There has been a fire burning in Nick Greenway’s home for the last 15 years and those flames aren’t stopping anytime soon. Raising a family near the woods in northern Michigan, he quickly learned how to stack firewood and store it for upcoming seasons to keep his home warm during snowy winter days.
“Propane is so expensive, so I started looking for ways to save money,” he said.
He found storing firewood was his best bet.
Since then, he’s recruited his two young children to shuttle home freshly-chopped fire logs in their small sleds, and he hasn’t looked back toward gas-alternatives.
Approximately 2.4 million households use firewood to heat their houses, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and many more burn logs for fun: to create ambiance at home, celebrate a party at the beach or grill a tasty brisket on the barbeque.
If you’re looking to stack, store and save firewood – you’ll save money buying in bulk – make sure you use these expert techniques to keep your fires burning bright for many nights to come.
Keep Firewood Covered and Elevated to Avoid Moisture Damage
Moisture, whether it be rain, snow or morning dew, will ruin firewood and make it unburnable in any setting. Make sure to cover the top third of the wood and elevate it off the ground in a shed or tarp-covered rack, pictured below.
“Wood is almost like a sponge, so it’ll soak up the moisture if it’s on the ground,” said Greenway, who writes about his firewood passion and tips on Firewood For Life.
Sheltering stored firewood is important to divert falling moisture and stacking logs bark-side up will help protect the wood underneath from weather damage.
“You can also expect mold growth, because there will be nowhere for moisture to escape,” said Greenway.
It’s important to only cover about the top third of the stack, because if logs are left completely covered all year they can’t breathe or season (dry out).
And don’t break out the salt and pepper when you’re looking to season wood. Seasoned means older, drier wood that was chopped long before its burn date. Some experts say you should wait at least six months before you use soft wood and at least a year for hardwood.
Greenway has a wood shed and is planning to build a new one soon but said shipping pallets are a cheap firewood storage alternative. Just place them on the ground before stacking logs on top.
“Shipping pallets work great because they get the wood a few inches off the ground moisture and allow air flow on all sides, which prevents insects from getting in,” he said.
Inspect Your Firewood for Insect Damage Before Bringing It Indoors
Insects, especially termites, black windows and crickets, love firewood, so inspect all logs for small holes and bug damage before bringing them inside.
“Bugs like to make homes in wood piles because they’re used to living in wooded areas,” said Steve Oseas, the manager of Whitt’s Wood Yard in West Los Angeles. “And once they get in, they’ll invite their buddies to come too.”
Pin-size holes (pictured above) are an instant sign that termites have been in the wood and still may live there, so don’t burn or buy any holey firewood. Also look for any fuzzy eggs bugs may have left behind.
“There’s no foolproof way to (repel bugs),” said Greenway. “But it helps if you store somewhere that sees a lot of sunshine and someplace that is open to summertime sun and wind.”
Because bugs prefer dark, stagnate places.
He also recommends storing firewood outdoors and away from the house, just in case small creatures do find a spot in your stack.
Stack Firewood with Secure Edges to Avoid a Collapse
Before Greenway became the firewood expert he is today, he once spent hours stacking his firewood only to return later to find the pile unraveled.
“Nothing is more frustrating than going outside and finding a strong wind blew your stack over,” said Greenway.
To avoid a similar fate, secure the sides of your piles using crisscrossed pieces of wood. You can also create support along the perimeter by pounding metal fence posts at the corners of your pile.
“If you add horizontal rows (of firewood), it will help keep all the logs from rolling over the side,” said Oseas. At the wood yard, he oversees a staff of professional wood stackers skilled at keeping hundreds of thousands of pounds of firewood from spilling out into busy Los Angeles traffic.
Stack the pile no more than 4-feet high, to be safe, suggests Greenway.
Rotate Firewood Out of Your Pile
You don’t want to keep firewood for more than two years, so restack your firewood every season to make sure the oldest wood gets used first.
“Don’t order (or chop down) any wood that you’re not going to use in 1 to 2 seasons,” Oseas said. “Bugs will happen.”
Greenway recommends chopping fire logs in the early spring so the wood has time to season before the autumn chill sets in.
“Two years is optimal, but a lot of wood will be ready by fall or winter,” he said.