How long does wood take to dry for burning?

How long does wood take to dry for burning?  A long time is the basic answer.  I did a talk based around our book at another church last Sunday and biomass heating was one of the issues that was raised.  We wrote that in a UK context;

Wood can provide energy for heating homes and water. In rural areas,
where firewood can be obtained at a reasonable price, it is already
widely used, and is coming into greater use in other areas as heating
from other sources has risen steeply in cost. Better management
of woodland, planting more trees and diverting useful wood from
landfill will all boost firewood supplies, so that more homes could
use wood for heating; however the numbers will always be limited.

This limited contribution is probably the same for the US.  In other countries such as Canada and the Nordic countries (where the forests are managed in a particularly sustainable way) the situation is very different.  However, at the moment its not that difficult to get hold of wood and often for me this wood is from trees that people are having felled for one reason and another.  I did a bit of research to see how long it would take a piece of wood to dry.  The wood was lime.  The graph below shows the result.

wood drying data

How long does wood take to dry for burning?  Someone at church who has a degree in forestry says an inch a year. My experience is that as long as you split the logs well then it can be dry enough to burn in a matter of months.  Leylandii and Cyprus dry in a matter of 6 weeks if kept out of the rain. Much of the Scots pine I obtained in the spring is now dry.  We have had a very hot summer which helped.  I know this partly by the weight of the wood and partly since I have bought a moisture meter that measures both building materials and logs.  According to this meter anything below 11.9% is dry.  Of course this is the surface moisture reading but it does seem to correlate, recently split wood is much wetter.

Follow these simple guidelines from my learning the hard way and you will not have soot coming out of your flue.

  • Cut the wood or have it cut (speak nicely to a tree surgeon) into as short a length as possible against the grain.
  • Split these pieces using an axe with the grain.  The more you split the logs the more quickly they will dry.  Also the logs have a larger surface area compared to their volume and this helps them burn better.
  • Cover top of log pile, but not its sides to keep the rain off but let air flow around the wood

Enjoy your woodburner!

Neil

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