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Are you struggling to source dry, seasoned firewood? Has rain-soaked your woodpile before you got it covered? Cut down a tree and want to know how quickly you can turn its remnants into a cheerful backyard fire? Knowing how to dry firewood quickly is essential for the backyard firepit boss. 

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Can you burn wet firewood? 

While you can technically burn any wood, burning damp firewood is not wise. It’s harder to catch, more prone to go out, and more inclined to split or spit in dangerous ways as the water inside the wood reacts to the heat outside. It’s also a lot smokier and doesn’t radiate warmth as seasoned firewood does.

What does ‘seasoned’ firewood mean?

Seasoned firewood has a low moisture content, typically between 15-20%. Seasoning happens by exposing wood to air and sunlight to allow moisture to evaporate naturally. 

Green or Unseasoned Firewood

Greenwood is sap-wet, fresh-cut lumber. This firewood has a high moisture content, usually ranging from 30-50%, sometimes higher with recent rain or high humidity. This type of wood is occasionally useable in a fire. Notably, pine and gorse can burn well even when freshly cut. Though, they are not good choices for fires you plan to cook over, as the terpenes will impart a bitter, unpleasant taste to food. 

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Why should you dry firewood out before you burn it?

Seasoned firewood is necessary for a cozy fire. Unseasoned firewood produces billowing, acrid smoke heavy with creosote. When burned in a fireplace, it builds up sediment in the chimney that can create housefires. In a firepit, it will irritate the lungs and eyes of anyone nearby.  

How do you dry firewood quickly? 

Quickly is relative when seasoning firewood. Most seasoned firewood dries slowly over many months. It is possible to shorten the process to about 6-12 weeks with proper treatment of greenwood. Some tips can quickly bring it from damp to useable if you have well-seasoned wood left out in a storm. 

From Green Firewood to Seasoned Firewood

If you have freshly cut wood and want to season it as quickly as possible, the following steps can cut your seasoning time to as little as six weeks. 

  • Pick the Right Wood - Get a good mix of hardwoods and softwoods for the best fires. Softwoods dry fastest but burn faster, so you’ll go through more of them. Hardwoods take longer to season but burn hot and slower. 
  • Cut it to Size - Cut your logs down to the size you’ll want in your fire. Split the logs. The more exposed wood, the faster it’ll dry out. 
  • Let the Air Flow - When stacking wood, make sure there’s plenty of airflow around every log. The air will help draw moisture out of the logs. A lack of airflow will keep them sodden longer. 
  • Cover Wood - Having a roof over your logs, but not walls, will help protect them from being soaked in heavy rains. Over the rainy season, bring your stack into a shed, but let the air in during the warmer, drier summer months. A little rain doesn’t hurt the seasoning process, but a thorough soaking will slow things down. 
  • Sunshine Helps - Placing your logs where they can benefit from sunlight will help them dry faster. 
  • Keep it Small - Keep your log piles small and narrow in a single row to allow good airflow for faster drying. 
  • Up and Away- Don’t leave your log stacks on the ground and give them clearance from nearby buildings. Leaving them on the ground encourages moisture to seep into the logs on the bottom row. Again, you want good airflow all around the wood. 

Seasoned Damp to Quick Dry

If your pre-seasoned wood got too damp to use, these tricks might help speed up the drying process. 

  • Dehumidifier - Bring a small stack of seasoned, damp wood into a room with a dehumidifier. Stack them loosely with plenty of airflow around. 
  • Low Oven (no flame)- Set the temperature as low as possible and turn the fan on for best results. Do not do this with an oven that has an open flame. 

How to Tell if Firewood is Dry

  • Moisture Meter - For the most accurate assessment, use a moisture meter.
  • Sizzle Test- Toss a small chunk into the fire. If it sizzles, it’s too damp. If it catches quickly, it’s seasoned.
  • End Check - Seasoned wood feels warm and dry. Wet wood feels cold and damp. 
  • Clunk Check- Knock two pieces together. Wet wood thuds, dry wood sings. 
  • Weight - Dry wood is lighter than damp wood.

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