-1617

Olympic Region Clean Air Agency
(360) 539-7610

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
(206) 343-8800

Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency
(509) 477-4727

Southwest Clean Air Agency
(360) 574-3058

Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency
(253) 798-6500

Washington Dept. of Ecology
(360) 407-6800