Can Firewood Be Too Old To Burn?

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Whether you’re under a blanket of stars or cozy on the couch, there’s something incredibly peaceful about sitting near a crackling fire.  However, that serene mood fades if you are constantly worrying about the quality of firewood. If you have ever wondered if firewood is too old to burn, we’ve researched to determine whether you can burn firewood after storing it for a long time.

Firewood can be stored for approximately four years without any issues. Burning slightly older wood is better because green, freshly cut firewood does not burn as well. To get the most of your firewood over time, store the wood raised off the bare ground in a sheltered location. Stacking wood to allow aeration between logs is best to prevent the wood from becoming too damp; softened firewood may have molded or rotted. Check the storage area for termites, carpenter ants, and other “animal evidence,” potentially damaging to the firewood.

Now, you have even more questions. Is this even the right kind of wood?  How and where do I store it?  Can I tell if it’s rotten? Please keep reading to find the answers to all of those questions and more. Let’s get cracklin’!

Firewood stacked next to a fireplace, Can Firewood Be Too Old To Burn?

How to tell if firewood is good

According to J. Keeler Johnson – founder of Hobby Farms, the best types of firewood to use on those chilly nights are maple, oak, and hickory.  Any wood with dense properties will not only melt your s’ mores the fastest but will also generate the least amount of sparks.  Ideally, your firewood should read at 20% or less when it comes to moisture while being stored.  Newly cut logs, also known as green wood, are known to have the highest moisture content. That said, the perfect firewood should be lightweight, dark brown without any green, and dry.

Check the moisture level in your firewood with this handy wood moisture meter. Switch the mode for different types of wood, and easily read the digital screen.

Click here to see on Amazon.

Properly storing firewood

The first step to properly store firewood is to find a location. The area used for firewood should not be at the bottom of a hill because water can run downhill into the stack to ruin the supply.  If using a storage shed, it should be a minimum of five feet from the house. Be mindful of the specific climate and weather in your area that would affect the placement of your woodpile.  Do not store firewood inside or too close to your house, primarily to avoid an infestation of termites or other critters if they get into your woodpile.

Firewood should not be kept so far away from the house that retrieving it becomes a hassle – no one wants to make several long treks armed with heavy logs in the bitter cold! Keep your firewood off the ground and partially uncovered (normally on the sides), so moisture does not get trapped under a damp roof or tarp. Partial coverage allows some wind to be able to air out any rain that could blow in.  If you don’t plan to buy a storage unit for firewood, check out some of these cutting edge ideas for a fun do-it-yourself project one weekend.

How Long Does It Take Firewood To Season?

The process of changing from green logs into firewood is called seasoning.  Seasoning is just letting nature take its course to lower the moisture levels within the soon-to-be-firewood.  It can take anywhere from six months to over a year for logs to season, depending on the type of wood and storage climate.

A general rule of thumb is that it can take six to twelve months for pine or softwoods to season thoroughly, and longer for sturdier types of wood such as oak.  Remember, nature is full of exceptions, so double-check the average seasoning time for your specific type of wood.  The process will be complete once your logs are fully dry and slightly darker in color.

Can dead trees be used for firewood?

It is generally not okay to use dead trees as firewood. One of the common branches of thought throughout this article is that wood needs to stay dry to be useful. From a fire-burning perspective, dead trees tend to hold significantly more moisture than living trees or seasoned logs would.  The downfall of that is they do not burn for nearly as long as good firewood can.  Environmentally speaking, dead trees or snags are also homes for an extraordinary amount of plants and animals.

How Can I Tell If My Firewood Is Infested?

Plenty of animals and insects love nothing more than burrowing into the bark and heart of firewood with too high moisture content. So, let’s talk about what it could look like if they decide to make their home in your stacks.  Seeing critters is the most obvious sign of infestation. Carpenter bees, ants, centipedes, termites, rodents, bark lice, and many more are drawn to your firewood if it is too wet.  If nothing seems to be out of the ordinary, inspect the area for evidence of their potential new abode.  Are there animal droppings nearby?  How about a nest or burrow?  If there is vegetation nearby, does it look like anything has been nibbling on it?

If you do suspect an infestation, do not use pesticides or harmful chemicals on the wood! That is a guaranteed way to ruin whatever may be salvageable within the stack. BugWiz writer, Anthony Soon, recommends some natural remedies for getting rid of insects, such as:

  • Freezing the wood
    • Wrap up the infested piece or pieces of firewood and place it in a commercial freezer for at least three days.
  • Heating the wood
    • Wrap the affected log or logs, then place in the sun for approximately 24 hours.  Cling wrap is recommended to cover the wood when heating it.

While you can always burn the wood to get rid of whatever is living in it, this poses a high risk of spreading that infestation to wherever you are putting your firewood to use – including your house.

Avoid Infestation In Your Wood Stack:

  • Chop the wood in winter months (ideally after October and before April) while most insects are hiding from the cold.
  • Dry your stack as quickly and efficiently as nature allows.
  • Make sure all of the logs are used, not just the top layers.

Does Old Wood Burn Better?

Some sources suggest firewood will still burn if it is aged, but it will not put off as much heat or be as long-lasting as seasoned wood. Other sources advised too old wood will not burn at all. While the answer is a bit of a gray area, it is important to remember that as a fire burns, the smoke will carry whatever was attached to the wood through the air.  If there was paint or glue on your firewood, don’t use it!  It could cause harm if inhaled. Put plainly, use your best judgment with older wood, and seasoned wood is always a better option if available.

Should you burn rotten firewood?

Attempting to burn rotten wood is a lot more trouble than what it’s worth. Trees begin to break down and rot when too much water is trapped within its layers. All that moisture, unfortunately, does not equal a well-fueled fire.

To Conclude

Hopefully, you feel more confident in your firewood by now. Knowing how to identify good wood, and properly store firewood will keep your fires burning for several seasons. Be sure to check out some of our related topics at hvacseer.com.

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