How Long Does Oak Take To Season?

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CampFireJack

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I am helping a neighbor cut up one of his huge red oak trees that came down during our most recent wind storm. The deal is, I'll cut the tree up if I get to take the wood. I agreed and he agreed. The rounds are pretty big and they are very heavy. If feels like each log is just soaked with water. My question is, if I split these logs into firewood this month, how long will it take for them to dry so the moisture content is below the recommended 20%? From what I gather, it can take up to two years. Is this true?
 
Phoenix1

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You're right about the moisture content for your stove. EPA stoves especially like very low moisture content. They won't burn correctly with wetter wood. If the wood is thoroughly wet or the moisture level too far above the 20% threshold, you'll get a lot of smoke and a lot of coals. Eventually, any wood will burn, but instead of using its energy to actually output heat, it'll be using it to dry the new logs you add. Not to mention, wet wood clogs up chimneys and chimney caps rather quickly.

To answer your question, get that wood split as quickly as possible. Personally, I wouldn't burn oak that hasn't had a chance to season for at least 24 months. All species of oak are very dense and unless you're drying the wood in a kiln, it just takes time. I like to have at least three year's worth of firewood on hand at all times. This way, I never have to concern myself with whether or not what I'm burning is dry enough. I just know it is. Although, I've seen people on the forums say that it can take three or even four years for oak to dry. It really all depends on what conditions you've got the wood in. Inside a drafty garage? Don't count on it drying in less than five years. Stacked nicely outside in the sun where the wind can blow through it? You can probably get away with a year and a half. The two year rule is a good one though for wood that's stacked outside and covered. Many generations of firewood burners have come up with that one.
 
CampFireJack

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Phoenix1 said:
You're right about the moisture content for your stove. EPA stoves especially like very low moisture content. They won't burn correctly with wetter wood. If the wood is thoroughly wet or the moisture level too far above the 20% threshold, you'll get a lot of smoke and a lot of coals. Eventually, any wood will burn, but instead of using its energy to actually output heat, it'll be using it to dry the new logs you add. Not to mention, wet wood clogs up chimneys and chimney caps rather quickly.

To answer your question, get that wood split as quickly as possible. Personally, I wouldn't burn oak that hasn't had a chance to season for at least 24 months. All species of oak are very dense and unless you're drying the wood in a kiln, it just takes time. I like to have at least three year's worth of firewood on hand at all times. This way, I never have to concern myself with whether or not what I'm burning is dry enough. I just know it is. Although, I've seen people on the forums say that it can take three or even four years for oak to dry. It really all depends on what conditions you've got the wood in. Inside a drafty garage? Don't count on it drying in less than five years. Stacked nicely outside in the sun where the wind can blow through it? You can probably get away with a year and a half. The two year rule is a good one though for wood that's stacked outside and covered. Many generations of firewood burners have come up with that one.
Thanks for your response. Yeah, that's what I've been reading too. Two full years outside and you can't go wrong. The thing is, I see people burning all sorts of wood in their outside boilers. What's up with that? I pass a guy on the road who had gigantic logs sitting outside his boiler. It's almost like he puts anything in there, wet or dry. That thing smokes all over the place. The neighbors have got to hate that. I despise outside boilers. They are an awful idea. I'm pretty sure he doesn't wait for two years for his oak to dry. He burns it right away.
 
Phoenix1

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CampFireJack said:
Thanks for your response. Yeah, that's what I've been reading too. Two full years outside and you can't go wrong. The thing is, I see people burning all sorts of wood in their outside boilers. What's up with that? I pass a guy on the road who had gigantic logs sitting outside his boiler. It's almost like he puts anything in there, wet or dry. That thing smokes all over the place. The neighbors have got to hate that. I despise outside boilers. They are an awful idea. I'm pretty sure he doesn't wait for two years for his oak to dry. He burns it right away.
I know people like this too. Many of them are idiots. It doesn't matter what kind of stove you're burning your wood in, wet wood still consumes a lot of energy to dry it, so they're not getting the full heat they seek. There's no getting around that. For an outside boiler, you can certainly keep your logs much larger than you'd want to for an indoor stove, but that just means that you'll need to let them dry longer. Most likely years. Rounds take a lot longer to dry than split wood.

To dry oak in two years, you really want to split it into properly sized pieces, stack it neatly, and let the sun and wind hit the pile. Keep the pile covered on the top too. Just the top. Not the sides at all. This way, the snow and rain will stay off the wood, allowing it to dry faster. I know there's some debate on which dries faster, covered or uncovered piles, but obviously covered piles do. I've measured the moisture at the center of freshly split logs from both types of piles and, on average, the covered wood has a 5% lower moisture reading. So for me, there's no debate.
 
KodyWallice

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CampFireJack said:
I am helping a neighbor cut up one of his huge red oak trees that came down during our most recent wind storm. The deal is, I'll cut the tree up if I get to take the wood. I agreed and he agreed. The rounds are pretty big and they are very heavy. If feels like each log is just soaked with water. My question is, if I split these logs into firewood this month, how long will it take for them to dry so the moisture content is below the recommended 20%? From what I gather, it can take up to two years. Is this true?
It also depends on what condition the tree was in before it fell. Was it dead? Obviously, that wood would be much dryer than if it was alive. Also, the time of year has a big effect on the moisture content of trees. I believe that trees cut down in the winter have wetter wood. I think late summer is probably the best time to cut for firewood.

Oak is a tough one though. I've had "seasoned" wood delivered to me in the past and it was no where near seasoned. I split a few pieces of the oak that were in the pile and after an alleged year of drying, it was very heavy and completely wet at the center. So it needs a long time to dry. You'll know when it's ready to burn because it'll just feel right and it'll sound right of you knock it into another piece of firewood. Wet wood makes a dull thud sound and dry wood sounds light and sharp, sort of like hitting a ball with a baseball bat. That same sort of "crack." I would split it, stack it, and forget about it for a couple of years. As long as you have the room for it. If not, sell it.
 
CraigHardy

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I use the two-year-rule for all my wood, no matter what species it is. Maple and birch take forever to dry too. I've burned those two after a year of drying and there was a lot of hissing in my stove. After letting the same type of wood dry for an additional year, the hissing all but disappeared. Same size logs and everything. Storing multiple years of firewood is the best strategy. If you have a drought for a few months toward the end of the summer, that will help, but I still wouldn't try to burn the wood that's been drying for less than 2 years. It's just not worth it. You won't be getting your money's worth. Or, your effort's worth. To waste good oak...is such a waste.
 
CampFireJack

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Thank you for all the responses. I'll let it sit until it's ready. I'm in no rush. I might buy a moisture meter to test the wood too. I have also wondered if firewood dries over the winter when the humidity in the air is very low. That's got to have an effect too, right? Does the moisture inside of the logs evaporate or does it freeze?
 
Phoenix1

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CampFireJack said:
I have also wondered if firewood dries over the winter when the humidity in the air is very low. That's got to have an effect too, right? Does the moisture inside of the logs evaporate or does it freeze?
It does dry over the winter, but it takes a lot longer. I have proof of this. I cut, split, and stacked wood this past November right before it began snowing and the ends of the wood weren't cracked until about a month ago. We have had a very cold February, so that dry air might have done it. A couple of the pieces of wood seem slightly lighter than they were when they were freshly cut, but definitely not light enough to burn. So wood does dry as evidenced by the cracks at the ends of the pieces, but there's still a lot of moisture trapped on the inside. That's why we let it sit outside all year long - to let nature do its thing all 4 seasons.
 
How Long Does Oak Take To Season? was posted on 03-10-2021 by CampFireJack in the Outdoor Forum forum.
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