If you heat with firewood, you know the drill because every year it’s the same. But for those that are new to heating with firewood, I wanted to get you ahead of the game. It’s not as easy as lighting a fire and going about your business. There is a lot of time, energy and muscle that goes into heating with firewood. I spoke about it a lot in this post. It’s also not a winter only thing. But by prepping firewood for winter now, or even earlier, you will be warm and cozy.
How to start prepping firewood for winter
The first step is to locate an outside space that is about 20-30 feet from your home, with good drainage, sunlight, and airflow.
You don’t want your firewood pile to be too close to the house because of bugs. But you also don’t want it too far away because a hike through the woods in a blizzard is no fun. I have found that the sweet spot is usually about 20-30 feet. If you have the ability to put it next to concrete, like a driveway? That helps too because there is now a physical barrier between your wood pile and home.
Drainage is another thing to consider when looking for a spot for your wood pile. You want to make sure that you have adequate drainage so that your wood pile isn’t sitting in a puddle of water after a hard rain. Our farm is mostly hills so finding a spot that will drain water away from the pile but was still close was a chore. Also we have our wood pile up on pallets and this helps keep it off the ground but cinderblocks work just as well.
Lastly, you want to consider the amount of sunlight that will reach your wood pile. Ideally, you will have your pile in a sunny location that is semi protected from the rain and with good airflow. Without airflow and sun, your wood pile will take forever to dry. This late in the game (September) you need all the help you can get.
PS don’t tarp your wood pile! I KNOW it’s tempting. But if you tarp it there will not be enough airflow to dry out the wood. Condensation will build under the tarp and keep things damp. If you will remember to take it off after a storm? Sure, you can tarp it. But don’t leave it on there.
If you ask my boys how to stack firewood, they’ll tell you, “In a pile?”
But there is more to it than that, and they know it, too. The biggest thing to remember when stacking firewood is to get it up off the ground and to stack bark side up. I’m sure we know why stacking on the ground is bad but indulge me as I explain it to those who may not know.
When you stack firewood straight on the ground you are going to introduce a ton of moisture to the wood. Not only from the ground, but also when it rains the water will hit the ground and splash up. Or if that bottom row stays damp, that moisture will travel through that wood, if only because it can’t dry, and not allow the next row to dry. That goes directly against what we are trying to do, right? We want the wood to be dry and free of rot before we put it in our fireplace, insert or stove.
By keeping firewood off the ground, we are also increasing airflow. If air can move under the wood, it will dry faster. But the most important? All that hard work of cutting, chopping, stacking, etc will be for not, if it rots.
The other part of stacking is keeping the bark side up. Obviously, sometimes you can’t and that’s okay. But keeping the bark side up will allow water to roll off and not absorb into the wood. A moisture meter will be your best friend when it comes to checking if your wood is dry enough to burn. Usually you want about 20% moisture or less.
Lastly, stacking in a # way is unnecessary unless you are trying to dry wood faster. Those stacks are easily knocked over and having to restack firewood is not on my list of good times.
Tools for prepping firewood for winter
Table Grinder– Sharpening your axe or other tools is a great way to extend their life.
Axe- A good axe will get you far with chopping firewood. We use a log splitter for the most part but we will also use an axe.
Hatchet– We use ours to help chop kindling and other smaller pieces that the axe is simply too big for.
Gas powered log splitter- We will be getting this log splitter here in a few months. The electric one works, but a gas one is a lot stronger.
Electric log splitter– This guy is a work horse. I really like using him but the downside is that we can only go so far with an extension cord. It also doesn’t have a ton of muscle to drive through some of the larger or wetter pieces of wood. BUT I would absolutely buy this one again. It has been worth every single penny.
Moisture Meter– As I said above, you will want to check the moisture of your wood to make sure it is drying. We’ve got this one and another brand and it has done well for us.
Types Of Wood
First and foremost, any wood is good wood when you are cold. BUT, there are dangers to using certain woods or green wood. Creosote is a thing and it’s pretty dangerous. So let’s talk about types of woods to use.
Hard woods like maple, ash, birch oak and walnut are great for burning hotter longer. They also don’t produce a ton of smoke.
Soft woods like pine, fir, and cedar are okay and can be used but they don’t burn as hot and will usually be gone quickly.
Green woods are what are really bad for your stove, fireplace or chimney. Green wood produces a ton of creosote and smoke.
Cord- A cord of firewood is 4ftx8ftx4ft stack. If you take 2 pallets and lay them next to each other on the ground, then stand up one behind it that is about a cord of wood filled.
Face Cord- A face cord is about a 1/3 of a cord. It’s usually the “face” of a cord of firewood.
Green wood- is unseasoned wood that has not had a chance to dry. This would be a living tree that you cut down and are using for firewood right now.
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