Have you ever tried to burn freshly cut wood and found your wood heater filled with smoke instead? Many people are under the impression that it's unnecessary; this post breaks down how to season wood and why it's so important.
What is seasoned wood?
When a tree is cut, the wood (known as 'greenwood') can contain up to 50% moisture, which makes it difficult to light and keep lit when starting a fire. To make it efficient to burn, you must first follow a few steps.
How do you season wood?
Seasoning wood seems like a simple process, however, it can be difficult to tell when it is complete.
First, in late winter or early spring, cut the wood small enough so that it fits into your inbuilt or freestanding wood heater. This allows it to dry over the hot summer months.
Second, ensure it is stacked in direct sunlight but out of the rain in such a way that air can flow through the pieces.
Third, leave it for six months to two years depending on whether it is a softwood (like some pines) or hardwood (like some gums).
How do you tell if it's seasoned?
Seasoned wood is faded (pale compared to the freshly cut alternative), lighter in weight (more noticeable in softer woods as they contain more moisture), harder to mark than green wood, cracked, and sounds hollow when two pieces are hit together. The bark of seasoned wood is also flakey or peeling. If you still aren't sure if the wood is ready to burn in your wood heater, try lighting a piece outside. If it smoulders, the moisture content is still too high.
What happens if you don't season wood before burning?
Starting a fire will be extremely difficult. The wood will smoke/smoulder, won't produce a lot of heat, and will make your wood heater very dirty very quickly. The thick black sludge (also known as creosote) on the inside of the heater and chimney is very difficult to clean off and is considered potentially carcinogenic to humans so ensure you regularly check for a build-up within the heater. This smoke is also bad for the environment.