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Stuck with damp wood

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by dochockin, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. dochockin

    dochockin New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Merville, BC (Mid Van Isle)
    Hello all,

    I'm new to these forums, though I have perused the info here numerous times.

    We've recently purchased a house and acreage and are trying to get settled and fix up many of the little problems around the property. The house was rented out for a few years before we bought. It's a early 70s house, decent insulation and our climate is mild (slightly colder than Seattle). There is an old Seefire 1600 wood stove that the renters were not allowed to use. There was no wood shed on the property (I have no idea where the previous owners stored wood...). We need a decent wood shed out here on the Wet Coast, otherwise stacked wood can grow moss inside of a year.

    We're planning on replacing the old stove with a Alderlea T5 (the factory is a couple hours south of us, on Van Isle). The info here helped us make our choice!

    The main problem, and my question is: What if you are stuck with damp wood, and have no other choice? The wood stove is our main heat with some very pricey electric baseboard backup. Having recently purchased we couldn't get a winter wood supply until fall, and by this point everything available is damp. I am stacking it in the shed, but I'm doubtful it will really dry out during the winter. Of course we'll be getting wood in the spring in future years, but this year it is what it is. I do plan to try and store a 3 day rotation of wood beside the stove (still need to build a wood box), but that will only dry so much.

    So, what can I do to minimize trouble with wet wood, dry it as much as possible, get the stove roaring, and not hurt our new stove?

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  2. Trundle

    Trundle Member

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    Western MT
    Hi dochokin. I was in a similar situation when I bought my place here in MT. Made it through that first winter with wood that wasn't seasoned enough but the interior temps were definitely on the chilly side (getting the cabin up to 60 degrees F was a daily chore that took about 3 hours every morning). I'd suggest you split your wood pretty small, put as much as you can inside in close proximity to the wood stove and buy a nice sweater:). I'd imagine you're on the coast or close to it so probably not much beetle kill Lodge Pole pine in your area. If you can get to some standing dead LP, that stuff is typically ready to burn the same day it gets split. Lastly, you could always buy a chord or two to help with this year. Welcome to the forum.
  3. dochockin

    dochockin New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2013
    Messages:
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    Loc:
    Merville, BC (Mid Van Isle)
    Hi Trundle,

    Thanks for the reply. Ya we don't have any Lodgepole Pine, being beyond the coast and on an Island. Native trees are Alder, Big leaf Maple, Cedar, Doug Fir, Amabalis Fir, Grand Fir...

    The damp wood we have is actually bought wood, I have yet to develop chainsaw skills to a place where I can collect my own wood. Part of the problem is no one has truly dry wood for sale (they claim it's dry... but...).

    What effect will using damp wood have on the stove. I keep running into warnings about using damp wood in newer stoves vs using it in older stoves, but I don't really understand the difference.

    Thanks!
  4. USMC80

    USMC80 Minister of Fire

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    New Jersey
    With damp wood start ups will be a PIA, you will burn twice the amount of wood to stay warm and you will be cleaning up a lot more creosote.

    Maybe buy yourself a pallet of Enviro bricks to mix with the wood you are using for this year.
    Standingdead and Gasifier like this.
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    USMC80 has a good suggestion for your situation. The bricks will burn enough to give you heat and also help the other wood to dry out (in the stove) enough to give you some useable heat.

    As to your question of what effect on the stove, very little except that it won't burn well. The effect where it will be worse in in your chimney. If you have read much on this forum you will know that we recommend people new to burning wood that they check their chimneys monthly and clean as necessary. Yet, we have also read and I have personally seen a chimney plug in 2 weeks time! The reason if the wet wood. Remember that even with "dry" wood, the first thing that happens when the wood starts to burn is to evaporate moisture from the wood. That is because we are still not smart enough to figure out how to burn water. So, in your case, this means that at first you will want as hot of a fire as you can get, and that will be difficult to do. You will have some struggle this winter for sure but you can get through it.

    Even some of us who have burned for a long time have had times in the past where we had less than idea conditions. In our case, due to an injury I was unable to put up wood for several years. I bought some when I ran out but thought the wood would be good because I knew the fellow. Wrong! It was fresh cut white ash. Now here is one! Many times you will hear (wrongly) that ash is ready to burn once it is cut. Wrong! We did get through that winter and didn't even have any water pipes freeze but we were never comfortable. We also cleaned our chimney 6 times or more. It may have been 8 but don't remember for certain as it was many, many moons ago. I never want to go through another winter like that one!

    Good luck.
    Gasifier likes this.
  6. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    Cross stack wood in shed, put a box fan to move air around. In some way you want have fresh air entering and damp air(the air that has been circulated around wood) exiting. That is if you can get power to the shed. Other wise with no power you need a small opening on the primary wind side( low ) and ditto on the lee side (High exit).( You need the 2 openings for the fan idea also) The idea being to circulate air around and through wood stacks. + on the small splits.
    also + on the compressed wood logs/blocks/bricks mixed with regular wood

    Puchase a moisture meter ( not that expensive under $50) so you can tell whats what.
    Surface water like from rain, fashes off readily, it's the retained moisture in the cell structure from when it was live that needs to be dried. That just takes time. The good news is that the species listed are not particularly stingy about giving up cellular moisture.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
    Gasifier likes this.
  7. Gasifier

    Gasifier Minister of Fire

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    Do you have any building supply places on the island? Or not far from the Island? Do you take a ferry to the Island? Start looking around now at places like these. Asking around also helps. Look for scraps of lumber. Stop and talk to the managers and supervisors. Contractors also have scraps around. Look for pallets if you don't mind dissassembling them. You can mix any of this wood with your damp wood and get a good hot fire. Just be careful with kiln dried wood(lumber) that you don't over fire the stove. Watch your air intake. Pallet wood can usually be had for free or next to free and can be a good supply to get you through for a while. In the mean time you can go ahead and get some wood for next year NOW. You do not need to wait until next spring for the 2014/15 season. Buy what you can, when you can and get it stacked outside in the spots with the most sun and wind. Talk to people, you will be surprised with what you might find.
  8. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    If this is just damp wood and not unseasoned wood . . . there should be no major issues with the stove or chimney (but I would still check it in a couple of weeks) . . . a few minutes with some kindling (old dimensional lumber or cut up pallets work fantastic) and the damp, seasoned wood will take off running. If this wood is unseasoned it's a whole other story.


    As mentioned damp wood will also dry out pretty quickly when it's inside, under cover or in the woodbox near the stove.
  9. Seanm

    Seanm Feeling the Heat

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    SE BC Canadian Rockies
    Welcome to the forum! My folks live in Nanaimo. I noticed searching on kijiji there are several ads for your area that are claiming dry wood;hm. If you've been lurking around here for awhile you know that this is rarely the case. Buy yourself a moisture meter and test it inside a freshly split round, if its under 20% the new stove will like it. I have heard some say that you can burn wood with a slightly higher moisture content but last winter I tried that on a 24% piece of Larch and didn't have much luck with it. If you are going to buy wood I would suggest that you try and get softwoods this year and stack it top covered in an area with lots of wind. Im from the coast as well and know it can be hard to keep wood out of the rain especially when the wind is blowing the rain sideways!
  10. Applesister

    Applesister Minister of Fire

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    I have a log hoop right next to my stove. It holds 2-3 days of wood. Its my finishing spot. If you have something you can stack wood as close to the heat as you safely dare, it really helps.
    Also I set up 2 facecord wood racks in my enclosed patio. The room is heated with the woodstove.Load them with the driest wood you have.
    You might need to purchase those compressed 'bricks'. Something dry to add to the not so good stuff.
    Go to places that sell milled lumber. They normally stack their inventory under cover. Kiln dried scraps will help raise your stove temps.
    Last resort buying the bricks is still way cheaper than electric.
  11. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    Go through all the wood you have, separate it by MC and do as others have said, by the way, what tells you it is all wet, and how much do you have? Do you have any dry stuff?
  12. dochockin

    dochockin New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies folks. I am planning on building a 3 day wood bin for beside the stove, with lattice sides, to help dry out pieces as much as possible. I'll see if I can split them further and spend the winter burning mini-splits...

    I'll look into getting some kind of bricks or kiln dried pieces. On that note, I was recently told that burning dimensional lumber or pallets is risky due to fungicides applied to the lumber. Supposedly it can corrode stoves?

    @Gasifier: I mentioned the Island trying to illustrate the coastal climate, but it's a big Island. Bigger than Vermont in fact... Plenty of building supply stores ;)

    We are finding that if we can get a decent burn with cedar kindling (lots around here) and a coal base, our fire burns well enough. I also figure out that it's best to leave some ash and old carbonized chunks behind when cleaning out the stove... helps with getting a coal base sooner.
  13. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    +1 on those lumber scraps. They are kiln dried. Anywhere old homes,barns are being demolished is a good place to scrounge wood. easy to cut and stack. I burn mostly this kind of stuff.
  14. Cynnergy

    Cynnergy Feeling the Heat

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    Where are you on the island? I could give you the number of the outfit that milled our pine flooring in Campbell River - he probably has lots of kiln-dried scraps. I've been using a very small amounts of off-cuts from the flooring in the stove when we're having trouble getting the temps up - it's amazing how far one little bit goes when the MC reads 6%! You could also try Woodland Flooring in Comox if that's closer to you.
  15. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Once upon a time I burned perfect wood never. The end.
  16. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

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    Better than the bio bricks and more bang for the buck is the North Idaho Energy Logs, they burn a lot longer than bio bricks and, man they burn hot.
  17. Soundchasm

    Soundchasm Minister of Fire

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    Getting stuck with wet wood made for a long winter in my case. I found no decent way to make wood dry in a hurry. Even indoors it can take months. Starting and maintaining a fire was a drag because the stuff rightfully refuses to burn. Small splits, small cuts and air flow will minimize the problem, but there's no quick cure.

    In principle the lighter the split the better your chances.

    It will totally incentivise you to get really organized for 14/15. Best of luck and I hope you get some strategies together! Good ideas here.
    oldspark likes this.
  18. Cynnergy

    Cynnergy Feeling the Heat

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    Ah, now that I'm not on my phone, I can see you're in Merville. Welcome neighbour, I am just up the road! Give Woodland Flooring a call - they might be able to help you out with some off-cuts from the kiln (I wouldn't use the finished stuff) - http://www.woodlandflooring.com/
  19. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    You can get wood a lot drier in a fairly short time indoors in winter - it requires some work though. Re-split smaller (a small electric splitter helps a lot there), stack in a single stack (or stacks) however you can with the space you have in as warm a spot as you can (if you have lots of room around the stove that would be ideal), set up a box fan on low speed to blow air onto it. Not necessarily around the clock, maybe just during waking hours. You will need to rotate the wood as you bring fresh in and burn the stuff that's been there the longest. Putting it in a box or bin will not help, a box or bin will block airflow. It mostly comes down to the space you have to do it in & how much you want to work at it. Typically indoor air is a lot drier in winter - some find they need to use a humidifier during heating season. If you can get some sort of system like this up & going ASAP, you will improve things a ton before it gets real cold. Try to find some dry stuff per the above suggestions and you can mix that in along with it.
  20. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    MY stove room is about 25% humidity in the winter so that should suck out any remaining moisture in a hurry. Blowing air thru a stack of wood may act as a humidifier to some extent.
  21. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    Try buying some 20% MC wood, that is what I wood do.... Gl
  22. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    My neighbor burns "semi seasoned" wood and mixes in pressed logs fromTractorSupply. I works good for him in his air tight unnamed steel plate stove, with his cash flow :) If I had a cast iron stove, I would not want my bio bricks to come in direct contact with the iron.

    I have an indoor wood boiler. I burn about 6-8 cords a year, usually have all the new wood stacked by end of June and 2 cords from the previous year. In Nov, I bought 2 tons of Canawick bricks just to see. Cost was 315 per ton delivered, left on a low trailer over the weekend. Figured that is about 40% more cost per BTU than my chunk wood when all is said and done. I think it is close to 1 cord = 1 ton of bricks.

    Easiest two cords I have ever moved and stacked by myself. And there are no weird pieces reserved for the top of the stack, or ones that need to be split again. Takes way less space than chunk wood. When the temp drop down to single numbers, I like to mix it half and half with my chunk wood, there are more BTUs per cubic foot than chunk wood.

    They are a bit messier than chunk wood. Could be because the sawdust that comes off of the ends is easier to see on my dark hardwood floors. I found a wooden box that easily holds 80 pounds of bricks, that helps.

    I am stll using chunk wood, but I will buy some more bricks next year. Just saying, they are not for everybody, but worth considering when you got chunk wood that maybe is not as dry as you really want it and the temp is dropping.
  23. Craig S.

    Craig S. Member

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    Anyone know a North Idaho Energy Logs dealer in the NY/LI area? Want to explore this as an option. Running low on wood, and my usual supplier let me down last time (the last cord I bought wasn't all "fully" seasoned, the maple and red oak yes, the white oak, no ... he was pretty slick putting the good on top of the bad, so when I checked the load before he dumped it, everything I checked was seasoned), so I'm mixing the good with the bad right now.

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