July might seem early to be talking about wood supply, but its actually about two or three months late, depending on when you first fire up the woodstove in the fall. The importance of properly seasoned fuel for your woodburning appliance can’t be overstated. Wet wood burns poorly and inefficiently, causes excessive smoke and doesn’t provide as much heat as properly seasoned wood.
The ideal moisture content for firewood is between 15 and 20%. Inexpensive moisture meters are available to test your wood but if you don’t have one, here are some signs that your wood is too wet, compliments of woodheat.org:
- Difficulty getting a fire going and keeping it going
- Smoky fire with little flame
- Dirty glass
- Rapid creosote buildup in the chimney
- Low heat output
- The smell of smoke in the house
- Short burn times
- Excessive fuel consumption
- Blue-gray smoke from the chimney.
If you’ve invested in a modern, EPA-certified wood burning appliance it will perform best if you only burn seasoned, dry wood. Even older model appliances burn more efficiently and cleaner with proper wood fuel.
Properly splitting and stacking your wood supply right away will also help to minimize mould growth.
- Cut, split and stack your wood in early spring to be ready for fall.
- Cut the wood to the right length for your appliance – about 3” shorter than the width or length of your firebox (depending on how you like to load the wood).
- Split the wood before stacking – in log form, moisture is held in by the bark, so split your wood before you stack it. A variety of sizes is best, from 3” to 6” at the widest cross section, so you have smaller pieces for lighting the fire.
- Pile in a single row exposed to the sun and wind to allow for proper drying.
- Dry the wood for at least 6 months. Most wood will dry well within this time frame, with the exception of dense woods such as oak, which require up to a year to dry. In damper climates, such as the Maritimes, it may also take longer to dry your wood supply.
You can also loosely cover your wood to keep the rain off, but it isn’t necessary.
For building plans for a simple wood storage shed, visit the US EPA’s Burn Wise website.