Understanding how to tell if wood is properly seasoned is crucial for anyone who uses wood for heating, whether it’s for your fireplace, stove, insert, or campfire. Seasoned wood is wood that has been dried long enough to significantly reduce its moisture content. It burns more efficiently (and safer) than green wood, and it leaves fewer harmful deposits, like creosote, behind too.

But what are the key features of well-seasoned wood? And how can you tell if the wood you’re purchasing or using is going to help you build those quality fires you’re seeking? We’ve got the tips and insight you’re looking for.

Looking to see where your fireplace stands before putting it to more frequent use this fall? Now is the perfect time to book with our experts. Reach out online or give us a call today.

How to Tell if Wood Is Properly Seasoned & Ready To Burn

Properly seasoned wood is crucial for efficient and safe burning. Here are some key indicators to determine if wood is properly seasoned and ready to burn:

original infographic stating qualifies of seasoned wood
  • Weathered Appearance: Seasoned wood typically has a grayish, weathered appearance. Freshly cut wood is usually lighter in color.
  • Cracks & Splits: Look for cracks and splits at the ends of the logs. These indicate moisture has evaporated and the wood has dried out.
  • Loose Bark: On seasoned wood, the bark should be loose and may peel off easily. On green (unseasoned) wood, the bark is tight and difficult to remove.
  • Low Weight: Seasoned wood is lighter than green wood because it has less water inside.
  • Hollow Sound: When you knock two pieces of seasoned wood together, they should produce a sharp, hollow sound. Green wood will produce a dull thud.
  • Low Moisture Meter Reading: When using a moisture meter, properly seasoned wood should show a moisture content between 15-25%.
  • Long Drying Time: Most hardwoods take about 6-12 months to season properly, depending on the climate and storage conditions.

Tips When Seasoning Your Own Firewood

The best way to know the wood you’re using is properly seasoned is to season it yourself! Here’s how to go about this process.

  1. Cut to length. Cut the logs to the appropriate length for your fireplace or wood stove, typically around 16-18 inches.
  2. Split the wood. Split the logs into smaller pieces. Splitting exposes more surface area to air, which helps the wood dry out faster.
  3. Pick an optimal location. Select a sunny, well-ventilated location to place your wood pile, and avoid low spots where water can accumulate.
  4. Use a base. Stack the wood on pallets, concrete blocks, or a wood rack to keep it off the ground. This prevents moisture from the ground from seeping into the wood.
  5. Stack your wood. Stack the wood loosely to allow air circulation, aiming to create a steady stack, while also ensuring there is space between the logs.
  6. Cover the top. Cover the top of the stack with a tarp or solid roof to protect it from rain and snow – but leave the sides open to allow airflow.
  7. Let the wood dry. Firewood typically takes 6 months to a year to season properly. Keep in mind that hardwoods like oak and maple take longer than softwoods like pine and spruce.
  8. If possible, use a moisture meter. If you think your wood is ready for use, confirm so with a moisture meter. Properly seasoned wood should have a moisture content of 25% or less.

Is there a way to speed up the wood seasoning process?

You could try cutting smaller and thinner pieces of wood, lining it up in single rows, and doing everything possible to maximize sun and wind exposure. Choose a sunny, open location with good wind exposure, and elevate the wood on pallets or racks to allow air to circulate underneath. Ensure there are gaps between the logs for better airflow and consider criss-cross stacking at the ends for stability and additional ventilation.

Periodically rotate the wood pieces to expose different sides to the air, and if possible, use a fan to increase airflow through the stack.

Is a Moisture Meter Worth It?

Yes absolutely. Moisture meters are an inexpensive tool you can get from various hardware stores or even through Amazon. They’re affordable, easy to get, and can end up saving you lots of stress and chimney issues in the future.

Using a moisture mete is easy too – it should have two pins that you simply stick into the firewood, after which you’ll get your reading.

This is an especially useful tool to have if you’re purchasing wood, as opposed to seasoning your own. Just because some claims to sell “seasoned hardwood,” doesn’t mean it’s actually seasoned hardwood…and burning wet wood can have various negative impacts on how well you fires burn and how quickly creosote builds up in your flue.

We’re Here To Answer Your Questions

Properly seasoned wood is essential for efficient and safe wood-burning. By learning to recognize the signs of well-dried wood, you can ensure your fires burn hotter, produce less smoke, and reduce creosote buildup in your chimney.

Remember, taking the time to properly season your wood or to purchase well-seasoned wood is a worthwhile investment in both safety and performance! Any questions, give us call. We’re here to help.