Once winter blows out and the spring buds start to peak from the tree branches, we tend to put the cold of winter out of our minds. Most of us prefer not to think about it until we start to feel a chill come back into the air during the autumn. However, people don't often realize that it is likely too late to store firewood effectively by this point. It is more likely to take much longer to cut and dry firewood. That is why it is best to think ahead, cutting most of your firewood in the summer.
In this article, we run you through why it is important to season firewood during the summer months, how to do it, and how to store it once you have cut and seasoned it. By the time we are done, you will be a summer seasoning pro.
Why is it Important to Season Firewood in the Summer?
Using summer gives you plenty of time to prepare compared to cutting and seasoning your wood right before the winter weather hits. There are also several other reasons why you should use the summer to cut and season your firewood.
One of the biggest disadvantages to the summer months is also one of its greatest advantages. You might be sweating buckets while you are outside trying to chop down trees or find and collect kindling. However, the heat of the summer exponentially speeds up the entire process of seasoning. Unless you live in an area of high humidity, the dry air also helps to suck out moisture faster.
We should caveat this with a warning against heat exhaustion. The heat helps us season our firewood so much faster but can also lead to heatstroke and dehydration. Be sure to stay cool and hydrated when seasoning and storing firewood during the summer months by taking breaks in the shade as often as you need.
Free of winter snow and ice
As the autumn months close into winter, you get more chances of blizzards blowing through, ice patches freezing over, and other weather that will ultimately stop you from taking your tractor or other vehicles very far. That is why it is important to dry out your firewood before winter hits.
Low moisture levels
Low moisture levels during the summer are another added benefit. Most places tend to get rain less frequently, and the lack of moisture in the air helps to suck out the moisture remaining in the felled trees. If you live in a particularly humid place, this might not ring true. However, windy, hot, dry days make the perfect combination for seasoning firewood in most areas.
What equipment you need to season firewood
Now that we have you convinced that getting an early start is the best way to prepare firewood, you will want to know how to do it. There are various methods people use to accomplish this task. Overall, it primarily depends on the climate you live in and the equipment that you have.
You can't control the climate you live in without moving. However, you can be informed when it comes to the kind of equipment you need. Many of us who aren't seasoned firewood harvesters still picture an ax and a saw when prepping firewood, but using modern tools allows you to go through the process much faster and with less effort.
The equipment you may want to have on hand is as follows:
- Front loader
- Electric hand saw
- Moisture meter
- Hauling cart
- Storage area
Having a tractor or a front loader isn't necessary. These pieces of equipment simply make your job much easier when it comes to moving felled trees around. The chainsaw is the most important part of the process of preparing firewood. If you don't have a chainsaw and need to prepare plenty of firewood, it is well worth the investment.
A moisture meter isn't vital, either, but it will help ensure that your wood's moisture content is less than 20%, reducing the smoke the wood gives off to a safe amount for indoor usage. Low moisture levels will also make it easier to light a fire and to keep the wood burning. Thoroughly dried firewood also produces less creosote, which is a byproduct of wood combustion that is mostly tar. There are traces of it in wood smoke, but the drier the wood, the less that escapes into the smoke.
The final piece of equipment that you will find useful is a storage area. If you don't already have one, it is worth spending the time that the wood seasons to either build one or clear out space. You can either build one or you can use a seasoning shed specifically for your firewood.
How to season firewood
Seasoning firewood is necessary because of the way that wood stores moisture. Before becoming firewood, a tree is essentially made up of tiny long tubes of cells running all the way up the tree. Moisture exists in all of these cells as "free water" locked into cell walls.
As soon as you fell a tree, the process of drying begins. First, the free water has to evaporate from the cells. Once that happens, the tree's moisture is at about 30%. From that point, the water beings to leave the cell walls. It is at this point that you will notice the wood begins to crack and shrink.
You start the process of seasoning firewood by cutting down trees or harvesting recently felled trees. Don't use trees that have been down for a while since they are more likely to have started rotting or have mold growths.
Once you have cut the trees down with a chainsaw, use a tractor to move them so that they lay in the sun in an open field, or in your yard. Leave them there for about two weeks so that they have time to dry out. It is best to leave the leaves and branches on them at this point since the leaves will suck moisture out of the wood faster as they wilt.
Firewood seasoning sheds cut seasoning time in half to provide ready-to-use firewood faster and more efficiently than ever before. Check out ShelterLogic's line of seasoning sheds here.
The other option at this point is to cut the tree into rounds and leave the wood in the direct sun for a month before you stack it. The more of the wood that is exposed to the sun, the faster it will all dry.
Once they have been there for a week or two and the heat has reduced your dry time, you should be ready to cut or chop the trees into rounds and then smaller pieces. For convenience, you can use a front loader to lift one end of the tree so that your chain doesn't drag on the ground and you don't have to bend so far while you cut.
From this point, it is up to you what shape you prefer your firewood. You can continue to use your chainsaw, an electric hand saw, or use an ax to finish the splitting process.
How to store firewood
It is essential to stack and store your firewood safely before the cool, wet months of autumn set in. A couple of more humid, drizzly days can set your exposed wood back by a week. There are numerous of firewood storage do's and don'ts to consider.
To store firewood, stack all of the dried pieces up on top of each other in a firewood shed or in a part of your home or garage. You shouldn't lay them right on the ground since there is often moisture still in the soil. Instead, set them on a concrete pad or use a firewood rack. Always make sure they are completely covered so rain and mist can't sink into the top layers.
Depending on your needs, you can opt for a small or large firewood seasoning shed. Make sure to position your shed so that at least one end of the firewood will be exposed to the sun for at least a portion of sunny days. That will help stop the wood from slowly taking moisture back into the wood.
Winter Preparedness 101
Cutting involves a lot of physical exercise, and doing it in the summer can feel like an even bigger chore than it will in cooler months. However, the amount of time it can take during the wet months of spring or autumn makes it an even more time-consuming and arduous process. The summer months are the best time to get started, using the heat to make your job even easier. If you struggle to work in the heat of the day, try only to go out and cut wood and fell trees in the early morning.
Having your firewood ready and seasoned means being able to relax once the weather starts cooling down. It might feel early to start thinking about it, but it ends up being worth it as the weather becomes wetter.