Stacking firewood is not only a necessary part of heating your home with wood but it can also be a great outlet for artistic expression. Stacking firewood may seem like a pretty simple thing, but how and where you stack it is more important than you might think.
Improperly stacking or poorly placing your firewood can lead to mice infestations, mold, fungus, termites, snake bites, and wood that just does not burn as well. While it might not be possible to guarantee that your firewood will be completely free of these problems, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your firewood as clean, safe and dry as possible.
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When stacking your firewood follow these four basic principles to get the best results.
4 Basic Principles for Stacking Firewood
1. Choose the best location
When you’re looking for a place to stack your firewood you want to find a location that has great sun exposure. You want your firewood to dry throughout the summer so that it will burn well in the winter. Stacking your firewood where it will have full sun exposure will help this process move more quickly.
You also want to orientate your stack of wood so that the prevailing wind will blow through it. Having a large amount of air circulation around the wood will also help it dry more quickly.
When stacking your wood in a wildfire-prone area it is recommended that you stack it at least 30 feet away from your house. This will reduce the risk of a wildfire catching your wood stack on fire which then could catch your house on fire. If you do not live in a wildfire-prone area you can stack it closer to your house. However, it is recommended that you stack it at least 5 feet away from your house. This will help prevent insects, primarily termites, from finding their way into your home.
It is recommended that you place your firewood stack away from areas where your dogs or children play. Properly stacked firewood typically will not topple over however accidents can happen, especially if your child or dog climbs on the wood stack. It would be better to stack your wood in a safe location than have to take a trip to the hospital or vet.
2. Keep it off the ground
If at all possible, you should stack your firewood at least a few inches off of the ground. Stacking firewood directly on the ground can cause a few problems.
- Low Airflow. Stacking your firewood directly on the ground will not allow proper airflow around the bottom of the stack. This will cause your green wood to remain wet which is not ideal for burning in the winter.
- Moisture. Stacking your firewood directly on the ground can allow moisture to wick up from the ground into your wood. This moisture can lead to mold or fungus and speed up the decaying process.
- Insects. Termites love to eat wood. If you stack your firewood directly on the ground it gives a direct path for subterranean termites to enter into your firewood. Also, when you carry the firewood into the house the termites may begin to come out of the wood and crawl around your hearth. Nobody likes that.
There are several popular ways to keep your firewood off the ground. For example, using a firewood rack, placing pressure treated two by fours on the ground and then stacking your wood on top of them, and using old pallets to stack your firewood on.
If stacking your firewood 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 could place your wood stack on concrete, brick or a paving stone pad. Stacking your firewood like this will not allow for the best airflow around the bottom of the pile but it will help prevent moisture from wicking up through the ground and a termite infestation. One thing to be aware of is that your firewood may stain your concrete.
If there is simply no way for you to stack the wood off of the bare ground I suggest you put the bottom row of wood with the bark facing down. This can help prevent moisture from entering the wood through the ground.
3. Stack it properly
Simply throwing your firewood into a pile will not allow it to dry properly. The wood in the center of the pile can remain moist or green. Green wood does not put out as much heat when burned as seasoned firewood does. Green wood also causes a larger amount of creosote to buildup in your chimney. Creosote, if not properly removed can cause a chimney fire. Before burning your firewood you can test to make sure that it is properly seasoned by using a simple moisture meter. A pile of firewood is also more prone to being infested by rodents and snakes. It gives them an excellent place to hide.
To properly stack firewood follow these two basic rules:
- Stack your firewood loosely rather than trying to pack it tightly to save space. This will to allow air to circulate between each piece of wood and cause it to dry more quickly and evenly.
- Stack your firewood with the cut ends exposed. These cut ends are where most of the moisture is released, so keeping these ends exposed will help your wood season properly over the summer.
4. Keep it dry
We are stacking our green or unseasoned firewood so that it will dry out and be good for burning in the winter. Therefore, it is not advisable to cover your wood stack completely with a tarp. Covering the whole thing completely can trap moisture underneath the tarp and not allow the wood to dry properly.
However, if we live in an area that receives a lot of summer rain it would be advisable to cover the top of the wood so that the rain can run off and not soak into it. You could cover the top of the wood with a tarp, tin roofing or other similar material. If you do not have anything to cover the wood with try turning the top layer of wood bark up. This can help prevent moisture from entering the wood by shedding the water off.
Another great option for keeping your wood dry is by stacking it in a woodshed. A woodshed should be able to allow air to flow through it while keeping the rain and snow off of your wood. When using a woodshed remember to follow the first in first out principle. That way you will always be burning the most seasoned wood.
If you follow these basic principles for properly stacking your firewood you should have well seasoned wood to keep you warm throughout the winter.
There are many different artistic designs that you could use to stack your firewood which could be great conversation starters when guests come to your house for a visit. But, below I’m going to share with you two of the most popular ways for stacking your firewood.
2 Popular Ways to Stack Firewood
1. The traditional American-style
- Lay pressure-treated two by fours down as a base to set your firewood on so that the ground moisture does not seep up into the wood.
- Build a tower at one end of the stack by laying 2 to 4 pieces of split wood down parallel to each other. Then put 2 to 4 more pieces laid perpendicular on top of the ones below. Continue stacking the wood like this alternating directions until you get to about six levels high.
- Build another tower in the same way at the other end of your base. These towers will service as supports to hold the firewood stacked between them.
- Stack your split wood between the towers leaving some space between them to maximize air movement which helps dry the wood dry faster.
- Continue stacking up to the height of your end towers.
- If the wood seems stable you can add to the end towers and make your stack taller. Some people like to stack their wood 6 feet high but your should choose a hight that you are comfortable with.
2. The German Method
The German method of stacking firewood is designed to allow air to flow from the outside of the stack and into the center.
- The area where you will stack your firewood needs to be flat and measure 6 feet by 6 feet.
- Hammer a metal or wooden stake into the center of the cleared area.
- Measure 3 feet out from the stake in several directions and mark the ground with a circle.
- Lay out some wood along the circular line you marked around the stake. This wood should touch end to end and create a circle around the stake. This is the edge of your wood stack.
- Set wood around the circle with one end on an edge wood and one end pointed towards the stake. You should now have the first outer layer of logs and the logs should be sitting at an angle towards the center.
- Stack logs in the center in an upright position. Continue to stack the wood until your reach your desired height.
Below is a demonstration of how to use the German method of stacking wood.
You can get one of the covers featured in this video here.
There are many variations to these two ways of stacking your firewood which you may enjoy trying as well. Just experiment and have fun!
Frequently asked questions about stacking firewood
Do I have to use pressure treated two by fours to stack my firewood on?
No, you do not have to use pressure treated two by fours to stack your firewood on. However, pressure treated wood is specifically designed for ground contact and will last a lot longer than other wood. However, if you would like to save money some people like to use pallets to stack the wood on. Just be aware that the pallets will eventually rot and your wood may end up on the ground.
Is it OK to stack firewood on the ground?
It is not recommended that you stack firewood on the ground. When you stack your wood on the ground moisture from the ground can enter into the wood and it would not dry properly. Also, if you stack your firewood on the ground it will turn into a perfect home for termites.
Should stacked firewood be covered?
Firewood should be covered if it’s going to be exposed to rain or snow.
How do you cover stacked firewood?
There are many ways to cover stacked firewood. Some people like to use a tarp. However, the tarp should not go all the way down to the ground but just cover the top of the stack of wood. That way air can flow freely through the stack of wood and dry it out more quickly. You could place the wood in a woodshed that is covered by some type of roof. You can also lay sheets of tin across the woodpile. For an easier yet less effective way you could turn the top row of wood on your wood stack bark up. This will help prevent the rain from entering into the wood.
How far should firewood be stacked from the house?
It is recommended by pest control experts that your firewood stacks be at least 5 feet away from your house. However, if you live in a forest fire area you should stack firewood about 30 feet away from your house according to fire protection experts. You should check with local regulations because some areas have started setting rules for this.
Can you get termites from firewood?
Subterranean termites live in the dirt and build mud tunnels to their food above ground. The main termite colony containing the queen remains in the ground but the workers could travel up into your firewood. If you bring wood containing termites into your house it is unlikely that will cause an infestation. However, if you were to stack your wood too close to your house they could use the wood stack as a bridge to get into your house. This could cause a termite infestation. Always keep your wood stacked away from your house.
Can you stack wet wood?
Of course, you can stack wet or green wood. Stacking firewood is the primary way in which you will season it. By stacking the wood properly you allow adequate airflow around the wood which will dry it out more quickly.
Will firewood dry in a pile?
Firewood will probably dry in a pile given enough time. However, it will not dry as quickly as if it were stacked up properly. This is because the airflow around the wood will be restricted if it’s in a random pile. Properly stacking your wood will allow the air to flow around your wood freely and will speed the drying process.
Is it OK for firewood to get wet?
Generally speaking, you want your firewood to stay completely dry. If you live in an area that gets frequent rain you want to cover the firewood in someway. However, if your firewood gets rained on briefly it will not have a significant negative effect on it.
Is it safe to store firewood in the house?
It is generally not recommended to stack your firewood inside your house. However, in the winter after your wood has been seasoned, some people like to bring a day’s worth of wood into the house so that they do not have to keep going outside to get wood every couple of hours.
How long will stacked firewood last?
There is no expiration date on firewood. Once your firewood has been seasoned well you can store it for many years possibly even decades. Just be sure it is stored in a dry location off the ground.
Is it OK to keep firewood in the garage?
Some people like to store firewood in their garage. If this is what you are planning to do be sure to inspect the wood before bringing it into your garage. You want to make sure that the wood is not infested with termites, ants, or other insects. It is not recommended that you use pesticides to kill the insects on your firewood. You will be burning this in your house and you do not want to poison your family or your neighbors with toxic smoke. When storing the wood in your garage make sure that you keep it away from any potential fire hazards.
Can I store firewood on my deck?
We have all probably seen rustic pictures of a mountain cabin with firewood stacked on the deck. That makes for a beautiful picture but is generally not recommended. Firewood stacked on your deck can be a fire hazard. It can also be a great place for bugs and snakes to hide. However, for convenience sake in the winter, some people like to bring a significant amount of firewood to their deck so that they do not have to go all the way to the woodpile and get wood every day.
Are firewood racks a good idea?
Firewood racks can be an attractive and convenient way to stack your firewood. They come in a variety of sizes and designs.
If you have any questions or suggestions about stacking firewood please put them in the comments below.