7 Firewood Storage Tips (Guide)
If you have a wood-burning fire pit or fireplace, you are going to need firewood. This, of course, means that you are going to need firewood storage. This may seem like a simple thing, but how and where you stack your firewood is more important than you might think.
An improperly stacked or poorly placed wood pile could lead to critter infestations, mold, fungus, snake bites, and wood that just does not burn as well. While it might not be possible to completely guarantee that your stack will be mouse, snake and mold free, there are simple steps you can take to keep your pile as clean, safe and dry as possible.
So, before you start stacking wood, check out these seven firewood storage tips that will help you properly care for your wood pile.
1. Always properly stack your firewood.
Tossing your firewood haphazardly in a bin or pile will not allow for proper air circulation, which is required for your wood to dry into good firewood. In particular, the wood in the middle of the pile is likely to retain moisture, which can lead to premature decay, mold or fungus.
A pile of wood that is not properly stacked is also more prone to infestations by insects or rodents.
Regardless of what you are using for firewood storage and the pattern you choose for your stack, your wood should be stacked with the cut ends exposed. These cut ends are where most of the moisture is released, so keeping these ends exposed is an essential part of allowing your wood to dry. Since most people stack their firewood in a single row, this will mean placing each piece so that the cut ends are facing the front and back of your stack. This may vary if you use different stacking methods, such as some that involve placing each layer in a different direction to optimize airflow.
When placing each layer of wood, avoid straight, vertical rows. Think of stacking your wood like you would stack bricks. For example, a straight column of bricks is sure to topple. By overlapping each row, you add stability to your stack.
Wood should be stacked loosely – rather than packed tightly to save space – to allow air to circulate between each piece.
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.
The simplest, most convenient firewood storage is a firewood rack. You can purchase racks in different sizes and styles, and these handy structures keep your firewood organized and off the ground, while making stacking easy. Alternatively, you can make your own rack by providing a foundation and hammering stakes into the ground to stabilize the sides of your pile. If you are stacking under a covered patio or under the eaves of a shed, you may already have posts, columns or a fence that can support the sides of your wood stack.
2. Stack your firewood above the ground.
If at all possible, your firewood storage should be at least a few inches off of the ground. There are several issues with stacking firewood directly on the ground. One of the issues is that this does not allow for proper airflow, which will keep green wood from drying and can introduce moisture to your stack. This increased moisture, plus the additional insects that will find their way to your stack, will make your firewood decay faster. The moisture can also lead to mold or fungus, and contact with the ground can increase bacteria in your wood, which is another factor in speeding up the decaying process.
If you use a firewood rack, it is likely off the ground by at least a few inches and will allow for better airflow and enough distance from the ground to reduce the chance of mold, fungus or increased insect infestations. If you do not have a firewood rack, you can raise your stack off of the ground by creating a foundation from pallets, 2x4s, scrap wood, some of your logs, cinder blocks or bricks.
If raising your firewood storage off of the ground is not an option, there are other ways to help keep the bottom of your stack drier. For example, you can place gravel on the ground under the area where you plan to stack your wood to enhance drainage. Alternatively, you can place your stack on concrete or on a brick or paving stone patio. These surfaces will not hold moisture like soil will, which can help keep your wood drier. Do keep in mind that stacking your wood directly on concrete, paving stones or bricks could cause some staining or discoloration under your stack.
3. Keep your wood 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.
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 may want to 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.
When you cover green wood or seasoned wood with a tarp or other material, do not cover the entire stack from the top to the ground. Your wood needs to breathe, so cover just the top portion of your pile to protect it from the rain, but keep the bottom of the pile uncovered to allow it to breathe. It is okay to completely cover your pile when it is raining, as long as you uncover it as soon as the rain stops.
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 wood pile in a more visually pleasing manner.
4. Do not store firewood indoors.
Do not store large amounts of firewood inside your home. It is best to bring in only what you plan on burning that day. Bringing in enough firewood for that day’s fire allows you the convenience of not having to go out to your wood pile every time you need another log. The convenience of having your firewood close at hand may tempt you to store larger amounts of wood inside your home near your fireplace, but this is not a good idea.
You can be pretty certain that your wood has some combination of spiders, termites, ants and other bugs that you do not want in your home. In some cases, there may even be mice – and, even if there are not mice in your wood when you bring it inside, an indoor stack of firewood that is rarely moved provides the perfect spot for spiders and mice to make their homes inside your house.
Additionally, storing firewood indoors does not allow it to dry properly; therefore, it is even more important to store green firewood outdoors.
Once your firewood has aged appropriately, it can be stored indoors in a shed, but it is still best to keep it out of your home to avoid providing a home for pests and to reduce the risk of errant sparks from your fireplace igniting this highly flammable material.
Some folks store firewood in their garages to keep it dry and conveniently located. This is an option and a good compromise for some, but you have the same issue with potentially bringing spiders, termites and mice into your garage or providing a cozy spot for these critters to make future homes.
Since most areas of Southern California do not get enough rain or snow to threaten your firewood, there is really no reason for most folks here to look for indoor firewood storage solutions. The amount of rain and snow most of us get can be countered by other measures to keep your wood dry.
5. Do not stack firewood against your house.
Lots of people stack their firewood against the exterior of their homes. Stacking firewood against an exterior wall keeps your logs conveniently close while the eaves of your home offer some protection from rain and snow. So, it is easy to see why so many folks choose this spot for firewood storage.
While this is an option – and one that is commonly used – it is best to not store firewood against your home. The first, and perhaps most obvious, reason is that you are placing highly flammable material against your home, which could potentially be ignited by sparks from a nearby fire pit, patio fireplace, chimenea or barbecue grill.
Secondly, if it is near a door or a window, you are basically inviting the insects, rodents or snakes that may live in your wood pile to come into your home. At the very least, you are making it much more likely that they will find their way inside. If you have problems with rats (or want to avoid future issues), you should not stack firewood or anything else against your home to avoid providing a habitat or a pathway for rodents to more easily traverse your yard.
Additionally, stacking your firewood against any wall reduces air circulation around your wood, which can slow the drying process and make your stack more prone to retaining moisture or acquiring mold or fungus. If you must stack your wood near a shed or fence, make sure to leave at least a few inches between your stack and the structure for better air circulation.
6. Keep your firewood storage away from dog runs and play areas.
If you have a small backyard, you may not have many choices about where to place your firewood storage. However, if you can help it, it is best to keep your stack away from dog runs and play areas. When stacked properly, your firewood is not likely to topple over, but it is safer to remove the risk of rough play causing your stack to fall on your dog or child by just stacking it away from areas they frequent.
It is also a good idea to keep your firewood stack away from dog runs and play areas because your wood pile provides a habitat for spiders, rodents and snakes that are best kept away from your pets and children.
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 wood pile. 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.