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Cover or don't cover

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by 1750, May 7, 2013.

  1. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    I'm trying to follow the sage advice of the stove experts here and am starting to lay in my wood for next winter.

    I don't have wood storage with a roof over it yet, but I've got lots of tarping. My question: is my wood going to dry faster split and stacked with a tarp over it, or split/stacked and left uncovered and exposed to the wind and rain?

    I'm sure this varies a bit depending on the amount of rain we receive, and I can try both and report back, but if anyone has already done this comparison I'd be really interested in what you discovered.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Stack the wood so that the prevailing wind can blow through the stacks. Cover just the top, not the sides.
  3. TreePointer

    TreePointer Minister of Fire

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    Unseasoned wood? Never completely cover it. Leave it uncovered or cover just the top.

    All my stacks are uncovered until autumn (cover just before the first hurricane remnants blow through the area). At that point, only the wood that will be burned that heating season gets covered and/or moved into shed.
  4. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    What kind of wood, and how big are the splits? No Oak, I hope...
  5. Jon1270

    Jon1270 Minister of Fire

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    In Michigan it will probably dry a bit faster if covered but not dramatically so. Even if you don't cover them now, you'll want to top-cover this winter's fuel sometime in early fall, so that its surfaces dry out and it's ready when you need it.

    I'm currently doing some long-term drying experiments, periodically weighing several splits from the top of an uncovered stack that gets significant sun. What I've seen so far is that the wood stops losing moisture while the surface is wet, and even soaks up a bit, but that moisture evaporates again pretty quickly once the sun comes out. So, my current thinking is that the occasional summer rain that only keeps the wood wet for a day or so doesn't make much difference, but any circumstance that keeps it wet for long periods of time would have a bigger impact, e.g. fall rains in cool weather, because the moisture evaporates so much more slowly even after the rain is done. There are also some parts of the country, like coastal areas in the PNW, where it rains so frequently in winter that wood probably doesn't dry at all unless it's covered.
  6. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Depends on your rainfall situation. If there's much of it at all, top covering will speed the process, or rather prevent it from slowing. Otherwise the rain will run down into the stack & it'll be slower getting out of it. Ideally a bit of space under the cover. Top covering is not that important if you don't live in a heavy rainfall area and have lots of time on your side - like 2 years or more.
  7. NortheastAl

    NortheastAl Minister of Fire

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    I'm kinda new to this, but I am leaving all the wood that is seasoning uncovered. This year I only cover the stuff that is on my deck awaiting to be burned. That's about 1/4 of a cord at a time.

    Stacking the splits in the windiest location has had the most drying effect on the wood, so far.
  8. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks for all the thoughtful replies.

    This will be a variety of wood species (including oak, Woody, but what's not to like about oak?), and the splits will be small enough to fit in my Republic's firebox... I think 18" is the stated max. I hadn't thought of putting them perpendicular to the prevailing wind... that just makes good sense.

    I think I'll try to get the splits off the ground and maybe just tack some old plywood we used as silt fencing to the top. Eventually I'll plan to put some posts in with a little shed roof over the top.

    Thanks again, everyone.
  9. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    If you do choose to cover the tops, I would definitely go with the old plywood (it's what I use). Tarps are a real pain. I don't think it will make a huge difference either way through a Michigan summer, but once the fall rains and snow come you'll want to top cover for sure.
  10. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    All mine is uncovered all summer and I only cover the stuff I plan to burn sometime in the fall so I am not dealing with snow. Unlike many I bring what I believe will be used during the burning season into the basement on a dry day in the fall and just cover an extra cord or so "just in case" I run short. Many don't like to do this or don't have the space but it has worked for me and I will continue to use this method until I find a better way.

    Eventually I plan to bring some steel roof deck home from the shop and top cover some of it but tarps are such a pain it is not worth the effort for me. I am in Fowlerville and have a lot of space with plenty of sun/wind exposure for perspective.
  11. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I think if you had a rigid roof that allowed plenty of air to move under the roof, then covering would be better. On the other hand, I think covering with tarps is probably worse than leaving the wood uncovered from about now until about the end of October. Tarps keep out air movement and hold in moisture. They can, if properly installed, keep the rain off. They can also hold puddles of rain on top of the wood, funnel rain through holes in the tarps so the rain runs onto the wood, and other undesirable effects. My firewood in uncovered and it is mostly very good. A few pieces seem to either hold little puddles of water or maybe the wood above them funnels water onto the few pieces, and so those few pieces are sort of wet when it is time to burn the wood. A well built and properly designed shed would be better than uncovered, but tarps would be worse I think.
  12. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    Oak take longer than other wood to season. 2 to 3 years in your area.

    Single rows or 12" or so space between rows gives better air circulation.

    A plywood top cover would be a good idea.
    Jut that should help keep the rain off & speed up drying a bit.

    The tarp thing is a PIA, but will work.
    I'd put pallets or something on top to keep the tarp just above the wood for better air circ.
    Hills Hoard likes this.
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Hello fellow Michigander.

    As for covering or not covering, some of that depends upon where you are located in MI. In most places, I think it is best to leave it uncovered the first summer and fall. An exception would be perhaps if you lived close to Lake Superior and got lots of rain especially in the fall. Then I'd cover it in September.

    We got by for many years without a woodshed and had no problems. When you stack though, be sure to stack off the ground. We just cut saplings in the woods, lay them down and stack on them. We stack 4 1/2' high and that usually shrinks to 4' by fall but we most generally split in March or sometimes in April.

    Just laying up your wood for next winter now is not good and especially so with the oak. You asked, "What's not to like about oak?" Well, the slow drying of the oak is what most do not like. For me, I won't burn it until it has been in the stack (split) for 3 years. Earlier and you get creosote and I hate creosote! You also might be unlucky and still get creosote with the other wood you will be burning. So you could do yourself a big favor by getting a couple years ahead on your wood supply. Three years ahead is perfect and the benefits are huge.

    So because you need that wood next winter, I'd suggest splitting it small, stacking it really loose and stack in the windiest spot you have. Sun will help too but wind is the most important. Also be sure to stack in single rows with a good distance between the rows for better air flow.

    Good luck.
    charly likes this.
  14. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks, Backwoods. I live by Grand Rapids. Putting saplings/branches down is a great idea. I was using pallets, but those are harder to come by.

    Not having my wood cut in advance is sort of a Catch-22 to me. I didn't even know two years ago (let alone three!) that I'd have a wood stove now. I'd guess most folks on this forum have been in that situation at some point in their lives. The option would be to burn less than ideal wood or sit around chilly and wait for it to dry! :) About all I can pledge is to work diligently to get ahead and then stay ahead. I just had a big hemlock fall next to my place. I know that's not considered great wood by a lot of folks, but I would think it might be ok to mix in with other things.

    Anyway, thanks for your good ideas. I'm really looking forward to spending more time with my stove!

    I also really like your idea of splitting it smaller and stacking it loosely.
  15. red oak

    red oak Minister of Fire

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    My experience is tarps = pain in the behind.

    They blow away, get ripped, or both. So I do without and don't cover my main stacks at all.
    Definitely top-cover only if you want to, so the wind keeps going through.

    Have a place, inside or out, to cover that winter's supply of wood, or at least a few week's worth, so you're not banging snow and ice off it. I have done that before too, and that is also a pain in the behind.
  16. Mr A

    Mr A Minister of Fire

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    I'm new to the game myself. Don't you want to cover it when it's raining so it doesn't rot? I covered wood I will use that season and still have several cords uncovered. I don't see any reason to cover in good weather, but I would think covering all the wood in wet weather would help it keep from rotting, turning, punky. I don't want to spend any money for covers either.
  17. JP11

    JP11 Minister of Fire

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    hemlock is fine. You'd be mad if you paid for it by volume.. because it's not very dense.

    BUT.. you've got a blowdown. I had dozens two years ago. They kept me warm all winter.

    Split em small, burn em up.

    JP
  18. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    If you get that hemlock split and stacked asap, that'll probably be your best wood next winter as it dries pretty fast.
  19. red oak

    red oak Minister of Fire

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    As long as it's off the ground it should be fine - in most climates. I haven't had any problem with rot storing the wood like that for 3 years, but I have mostly oak.
  20. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    So, I leave mine uncovered until mid-August of the year it's going to be burned, as that's when the rain usually starts up. I only cover the tops, never the sides, so the ends of the splits get wet in the rain.

    If the wood is seasoned, and ready to go, would I do better also covering the sides of the stacks when mid-August comes around? I do recall the trouble you had last year, begreen, with wood that was covered outdoors versus getting moved into your shed.
  21. Hills Hoard

    Hills Hoard Minister of Fire

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    My experience with tarps hasnt been positive. They leak and hold water. As Dave said, putting a barrier between the wood pile and tarp does help, but im going to buy plastic for my next pile...

    PS. I scrounged a huge amount of yellow box gum that had been chopped to length then left out in the open for 1-2 years. (not even stacked) ... I took it home, split it,stacked it, left it out in the open over summer and only put a top cover on (tarp) during heavy rain....the wood is dry as a chip and perfect for burning....
  22. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    This is a picture I took last spring while stacking but you can clearly see the saplings laying under the wood. Works great and cost is just about flat zero.

    The hemlock will burn okay just not great for overnight fires. Good luck.

    Wood-2012b.JPG
  23. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    From time to time I see folks posting that they cover their wood when it is raining then uncover it. I would not go to that extreme because wood won't soak up rain unless it rains steady for several day on end. Also only in very wet areas would I top cover the wood in the first year. We usually stack in spring and cover in late November or early December depending upon snowfall. At present we have a few stacks of wood we cut in 2010 and they have not been covered yet. All other stacks have been covered except from what we cut last winter. I'm still splitting so am a bit behind this year.
  24. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Sir, that is one impressive wood pile.

    Strong work!
  25. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    I never cover my stacks. They are 3 splits deep on pallets. The only drying issues U have are the splits at the bottom of the middle row. Its not the rain that keeps them from drying, its the lack of airflow. In the winter I keep about 1/3 cord on my covered front porch out of the rain and snow. If heavy snow or ice is forecast, and I have the time, I might throw a tarp over the next 1/3 - 1/2 cord of the outside stack so I don't have to chop ice off when I move it to the porch.

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