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How long will a fallen oak tree last without rotting?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by gzecc, Mar 29, 2009.

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  1. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    One of my recent customers allowed me to take some firewood from their property. I found a couple of fallen oaks that were almost petrified. They were elevated at least 1' off the ground because of the rocky torraine. This is in a heavely wooded area. How long will an oak tree season before it begins to rot?
    The interior of the splits measure around 30% after cut from the log. I am wondering how long these trees have been down?

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  2. wellbuilt home

    wellbuilt home Minister of Fire

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    White oak lasts a long long time. If its off the ground i think it could last indefinitely. It would rot from the ground up a few inches a year . John
  3. CTBurner

    CTBurner Member

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    i cut a lot of dead down oak, stay away from stuff touching the ground, but the elevated stuff gets like you said petrified, hard as steel, i see sparks whwn i saw it, burns really great. some have been down 10 years with no rot
  4. rphurley

    rphurley Feeling the Heat

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    I harvested some Red Oak from a neighbor's yard that had been down several years. The tree had broken, and fallen over so it was mostly off the ground. The wood was still good.
  5. Jeff S

    Jeff S Feeling the Heat

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    Some of the best wood I burned this year came from some Oak tops that were cut about 8 years ago.
  6. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    Even if it's a little rotten, it will dry and burn. And if it's free...
  7. DonNH

    DonNH New Member

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    I find a fair amount of red oak around here which has been down for a long time. The sapwood rots out in a few years, but the heartwood is fine. Looks ugly, but even if it's soggy when I pick it up, a few months under cover and it's dry (and hard) as a bone.

    Don
  8. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    About 3 1/2 years ago I was cutting from a fallen oak along the road near me. It had landed on a couple small trees with some branches on the ground, some off, and most of the main trunk about a foot off the ground. I cut the easy stuff first. When I tried to get one of the branches down, the tree moved on me jammed my saw. I had to cut through a 14" diameter branch with my axe to get my saw out. After all that trouble, I never bothered with the main trunk. A couple days ago I went back with some wedges that I cut, my axe, a second saw, a timberjack and a little more experience. Before I even bothered to cut it, I gave it a chop with the axe. The bark was totally rotten with a bout 1/4" of dirt under it and the tree was solid. I carefully cut it, using the wedge to keep it open. It was solid all the way through. I cut 12 rounds about about 16" long and from 18"- 20" diameter. I think this tree went down in a storm in August, 2005.
  9. vwboomer

    vwboomer New Member

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    Last weekend I did some cleanup on some land that had been logged. The smaller stuff that was off the ground is ready to burn - mostly red oak. The red oak on the ground 6-20" dia is a little soft on the outside, but the inside is generally solid. I think she said it was logged 2 or 3 years ago. Definitely worth the work if it's free.
  10. Alan Gage

    Alan Gage Member

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    I cut a lot of dead and downed White (Bur) Oak last year, probably 4 or 5 cords. I don't know how long it had been dead but decades I'm sure. There wasn't a scrap of bark left on any of the trees and all the small branches were gone, just a skeleton of the larger branches. Some of the branches on the lower sides of the tree were buried under ground from sitting so long.

    The wood was solid as could be until you got about 3 feet from the roots, were it was starting to rot. There are still a few more left to cut up this year and another half dozen in the same shape but still standing.

    Alan
  11. EDGE

    EDGE New Member

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    As others have noted above, species of white oak are very rot-resistant. But exposure to air is the key consideration in how fast the wood rots. Often on my old bur oaks I see dead branches hanging--- ten feet up and higher, with big collars grown out from the bole of the tree--- that I think must be at least fifty years old. In other words, based on the girth of the tree at the height of the dead branch, that branch must have died more than fifty years ago. In less rot-resistant trees, when a branch dies it rots pretty fast, even if suspended in the air, so it falls and the stub gets healed over. But in the case of the bur oaks, the branch won't decay enough to let go, and the tree has the seemingly impossible task of trying to close off a very hard, tenacious old branch. (I like bringing these old branches home to use when I start a fire. I cut them to a length of about a foot and put them over the twig layer.)

    An oak log lying on the ground in a forest is going to rot much faster than one lying out in a pasture. (Up here some folks pasture their woodlands to death.) I helped a buddy split some bur oaks that had stood dead in a pasture until they finally fell down, and they were unbelievably hard. But then, I cut some small logs from the branches of an oak that fell in the woods just a few years ago, and they were punky.

    And then, of course, there was the practice of surveyors, who would cut stakes of white oak, char them, and use them to mark section corners. If charred, white oak species have good resistance to rot, even in contact with the soil.
  12. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    I found two dead oaks still standing behind my house.
    I cut one down (like cutting granite) and cut and split it last September . The wood is brown all through and is still not turning grey from the weather.

    The other one I just pulled over with a rope. Went over stump and all. Just the roots have rotted. No bark and it has been weathering in the wind for quite some time. Bugs and birds haven't touched it. Just slowly weathering away while standing vertical.
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