Arranging a mound of firewood into neat, sturdy stacks is like completing a puzzle: If the pieces don’t fit right, it won’t be a pretty picture when the whole thing topples over.
A perfect-looking stack is only part of the equation though. Even if the wood’s arranged in tidy rows, there could still be issues with air circulation.
To the wood-stacking novice, the whole undertaking might seem intimidating, but local wood sellers say a few simple tips can help ensure the woodpile will stand tall and be the source of hot, crackling fires all winter long.
The secret to a strong stack of wood is to hem it in with “bookends,” said Artie Bhatti, owner of Seasoned Gourmet Firewood in Malta.
At each end of the row, two pieces of wood of uniform shape and size are placed parallel to each other, about six inches apart. Then two more are laid across them, spaced a similar distance apart, to form a box. Between the “bookends” created at each end of the row, more wood is stacked, including any irregular pieces. Then, a second level is added to the “bookends,” and more wood is stacked between them, and so on, until the row reaches about three feet high.
“Four feet high is OK, but it is on the border of the danger zone, because if it’s too high, if you don’t stack properly, it can fall on you,” Bhatti cautioned.
Since there is plenty of space between the logs that form the “bookends,” air is able to circulate in toward the center of the stack. Proper air circulation is important to ensure unseasoned wood can dry.
Wood stacked loosely between the “bookends” will also dry more quickly.
To allow air to circulate between rows of firewood, Owen Monroe, owner of Wilton Firewood, suggests leaving four or five inches between them.
He stacks his wood in rows that run north to south.
“That way, I get morning sun on the one side, afternoon sun on the other side, and our prevailing wind here is from the west pretty much, so the wind passes easily through it and it dries very quickly,” he explained.
Monroe also stacks his wood on pallets to allow air to circulate from below.
The biggest mistake people make when stacking wood is to throw a plastic tarp over the pile, he said. The tarp inhibits air circulation and collects moisture, which drips back onto the wood. Often, that causes mold to develop.
The best way to keep the wood dry is to cover only the top of the pile with a tarp, he said.
Monroe also recommended stacking wood bark-side-up to help keep it dry, since bark naturally sheds water.
“If you lay it bark-down, actually, the bark will hold the moisture inside,” he cautioned.
It might seem like a good idea to stack wood under a tree where it will be sheltered, but Bhatti said that’s not a good spot.
“Then the sun doesn’t hit it. You need sun, air; that’s the most important part,” he explained.