As the warmest days of the year approach, you might want to start preparing for the coldest days of the year that are just around the corner. The first part of your preparation is to ensure that you have enough firewood for the upcoming winter (if you need help getting firewood, please contact North Atlantic Firewood). The second step is stacking the wood so that it is fully seasoned and ready to burn as soon as you find yourself shivering inside your house.
Even seasoned wood should be stacked for a couple of weeks before burning. Stacked wood continues to dry, making it more combustible, enabling it to burn at a higher temperature, and reducing creosote build-up in your chimeny. Stacking also consolidates your firewood into smaller storage spaces so it isn't scatterred about your yard.
There are a hundred ways to stack wood. Regardless of the stacking system chosen, the bottom row of any stack should be on a foundation that keeps the wood off of the ground. You can even sacrifice a few pieces of firewood for this and just lay them down perpendicular to the stacks to allow for air to circulate underneath. Ideally, you will lay down plywood, cinder blocks, or pallets. Foundation layers will help the wood dry a little faster and prevent the moisture in the ground from being absorbed into the bottom row. It will also help prevent mold and spores from getting into the wood and a solid, flat foundation will give you a great base for nice even stacking.
Wood releases most of its moisture through its end grain and your wood should be exposed to the sun to take advantage of the heat. Stacks should also allow air to move between the pieces, allowing passing breezes to force evaporated moisture away and letting the wood “breath”. For more details on seasoning or drying out wood, please visit Oregon State’s article on Air and Shed Drying Lumber.
There are a lots of different stacking methods that will expose your split wood to the sun and the wind and help it to dry out more effectively.
No matter how you stack it schematically, pieces should be stacked loosely and include slightly irregular pieces to provide spaces for air get into the stack. Avoid stacking pieces one on top of each other and making vertical columns (there is little stability to this method). Pieces should be stacked one-over-two/two-over-one for best stability. Try to stack your wood with the bark facing up, as bark helps to keep the water from entering the grain of the wood and it will shed rain much more easily.
The Hammock Span stacking system is the easiest and the most common. It derives its name from being the approximate distance of a hammock set between trees. If you have a couple of trees standing in your yard, you can stack firewood in between them using the trees as end posts. This enables both ends of the firewood to be exposed and it enables maximum airflow across the ends of each piece.
If there are no trees to hold the stack in place and you would prefer to avoid staking the ground, you can also build end pillars out of pieces of firewood stacked in perpendicular layers. Then you simply stack your pile between them. The recommended distance between the two end pillars will still be twelve to sixteen feet, but this is all dependent upon the area you have chosen. To make this easier, it is still advisable to do this on level ground with a foundation to keep the wood off of the ground, but this stacking system is good for any location.
Another way to stack your wood if you are feeling especially ambitious is the tried and true holz hausen, holzhaufen, or wood house method. This method has been identified as coming from the Black Forest region of Germany system for stacking and drying firewood and despite how it looks, you can stack more wood in a smaller area this way. In fact, it is possible to stack 2 ½ cords in one ten-foot pile.
This method involves setting a row of pieces around in a perimeter circle on the ground as a layer to stack fire wood ends on. The first step (according to our woodlot manager, Robert Proulx) is to take a piece of string and tie it to a stake in the center of where you would like the pile placed. This string will be used as a radius to set the distance for the perimeter pieces to be laid down end to end, forming a ring. Then you simply stack layers of wood with the outside ends resting on the perimeter ring (with a large majority of each piece set inside the ring). As you continue to stack, the wood the pile will tighten into the center because of the angle of the leaning pieces.
Place any wood that is too irregular, short, or pieces with sweep in the middle to loosely fill the middle of the pile. They will lend support to the structure and they will support your eventual “roof”
As the stack gets higher you will might need to make another perpendicular ring of firewood on the outside edge of the stack to ensure that the wood is stacked with the pieces angled towards the ground on the interior. This lends stability to the stack and helps to pull the pile together at the top. There is a terrific pictogram of how to build one of these here.
Once you reach the intended height, lay a couple of courses of firewood from the center of the stack aiming down to the ground. This will be your roof. Place the pieces bark side up so that it will be more resistant to the rain and moisture. This will also expose the split side to the circulating air inside the stack.
A chimney effect will happen as air enters and then rises through the middle of the pile, drying and seasoning your firewood a little faster than with any other method.
Plus, holz hausens look awesome…but what firewood stack doesn’t?
If you have another method or tips to make stacks a little better, please let us know! We're always looking for good ideas!