How Long Does Firewood Take to Dry?

If you’re wondering ‘how long does firewood take to dry?’, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered all of the information you need to have the best firewood this winter season. Keep reading to learn more!

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How Long Does It Take for Firewood to Dry?

Wondering how long it takes to get seasoned firewood?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Estimated drying times for different types of timber
    • Advice on how to turn green (unseasoned) wood into fully-seasoned wood
    • The best way to dry timber with (somewhat) speed

The answer to the question ‘how long does firewood take to dry?’ isn’t straightforward. There are several variables to take into consideration, all of which can impact the drying time of your future fuel. 

We provide an overview of those variables below, giving you the lowdown on expected drying times for different tree species, different environmental conditions, and different types of storage. We’ll also offer tips on how to store your wood the right way and how to gauge when it’s ready to burn. 

Factors That Influence Drying Time With Wet Wood or Green Wood

Tree Species

Every species is different, and how fast your wood takes to properly season will depend on the type of wood you have on your hands. Some species are denser than others, which means they often take longer to dry. Denser woods, however, will also produce more heat.

Generally speaking, softwood is lighter and less dense than hardwood, as the name suggests. While this means a lot more wood is needed for the same heat output, it also means that softwood dries quicker because moisture can dissipate quicker.

Hardwood forest showing red leaves in autumn
Hardwoods such as beech and maple take longer to season but also give more heat when burned

Not sure what type or species of wood you’re working with? Check out this resource from the USDA and Forest Service, which provides information for numerous types of woods and their seasoning times. 

Moisture Content

The wood’s moisture content is another factor that significantly impacts how long it will take for the wood to dry. Fully-seasoned woods will have little to no moisture content and can burn much more efficiently than freshly cut firewood.

When wood isn’t given the time to fully season and still contains moisture, it has to use its energy to get rid of the water. Well-seasoned firewood, for this reason, will burn hotter, more efficiently, produce less smoke, and will even smell better!

Humidity and Ambient Temperature

The average humidity levels and temperatures in your local climate will also affect how long it takes to season green wood.

No matter where you live, wood will season quickest in early spring and summer. Even if you live in a very humid climate, however, it will still dry out if properly stored in humidity levels of up to 80% – just much slower.

Hygrometer showing 70% humidity level
Firewood will still dry out in humid climates at under 80% humidity but will take longer to do so

Storage

Properly storing and stacking firewood can speed up the seasoning process. 

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Raise it off the ground using pallets or other lumber
  • Cover the tops of your logs properly 
  • Leave the sides exposed (yet still covered from weather)

Here’s why each of these steps is important:

  • Splitting wood and leaving the sides open allows more airflow into the log
  • Proper coverage prevents rain which delays the seasoning process
  • Keeping the firewood stacked and raised from the ground provides air circulation to the entirety of your supply and helps avoid rot

How Can You Tell if Wood Is Dry Enough to Burn?

Visual Test

The visual test is a good first step in gauging whether or not you have lumber that’s dry enough to use in your fire.

As your logs dry, the bark loosens and eventually falls off, giving you the first indication that it is properly seasoned. The bark should be easy to peel off the log. 

Bark peeling off wooden logs
Bark easily peeling off your firewood is a good indicator that your firewood is seasoned

Your logs should be odorless, cracked at each end, have no obvious signs of fungus or mold, and be much lighter in color. Take two pieces from the same pile and hit them together – a dull thud is another sign they’re ready for burning. If you observe all or most of these things you can move on to the next tests to be sure your wood is seasoned.

Weight Test

As your wood starts to season and dry over time, it will start to lose moisture and, therefore, lose weight. If you have softwood, the weight difference will be much more noticeable as softwoods tend to hold more water than hardwood. 

If guesswork isn’t enough for you, this chart provides all of the information needed for a more accurate answer.

Use a Moisture Meter

A moisture meter is the most reliable on our list as it gives you the ability to directly test the moisture level of wood. A moisture meter will also give you a more accurate reading. After putting your meter into dry wood, your readings should be below 20% and somewhere between 10-20%.

Moisture meter measuring the moisture content of a split log
A moisture meter will give the most accurate indication of whether your firewood is ready for burning

Moisture Meters can be purchased at most hardware stores or woodworking suppliers.

How to Dry Firewood: Three Stages of the Drying Process

This can be summed up in three simple stages: split, store, and season.

1. Split

Splitting wood is a great way to help along the process of drying firewood. Split wood dries quicker because the split log’s moisture can escape and evaporate more easily, and the interior of the log is exposed to ambient air.

2. Store

Correct storage is probably the most important part of seasoning. If you don’t stack the logs properly, they won’t dry well and you could be left with half-seasoned or entirely unseasoned firewood. Make sure your stash is entirely covered, raised from the ground, and has enough airflow to avoid damp and rot.

Firewood logs stacked in covered wooden store raised up from the ground
Ensure good airflow around stored firewood to prevent damp and rot setting in

3. Season

Get your calendar out, mark the date when you expect your wood to be fire-ready, then bide your time before burning.  

So, How Long Does Firewood Take to Dry?

On average, fresh green wood will take anywhere from 6-months to 2-years to fully dry and season. But, as you may know after reading all of the above, this may vary depending on where you live on the species of wood you have. 

While there are too many variables to give a more specific time frame, the tips above will let you gauge more accurately when you are good for burning wood! 

Dying Firewood FAQs

1. Is it OK for firewood to get rained on?

Generally, it is not okay for your wood to get rained on. That’s why you should always cover and stack it properly. Constant exposure to wet conditions will cause your wood to rot, especially if you don’t keep it elevated from the ground. Also, wet wood produces much more smoke and produces less heat.

2. Why is it important to burn only dried wood?

Wood with high moisture content creates much more smoke and harmful byproducts. It also doesn’t burn as efficiently as energy is wasted getting rid of moisture. Burning dry wood only, therefore, should always be your goal. Attempting to burn wood that isn’t fully dry, of course, also makes it hard to get your fire started.

Close up of wet wood burning and creating smoke
Burning wood with a high water content creates more smoke and harmful byproducts

3. Can I speed up the drying process/seasoning firewood process?

To get dry wood faster, you should split it into two pieces immediately. Stack the wood loosely with room for heat and air to circulate around all of the pieces. Sun exposure can also increase the time it takes for wood to dry, but making sure all logs get enough air is key.

Final Thoughts

Whether you need to start a fire to heat your home in winter or are just going camping for a few days, a ready-to-roll batch of seasoned wood is always good to have! We hope the above tips will help you know when your batch is ready for burning and speed up the seasoning process! 

If you have any questions about how to dry or season firewood, we’d love to hear from you. Ask away in the comments box below!

Last update on 2022-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I'm an avid backpacker, hiker, skier and climber currently living in Summit County, Colorado. All of my days off are spent skiing in the backcountry or on the resort - and when there's no snow I'm always looking for new peaks to climb and new trails to explore.

I moved to the Rocky Mountains from the East Coast to have the opportunity to do even more in the outdoors. One of my most memorable hikes was completing 3 peaks in 2 days - Crystal Peak, Fletcher Mountain, and Pacific Peak which all sit at above 13,800 feet! I ended up spending the night in a little gully that was well protected by the wind, and had perfect blue skies the next morning.

Whether I'm gearing up for a snowshoe hike or throwing on some climbing shoes for a new route - I'm always excited and passionate to be in the outdoors doing what I love.

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