Using dry firewood is the only way to keep your fire burning hot for hours on end. Wet firewood creates smoke, and it’s not a high-quality fuel.
Most wood takes 6 months to season, but you’ll get better results if you let it dry for 18–24 months. However, kiln-drying wood can take as little as two days. You can have firewood with moisture content as low as 5% when kiln-drying wood.
I’ve done some research to provide a more comprehensive guide to drying wood below. You’ll learn about the best ways to dry wood, how to identify dry wood, and more.
How Long Does It Take For Wood To Dry?
Wood takes around a year to dry per inch of wood. So, if your logs are 2 inches thick, then they’ll take two years to fully dry out.
This is why you’ll want to ensure your logs are as thin as possible. Not only will they ignite easier if they’re thinner, but they’ll dry faster.
Appropriately sized logs will season in approximately 6–18 months, but it varies depending on the weather, the wood type, and other factors.
Some types of wood take longer to dry than others. Unfortunately, there are no resources on exactly which woods dry faster than others. However, the denser the wood, then the more likely it is to take longer to dry.
Oak is one of the woods that takes the longest to dry. Hickory and beech are also on the denser side, so expect to season them for longer, too.
If you’d like a guide in wood density, here’s one that may be helpful.
The Easiest Way to Get Dry Wood
The easiest way to get dry firewood is to purchase it from a local reputable seller. Ensure this seller has good reviews, and make sure you ask them about the firewood drying process. Kiln-dried wood is ideal, and I’ll talk more about that soon.
If you’re familiar with kilns and have access to one, then you can also learn to dry your own wood. If you wish to kiln-dry your wood at home, this article may help.
Factors That Influence How Fast Firewood Dries
As I said earlier, there are several factors that influence how fast firewood dries. Although it will always vary considerably, there are three elements of the drying process that you can keep an eye on.
The Temperature and Humidity
If it’s warm outside, then your wood is going to dry faster. Ideally, place your firewood so it’s directly in the sun for at least part of the day.
However, you need to pay attention to the humidity, too. It doesn’t matter how warm it is if it’s also extremely humid. Humidity will only help keep the wood damp, so if you live in a humid area, then you may wish to dry your wood during spring and winter when the air is dryer.
Species of Wood
As you know, dense hardwoods take longer to dry. Some common dense hardwoods used for fire include ash, oak, beech, birch, and hickory.
I talk more about this when I answer, “how much wood do I need for a campfire?”
So, as hardwood dries so slowly, you might think it’s a better idea to harvest and use softwood. However, you’d be making a mistake.
The only softwood that’s good for burning is cedar, and I talk about that in the article linked above. Cedar burns hot and ignites quickly, so if you desperately need a quicker drying wood, then go with cedar.
I still recommend hardwoods for use 99% of the time, though.
Size and Stacking
As I said earlier, your smaller logs will dry faster. I recommend splitting a round log into at least two pieces before seasoning, but splitting it into four is even better.
An inch in diameter is a good size to aim for, with only one side of the wood covered in bark. That way the wood is more likely to season in about a year.
Then you’ll want to stack your wood so there are gaps between each piece. This is so air can circulate.
Stack the wood so the cut end faces the wind. This will help them dry faster.
What Are The Best Conditions For Air-Drying Firewood?
The best conditions for air-drying firewood are warm temperatures with low humidity. There are some outdoor dehumidification systems you could look into if you live in an extremely humid area.
You should also ensure your wood isn’t touching the ground, and as I said, have gaps between your logs.
If you’re buying your wood rather than drying it yourself, then I suggest asking if you can check out the wood drying area.
Ensure the wood is stacked correctly, ask how humid the area typically is, and ask how they’re handling that to ensure their logs dry correctly. And if you’re not satisfied with their air-drying process, then look for your firewood elsewhere.
How Can You Dry Wood Fast? All About Kiln Drying
You can dry your wood in less than a week, but you’ll need a kiln to do it. Most households won’t have a wood-drying kiln, so you’ll want to look into kiln-dried wood sold by a company.
Most campfire enthusiasts will tell you that kiln-dried firewood is preferable to air-dried wood.
Kiln-dried wood is often better, as it has a lower moisture content than wood that’s just been left to season. However, kiln-dried wood isn’t always perfect, either. The USDA only requires kiln-dried wood to be dried for 75 minutes at 160 degrees.
It’s better if the wood is dried for around 48 hours at 250 degrees. This ensures the wood is fungus, mold, and bug-free. It also gets the moisture content down to around 5%.
You should ask a company how they kiln-dry their wood before you purchase from them. The longer and hotter they dry it for, the better.
Once you have some good kiln-dried wood, then it’ll burn for longer than air-dried wood, and it burns hotter, too.
How Do You Dry Firewood At Home?
Start by removing the bark from your firewood, then stack your wood in single rows with gaps between the pieces to ensure air circulation. When it rains, cover the top of your wood, and ensure the wood is in a direct line of sunlight during summer.
If you live somewhere particularly rainy, then it’s a good idea to build a roof over your wood. You can hang a tarp from this roof to cover one side of your wood if the rain is coming at the wood from an angle.
You never want to enclose the wood completely, as this will create condensation and your wood will take longer to dry.
If you’re crafty and good with technology, you can also build a DIY kiln, such as the one in the video below.
Can You Test Your Wood For Moisture?
Once you dry your wood or are purchasing some firewood, how can you ensure it’s truly moisture-free? There are several ways.
Look At It
Dry logs are easy to differentiate from wet ones. They should have cracked ends and be a dull, greyish color. If there’s any green visible in your wood, then it’s definitely not dry.
Listen To It
Try knocking on the wood and dropping it on solid ground. If it thuds, then it’s still wet. If it’s sufficiently dry, then the wood should sound hollow.
Weighing your wood will let you know if your wood is sufficiently dry. If you’re drying your own wood, weigh a few pieces, note the weight, then mark these pieces. After your seasoning period, weigh these again.
This chart will help you see how much the weight typically reduces for different types of wood. Use it to determine if your wood’s weight has reduced enough to be dry.
This is a guaranteed way to figure out how wet your wood is: use a multi-calibration moisture meter. You want, at most, a moisture content of 20%. Less is always better.
Frequently Asked Questions
Finally, there are a few common questions you may have about drying wood, and I’ll answer them for you below.
Does Firewood Dry In The Winter?
You can dry wood in winter, but it’ll take longer due to the lower temperatures. However, winter drying is ideal for areas with high humidity, as the air will be dryer.
Can You Dry Firewood With a Fan?
Drying firewood with a fan can be effective, but it’s often not effective enough to warrant the drain on electricity. It’s worth trying if electricity costs aren’t a concern for you, but it’s not necessary.
Can You Burn Fresh Cut Wood?
You can burn freshly cut wood, but it won’t burn for as long as dry wood. It also won’t produce as much heat, and it produces a lot of smoke. Try to only burn dry, well-seasoned wood.
One of the reasons why your campfire keeps going out is that your wood is too wet, and that’s often because the wood is too fresh.
Can You Dry Wood In An Oven?
You can dry firewood in your oven, but you won’t be able to dry much of it. You should avoid drying wood in your oven if you can, as you don’t want to overwork the oven. If you want to dry firewood quickly, then it’s always better to use a kiln.
Wood takes 6–18 months to air-dry, but it can dry in as little as two days in a kiln. You can dry wood yourself by stacking it in a way that allows airflow and covering it when it rains. When you think it’s dry, knock it, examine it, and use a moisture meter on it to make sure you’re right.
When buying from a vendor, always ask about their drying process, and don’t be afraid to use a moisture meter on their logs, too!