Putting up wood for your fireplace or wood stove can be a lot of work especially if you cut the trees, make the rounds and split the logs yourself. Once you have completed your work in late summer and fall it is important to store your wood properly to not attract pests and to allow your wood to dry or stay dry for use.
When selecting your wood it is best to pick trees that are standing but have died or ones that have damage that need to be removed to not fall and cause damage to other trees. Cutting your own fire wood on your own property is a great way to get free fuel but your local arborist organization may be able to help you find public or private land that has been marked for harvest.
Once you have your logs it is important to inspect them for bug infestation. You do not want to bring termites, carpenter ants or other wood eating insects on to your land or into your home. Treatment with chemicals is not really an option because you will be using the wood for fuel in your home and the insecticides may out gas and cause you health problems.
If the wood is in good condition you should process it and stack it so it can dry if it is green and stay dry against the elements.
Cut your rounds or short logs to a length that they can easily fit in your wood stove or fireplace box. Make sure you cut them small enough that you can get proper ignition all around the log and you will not need to reopen and reposition the logs as often during their burning.
Rounds can be processed into half rounds or quarters by using a splitting ax and sledge hammer or you can rent a splitter. Renting is a good idea if you can get the equipment from a Saturday to a Monday and only pay one day. If you are using the splitter often enough you may want to buy one.
Once the wood is split it will need to dry or be seasoned to remove moisture content. If you try to burn green or wet wood you are likely to build up creosote in your chimney and this can lead to home fires or at least the need to clean your chimney more often then normal.
Positioning the Log Pile
Because it will be cold outside you may be tempted to stack your wood close to your home or even inside your basement or attached garage. This is not a very good idea because wood that does not have bug infestations can still attract insects that will attack the framing of your home.
Wood piles are also a favorite home to bees, snakes and rodents. Placing the pile near your home is just asking for trouble.
The best idea is to stack your the bulk of your wood at least 30 feet from your home and then position a smaller pile that can serve you for 1 to 3 days near your home or even inside near your fireplace.
If you will be storing a considerable amount of wood year after year you may want to build a permanent shelter with a roof structure. An enclosed shed is probably not a great idea as it will not get good air flow.
Stacking Your Fireplace Wood
It is important before you begin stacking your fireplace wood that you provide a surface to get the wood up off of the ground. Some people will use a few long branches 4 inches or better in diameter and lay them on the ground to stack wood on. This is ok but you can also make use of pressure treated 4x4s or pressure treated pallets that you can probably pickup for free.
Whatever method you use to get your split wood up off of the ground you want to make sure it is sturdy, level and is sitting on ground that gives good air flow under the split wood.
Many people like to cross stack their quarter rounds because this will improve airflow. This is a good idea but it will require more space.
One thing you should do is check your wood as it drys by pulling a log from a few different areas to make sure they are drying evenly. If you find some logs are getting a mold or mushroom growth it means you need to break down the pile and restack it.
Seasoning of wood usually means that you allow the wood to dry for a good 6 months or even a year before using it. If you are purchasing wood then it should be pre-seasoned and ready for use.
Always use Hardwood not pine and never scrap lumber in your fireplace.
Some hardwoods like Oak will take an extended period of time to season and most people recommend that you wait a full year before burning Oak because of how well it retains water. This is one of the reasons it is best to select Dead but standing trees for harvesting because they will already have a good amount of water removed even before you process it into rounds.
If you are buying wood that is suppose to be seasoned then it will look old and gray and it will have checkmarks and splits through out. You also want to check a few pieces by splitting it and it should be white and very dry inside.
A moisture meter is also a good idea but make sure that the wood you inspect is the actual wood you get delivered.
Protecting Your Wood Pile
Often people will want to cover the whole pile with a plastic tarp. This is not a good idea because it will retain moisture in the wood and when there are frosts and thaws the wood will get wet from the inside.
A good way is to tarp off the first foot of a 5 foot or higher pile so that water will not run down into the pile.
It is also a good idea to install a back and side post to make sure the pile won’t collapse in high winds.