How to dry your own firewood: a perfectly simple guide
When making the adventurous decision of drying firewood yourself, it’s vital to be prepared before the process begins. Since most wood has a moisture content of around 30% to 50% — and in order to burn effectively, this needs to be reduced to around 15% to 20% — effective wood drying takes knowledge, technique and time.
To begin, let’s answer some of the important questions around the drying process.
What kind of wood is best to choose for firewood?
While softwood is easier to find, cut and split, and even dries a little faster, hardwood is usually recommended for firewood. This is because it burns longer and you would need around twice as much softwood to produce the same amount of heat. Softwood does come in useful for getting fires started because they burn easily and make a good base. But hardwood is the go-to firewood for that warm, roaring flame and emotive fireside living feeling.
When is your firewood dry?
The first sign is that the wood is much lighter than when it was cut since a large part of the water has dispersed, plus the bark may be peeling fairly easily from the wood. It may also be bleached or of a different colour than when it was initially cut, and with some wood, cracks appear at the end of the log when it’s dry enough to burn.
Notice also the small details at the ends of the logs: they should feel warm to the touch and dry, rather than moist and cold like when they were cut before.
One trick that seasoned firewood dryers use is hitting two pieces of the dried wood together and listening for the sound it makes. While wet wood makes an unmistakable thud as it comes together, dry wood will sound hollow and lighter.
If you are still unsure as to whether your wood is dry, try using a piece on an already lit fire. Dry wood will catch fire very quickly, usually within one minute, whereas wet wood won't light and may even sizzle when it touches the fire. This is the sound of the undispersed water touching the flame.
Even slightly wet wood means more smoke and very little heat produced in comparison to properly dry wood, making the whole process less efficient and reducing the wood’s sustainability level.
With that in mind, here’s our perfectly simple guide for a thorough and more environmentally conscious drying method.
How to dry firewood
To create your own seasoned firewood, find and cut your sustainably sourced wood in spring or at the start of summer. It needs six-plus months to dry out, so if it’s cut in autumn or winter, the firewood won't dry out enough to be usable in the following year. Drying time is particularly important when it comes to larger cuts or species like oak — these can easily take over a year to dry.
Getting ahead is easy. Simply ensure your woodcuts are of the correct length and size for the wood burner you intend to use them for. It’s very easy to forget about this step, but it is hugely critical for when you come to use it. Cutting wood smaller to the size of your burner or fire pit means it dries quicker and there’s no need to do anything else to it before burning aside from waiting for it to dry.
When considering how you’ll store it, remember that the best place to dry your fresh cuts is outside. While it might seem obvious to put the wood into a woodshed or somewhere else sheltered from the elements, this also means your logs aren’t getting the airflow or sunlight that helps them dry faster. Putting the wood inside actually means drying can take up to double the time it does outdoors.
To begin drying, set up your storage area so the wood will not rot. Firstly, use old pallets or something similar as a base to lift the wood from the ground. Secondly, where possible, prepare a makeshift roof so that sun and heat can still reach the wood, but rain for a large part cannot. Then stack the cut wood in a single row upwards. This is to help the sun and wind reach the cut ends to draw out the moisture and speed up the drying process.
How to kiln dry firewood
To expedite the process by quite a margin, a firewood kiln can be used. This is a much more popular route for today’s fire enthusiast. Kiln drying is fundamentally force-drying with temperatures reaching up to 70 degrees. This means the drying process takes only days (up to a week) rather than months to years.
The freshly cut wood is placed into metal cages and put inside the kiln, where the sheer heat and a large fan keep up air circulation. The process draws moisture out, allowing any water deep within the firewood to escape.
The benefits of kiln-dried logs demonstrate why they have become so popular in recent years. They are built for performance: complete dryness makes them easier to light, they burn well and provide a higher output of heat. They also burn cleanly since there’s no excess water causing more smoke than necessary, keeping your burner and air much cleaner. Kiln-dried logs are natural still and can be achieved sustainably.
Kiln-drying can be done at home, but due to the cost of the apparatus, the space the oven takes up and the nature of the heat and energy, it’s much simpler to purchase kiln-dried wood.
To make your fireside life a little easier, we’d love for you to let us do the hard work for you. Our firewood, including our kiln-dried varieties, come ready to burn and are delivered right to your home. You can rest assured that your fire is safe and sustainable: simply sit back and enjoy the flames.