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How should I season and store wood for my stove?

Posted by Anna Carlini on 26 October 2016 at 12:05 pm

What are the aims of wood storage and why it is so important?

I spoke to Stewart McIlroy, SuperHomer and wood stove owner about his advice for wood storage. Stewart says that the main aim of storing wood is to ‘season’ it. Newly chopped wood contains a high percentage of water which must be dried out before it reaches your stove. After all, you cannot burn water and, when you try, it goes up the chimney as steam. This steam takes a lot of heat with it and causes more air pollution than necessary.

Seasoning wood reduces its moisture content to as low a level as practical, which is necessary for the wood to burn efficiently and cut emissions. The moisture content of timber is a measure of the relative weight of water to that of solid wood, with green wood at about 40% moisture. The target is to reduce the moisture content to 20% or less, as burning poorly seasoned wood can create a build-up of harmful deposits in the flue, damaging your chimney and increasing the risk of a chimney fire. 

Although it is recommended to leave freshly cut timber to season for two years before burning, this does not have to be the case if you season efficiently using the right wood storage system. It need not take up too much room and can even enhance the look of your garden. 

Building your wood storage

Seasoning needs wind and sun to dry the wood, so the main function of storage is to protect your wood from the rain while allowing air to circulate. Apart from this, the storage can be designed to fit your needs.

There are many ways to make a wood storage system, varying in materials and design. You'll want a roof for protection from the rain and a way to keep the logs off the damp ground. You can use recycled bricks, wood pallets or polythene sheets to build your structure. You can even ‘retrofit’ garden furniture, such as tables, with a simple sheet of plastic to keep water off the wood stored underneath.

Wood storage does not have to be an eyesore in your garden - there are many ways to make your design attractive. Among his designs, Stewart has made slated roofing panels to create a quaint look and also planted a living roof of sedum and wild flowers to complement green energy with nature.

Be organised and systematic

When using your wood store you should always take the oldest logs and leave the newest behind. You will want to design a simple system so that you know where to find your seasoned timber and where to place the new stock. This can be done in several ways, for example, you could take wood from the store in a clockwise direction or from left to right. In fact, any systematic way so that you know that you are always taking the oldest and driest wood.

You should also make sure that you take your wood inside for at least a day before you want to burn it. This gives it time to get to room temperature before going in the stove.

Tree to ash

It is important to remember that chopping and storing your wood need not be a burden. Many people enjoy seeing their wood through from beginning to end (‘tree to ash’) through chopping, storing and finally watching the flames dance in the stove. Making your own heating is like cooking a good meal: you appreciate it all the more when you have grown the ingredients yourself.

Image credit:  SuperHomes


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3 comments - read them below or add one


StewartMcilroy from Comment left on: 28 November 2016 at 9:36 pm

I agree with your comments on splitting logs. The photo of the non split logs in my blog was actually taken off my SuperHomes site and is of my 'living wall' (which is for bio-diversity only).  The logs in my living wall are left there for mini beasts and are not for burning.

All my logs for burning are split  to allow the moisture to get out much much quicker as so they don't rot

With respect to your wighing of wood, I  started a similar wighing of how much wood I brought into the house but didn't have your persistence. It would be interesting how much actual data exists of actual wood burned per annum for an average house as I see a lot of estimates 



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Richy_WhiteComment left on: 29 October 2016 at 8:37 am

I agree ... split stuff dries much faster. Some species need a lot less time to season like birch. I use corals - a 2m dia circle of 1m high livestock wire mesh. Fill this to the top ( and more) with cut wood - approx 1000 kilos will fit in. Whichever way wind blows the coral is facing it. Gaps between wood let's air through. Cover pile with loose polythene and I stick an old bit of carpet on for camo. I cut my logs round about easter and start using them in september. I weighed every tub of logs i took in the house last year - total was 6300 kilos! Saw something similar on a ww2 war movie ... the germans had a similar idea. Wet wood goes mouldy very very quickly if you don't provide free air movement. Chopping wood is also great exercise ... if you use an axe and not a machine.

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Bob Irving

Bob IrvingComment left on: 26 October 2016 at 12:12 pm

I think that you should split your wood before you stack it for seasoning as it gives off more moisture from length-wise fibres.

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