7 Firewood Storage Tips (Guide)
If you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home or wood-burning fire features in your outdoor living areas, you are going to need a regular supply of firewood. It is not at all convenient to pick up a bundle of wood at the store every time you want to light a fire. It is also more expensive and does not allow for impromptu gatherings of friends around your fire pit. It is more cost-effective and far more convenient to buy firewood in bulk and have it on hand whenever the need for a fire arises.
Buying by the cord (or half cord or quarter cord, depending on your needs) means that you are going to need firewood storage. For folks who are not familiar with how to store firewood, this may seem like a simple thing that requires some kind of storage rack but not much thought; however how you store your firewood and where you store it is more important than many folks think.
Firewood piles that are poorly placed or that are not stacked properly are more likely to have issues, such as fungus, mold, or wood that just does not burn well. They are also more likely to have critters living in them, such as rodents or snakes, which leads to additional safety hazards.
Of course, no amount of proper stacking is going to guarantee that your stack will never have mold, mice, or snakes, but you can take some simple steps that will go a long way towards keeping your woodpile as dry, clean, and safe as possible.
To this end, here are seven firewood storage tips to help you properly establish and maintain your woodpile.
7 Firewood Storage Tips
1. Always properly stack your firewood.
Properly stacked firewood is less likely to have insect or rodent infestations and allows your wood to dry into good firewood.
Haphazardly tossing your firewood into a pile or a bin does not allow for adequate air circulation. Air circulation is essential to allowing wood to dry into seasoned firewood, which can only occur if it is properly stacked.
Wood in the middle of the pile is of particular concern, since it is more likely to retain moisture, which could result in fungus, premature decay, or mold. Therefore, if you move into a home with a haphazard pile of firewood or if you otherwise acquire wood that has been stored in this manner, check for moisture issues, stack it properly, and burn the outer pieces first while allowing the pieces in the middle of the pile to dry out before use.
Keeping Your Wood Dry
Most of the moisture in wood is released through the cut ends, which means an important part of keeping your wood dry is making sure your wood is stored with the cut ends exposed. This is something to keep an eye on regardless of the pattern you choose for stacking or what you are using to store your wood.
Most people create single-row stacks of firewood, so you can make sure the cut ends are exposed by placing each piece so that the cut ends are facing the front and back of the stack. There are some stacking methods that include placing each layer facing a different direction to increase airflow, so which way your cut ends face may vary some if you use this type of stacking method.
It may be tempting to pack your wood in as tightly as possible to save space, but resist this urge and stack your wood loosely to allow more air circulation between the logs.
If you are working with split firewood (bark on just one side), then you should also pay attention to the direction in which you stack each piece. For example, if you are stacking your wood on the ground and you are concerned about excessive moisture in the soil, stack your wood with the bark side facing the ground. You should also stack your wood with the bark side facing the ground if your wood is still a bit green and needs to continue drying. If your stack is not covered, you can help protect your dry wood from rain and snow by stacking it with the bark facing up, which will more readily allow the rain and snow to roll off of the wood to avoid absorption.
Keep Your Stack Stable
When stacking your firewood pile or filling your rack, avoid straight, vertical rows. Instead, stack your wood like you would stack bricks if you were building a wall. Columns of bricks stacked directly on top of each other are not stable and are sure to topple. The same goes for your firewood. Overlap your rows as you add height to your stack to help keep it stable.
An unstable stack can fall on pets or children, which makes proper stacking an important safety measure.
Firewood Rack Options
The easiest and most convenient way to store firewood is to use a firewood rack. Racks are easy to find, usually pretty affordable, and come in a variety of sizes and styles to suit your needs. They are good for keeping your wood off the ground and organized, and they make it easier to stack your firewood without having to put much thought into it.
You can also make a do-it-yourself firewood rack by hammering stakes into the ground to stabilize the sides of your pile and building a foundation that keeps it off the ground. You can build a cover for it, or you can just cover your pile with a tarp when it is going to rain or snow.
If you stack your woodpile under the eaves of a shed or on a covered patio, there may already be posts or columns that can act as supports for the sides of your stack.
2. Stack your firewood above the ground.
It is best to store firewood at least a few inches off the ground. When stacked directly on the ground, stacks will not have proper air circulation, which can introduce moisture to your pile and will keep your green wood from drying into good firewood. Being in contact with the ground and the introduction of moisture can lead to several issues, including insect infestations, wood that does not burn well, mold, fungus, and bacteria. The insects, bacteria, and moisture can all cause your firewood to decay prematurely.
Build a Foundation
Using a rack for firewood storage is the easiest way to keep your wood off the ground, allow for better air circulation, and avoid or limit some of the above-mentioned issues. If you do not have a rack, you can keep your wood off the ground by creating a foundation on which to stack it. To do this, you can use bricks, cinder blocks, pallets, scrap wood, 2x4s, or even some of your firewood logs.
If you are not able to build a foundation or use a rack to keep your wood off of the ground, there are some other options for helping to keep your wood dry. One option is to lay gravel before stacking your wood. Having gravel as the base of your firewood storage area enhances drainage.
Another option is to stack your wood on an existing brick, concrete, or paving stone patio. These hardscapes do not hold moisture like soil does, so this will help keep your pile drier. If you choose to stack your firewood on bricks, concrete, or paving stones, keep in mind that this may cause discoloration or staining to the hardscape under the stack.
3. Keep your wood dry.
By now, you are probably picking up on the idea that keeping your wood dry is one of the main goals for proper firewood storage.
Why Does Firewood Need to Be Dry?
Dry firewood is safer and burns better. This is why you should let your firewood age before using it in a fire pit or fireplace. Green wood is freshly cut wood that has not yet properly dried. In most cases, it takes cut wood about six months to become fully seasoned and ready to burn. Burning green wood results in more smoke and a less efficient fire. If you are burning it in a fireplace, it also leads to increased creosote buildup, which can be dangerous. If you are burning it indoors, it can increase the level of carbon monoxide in your home.
When seasoned (dried) firewood is exposed to excess moisture, it also burns at lower temperatures, produces more smoke and steam, does not burn as well, produces more creosote, and is dangerous for your health.
Should I Cover Wood to Keep it Dry?
Green wood is wet because the moisture has not yet left the cells of the wood. Firewood storage for green wood must allow it to breathe and continue to dry so that it can become seasoned wood for use in your fire pit or fireplace. Covering green wood is one of the most common mistakes people make when storing firewood. You should not cover green wood with a tarp or other material unless it is going to rain. If you cover your green wood while it is raining, be sure to remove the cover after the rain stops.
When moisture is introduced to seasoned wood, it can also become wet. Because of this, you should always cover your dry wood when it is going to rain or snow (unless you keep it in a shed or under a shelter). You can cover completely seasoned wood when it is not raining, but this is not necessary and can lead to moisture being trapped or an even more-inviting habitat for critters.
How to Cover Wood
When you use a tarp or other material to cover a woodpile with green or seasoned wood, you do not want to cover the whole stack from the ground to the top. This will not allow your wood to breathe. Instead, cover just the top portion of the stack while leaving the bottom of the stack open and uncovered to allow for air circulation. If you want to cover the stack from the top to the ground when it is raining, make sure you remove the cover when the rain stops to allow airflow to return.
If you want to cover your firewood storage to partially hide it or to keep your wood cleaner, there are some breathable covers that can be used. Some firewood racks come with a full cover that can be used in this manner or to protect your wood from rain. This is fine to use on dry wood, but you should avoid covering green wood – even with a breathable cover – until it is fully seasoned.
If you have the space and the budget, you can build a shed or shelter to use for firewood storage, which allows you to organize and protect your woodpile in a more visually pleasing manner.
4. Do not store firewood indoors.
Now that we are squared away on the importance of keeping your wood dry and only burning dry, seasoned wood, let’s move on to other important considerations, such as where to store it.
It is not a good idea to store firewood inside your house. The convenience of having logs always on hand right by your fireplace is tempting, but it is best to store your firewood outside and only bring the logs you plan to burn that day into the house. This allows you to enjoy your fire without having to go outside every time you need a log while keeping the majority of your firewood safely outside.
Why Store Firewood Outside?
It is almost certain that your firewood is home to a mix of ants, termites, spiders, and other insects you would not want to bring into your home. There could even be mice living amongst your logs. Plus, even if there are no mice living between logs right now, once you bring the stack of wood inside and leave it in one spot for a while, mice, spiders, and other critters might move in.
It is also important to remember that firewood needs an opportunity to dry before it can be burned. Storing green or partially-dried wood inside will not allow the wood to dry out properly. Therefore, while all firewood should be stored outside, it is even more important to always store green firewood outside.
Aside from providing a home for pests and not allowing green wood to dry properly, storing firewood in your house also increases the risk of sparks escaping from your fireplace and igniting your stack of wood.
Indoor Firewood Storage Options
If you prefer storing your wood inside, you can store seasoned firewood in a shed. It is best if this shed is away from your home. If you really want your firewood nearby and do not want to go outside to retrieve it, you could also consider storing it in your garage. This will keep it dry and will ensure that it is convenient to access firewood whenever needed. However, if your garage is attached to your home, you have the same issue of providing a comfortable spot for termites, mice, spiders, and other critters to make homes.
Southern California does not receive enough rain or snow to really worry about your firewood getting wet. Because of this, there is really no reason to worry about storing wood inside to protect it. We receive so little precipitation that you can keep your wood dry with simpler, safer measures, such as covering the top with a tarp when it is going to rain.
5. Do not stack firewood against your house.
A lot of people store firewood stacked against their house. This is a convenient location that keeps the logs close at hand. At the same time, the eaves help protect your wood from rain and snow. These are both good reasons to set up your firewood storage next to your house, but, overall, this is not a good idea.
The most important reason to avoid storing firewood against your house – or even too close to your house – is that it is highly flammable and could easily be ignited by errant sparks from a wildfire or from your fire pit, barbecue grill, chimenea, or patio fireplace.
There is also the issue of creating habitat for critters near windows or doors leading into your home. Having a welcoming habitat so close to entrances invites rodents, insects, and snakes to take up residence just outside your doors or windows. This makes it easier for them to make their way into your home or to become an issue for you, your kids, or your pets as they go in and out of the house. Additionally, stacking anything against your home can create either habitat or a pathway for both mice and rats, which could lead to rodent issues or exacerbate existing issues.
As always, we also have to be concerned about wood staying dry. Air circulation is hindered when wood is stacked against a wall. This slows down the drying process for green wood and increases the chance that your woodpile will retain moisture that can lead to fungus or mold. If you do stack your firewood near a wall or a fence, leave at least a few inches between the structure and the wood to allow for airflow.
6. Keep your firewood storage away from dog runs and play areas.
Keep your pets and children safer by placing your firewood away from areas they frequent. The first reason to do this is to avoid encouraging spiders, snakes, and rodents to live near your dog run or your children’s play area.
It is also safer to keep it away from dog runs and play areas to avoid potential injuries from falling wood. A properly stacked woodpile probably will not topple over, but pets or kids running around and roughhousing could cause your stack to fall on a child or a dog.
7. Keep your firewood storage area clean.
Most folks do not pay a lot of attention to their wood piles, especially during the warmer months when they are less likely to burn wood. This is unfortunate, since an unattended wood stack can become quite unsightly, take away from the overall appearance of your yard, become infested with critters, increase fire risk, and start having moisture issues.
One example is allowing grass or weeds to grow around your woodpile. The first problem with this is that it reduces much-needed air circulation under your pile and around the base of your pile. Allowing weeds or nearby plants to grow around your wood stack also increases the chances of moisture staying in the area and affecting your wood. Additionally, foliage around your firewood storage provides cover for critters who will be more inclined to use the area as a home or as a hiding spot as they move around your yard. And, of course, unchecked weed or grass growth simply makes your firewood stack look unkempt, which takes away from your yard’s overall visual appeal.