We often think that firewood is too dry if it’s brittle, which can be a sign of being over-dried. However, there are other clues to look for when determining the moisture content of your wood.
Firewood should have some flexibility and spring back when you press on it with your thumb. If the wood feels very light or has lots of cracks in it, then you know that your firewood might be too dry.
The question of whether or not firewood is too dry can be answered by taking a few measurements.
Dry wood will have less than 20% relative humidity, and it should also feel light when picked up. If these two conditions are met then the answer to the question is yes.
The best way to tell whether your firewood is drying out too quickly is by using a moisture meter. This device will measure how much water vapor your wood contains and let you know what kind of condition the wood needs to be in before burning it for heat or cooking purposes.
Firewood like this is too dry to burn indoors, as it could cause a fire hazard.
The right moisture content for burning wood indoors is between 20% and 40%. This varies by the species of tree that was used to create the firewood, but many softwoods should be kept around 30-40% relative humidity before burning them.
Firewood that is too dry can produce smoke when burned, and this will leave soot in your chimney. If the firewood is extremely dry then it could pop or explode while burning.
Keeping firewood at the right moisture content before burning it is essential for getting the most use out of each piece of wood.
Does dry firewood burn longer?
Burning dry firewood is much longer and slower than burning wet unseasoned and semi-seasoned firewood logs.
The amount of moisture present in wood is important because it determines the ease with which it burns and how well it generates heat. If there is too much water in a log, its ability to burn properly is significantly reduced.
If you want less smoke when burning your firewood then burning dry firewood logs is perfect. That’s because dry firewood logs have less water content which means that there will be more carbon in the logs and less of the gases that cause soot or smoke.
This is especially important if you live in an area with air quality issues like Los Angeles that suffer from bad smog and particulate pollution (PM10).
Wet logs can also weigh up to twice what dry ones do and require more time and effort for splitting. The lighter weight of dry wood also makes it easier to move around when stacking or carrying in a fireplace or stove.
Burning dry firewood is easier and faster than using wet wood because it heats better and does not need to be stacked or stored in a pile for as long.
Dry firewood burns hotter than wet logs and produces more BTUs per pound. It also creates less ash, meaning that there will be fewer ashes to clean out of your fireplace.
A common mistake people make is to use wet firewood because it is easier to find and cheaper than dry wood.
If you want a blazing fast and hot fire, then burning wet logs will not give you the result that you desire (especially if it’s been raining for days). Wet firewood is hard to ignite and burn, and it produces a lot of smoke and soot.
Some people think that wet logs will burn better than dry ones because they have more available moisture to burn off. This is not the case, however, and there’s no guarantee that wet firewood will be able to produce enough heat for your purposes.
How long does it take for wet firewood to dry out?
Firewood is a great way to keep your home warm during the winter. But what if you buy wet wood and it takes too long for it to dry out? The longer wet firewood sits, the more mold will form, which can cause breathing problems or other health issues.
It can take freshly cut ‘green’ wood between 6 months and 18 months to dry out naturally. As long as the wood has a low moisture content to begin with and is stacked in a proper environment.
If not, then green wood can take up to 24 months to season.
If you cut your own firewood then you can use a mechanical log splitter. Using one reduces the amount of time it takes for firewood to season by 50% or more.
What works best is a combination of manual and mechanical splitting because it will speed up the process of seasoning wet wood significantly.
Young trees like pine take longer to season than mature hardwoods like maple. Green hardwood may be sold as ‘cordwood’ which is 4′ to 5′ in length and 2″ to 3″ in diameter.
Wood that’s aged for 18 months is the best quality for burning. It should produce a flame rather than smoldering coals, which can cause soot damage to your chimney
To test if firewood is seasoned enough before you burn it, take an axe or hatchet and cut the wood. If it is seasoned enough, it should be hard (but not impossible) to split.
If you are unsure about how dry your firewood is, then err on the side of caution and don’t burn it until it has dried out properly.