March 14, 2007 | By: Terri McLean

With the arrival of longer days and warmer temperatures, you might be seeing the light at the end of winter’s tunnel. So the last thing you need to be thinking about is purchasing, splitting, stacking and storing more firewood, right?

Wrong, according to Doug McLaren, forestry specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Whether you heat your home with wood or build only the occasional fire, “this is exactly when you need to start thinking about firewood for next fall and winter,” he said. 

“As with any fine wine, firewood gets better with age. It has to be seasoned to produce the most heat efficiency,” he added.

Because wood is a living plant, it contains water. The more water in the wood, the less heat it will generate when burned. It should be dried to less than 25 percent moisture, which can take a minimum of six months, McLaren explained. 

“If it’s not properly seasoned, most of the heat that is generated is going to be used to continue the drying process of the firewood. But if it is properly dried, the majority of the heat generated will be used to heat your home,” he said. 

In addition to generating less warmth, burning unseasoned firewood is a potential fire hazard. Wet wood produces a smoldering fire that generates creosote buildup in the fireplace and chimney. Over time, this buildup could lead to a chimney fire, McLaren said.

“Inefficient burning of firewood can also lead to a poor draft up the chimney, which in turn can cause smoke-filled rooms,” he added.

McLaren recommends cutting firewood to the required fireplace length and splitting it for quicker drying. Removing the bark also speeds up the process. It should be stacked and dried in an open area with good air flow and kept off wet soil. The top of the wood should be covered to protect it from rainfall, while the sides should be kept open to allow water to evaporate through the ends.

“Don’t stack firewood against the home or a wooden fence because moisture condensation can cause mold and decay on wall sections and wood surfaces,” McLaren said.

Seasoning firewood is not the only task for spring. Now is also the time to move firewood that has been stored inside to an outside location.

“Insects that are in the wood or under the bark are going to become active now and they are going to move from the wood to a more conducive environment, which is going to include your home,” McLaren said.


Doug McLaren, 859-257-2703