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Why shouldn't I cover newly split wood?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by marsfarmer, Sep 11, 2009.

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  1. marsfarmer

    marsfarmer New Member

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    In wading through many colorful discussions in this forum on the science and lore of seasoning wood, I've come across one thing that keeps bugging me. It seems like a lot of folks believe a woodpile should sit out in the rain and snow in order for it to be properly seasoned, or dry. I gather that only toward the end of the process is it customary to put your wood in a shed or under cover.
    If I want to dry chiles or clothing or cure garlic I keep them in a warm dry ventilated place. Moisture is the last thing I want on them. If I could send them to Arizona I would. I just don't get why firewood is the one thing in the world that can only be dried by leaving it out in the rain. Why would the presence of water have any beneficial effect?
    I would think any moisture would be a setback. There are a lot of nooks and crannies for water to get trapped in on an uncovered woodpile. I can see how wrapping wood in a tarp would invite condensation, but it seems like a simple cover of corrugated steel on a pile set in a nice sunny spot would be good, in that air and solar heat are allowed to get at the wood but moisture is not. So why why do so many folks insist on naked woodpiles?
    Any thoughts?

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  2. JustWood

    JustWood Minister of Fire

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    Common cents pre vails , me thinx!
  3. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    +1
  4. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Unless you're in a tropical rain forest, the ratio of sun to rain is overwhelmingly in favor of sun. Most of the things you mentioned are covered more from a cleanliness standpoint as opposed to a real 'drying' issue. Go look at a slab of concrete, your roof shingles, a brick wall, your house gutters, etc. These have all kinds of cracks and places for water to hide - but they will all be completely dry unless you've just had a recent rain. You can cover if you like - certainly won't hurt. But if it is raining, the humidity is 100% and your wood isn't drying anyway. As soon as the rain stops, the humidity goes down, the surface water dries in short order and the wood can resume drying as well.

    I usually cut about a year ahead, don't worry with covering the pile, use last years bark and scraps to keep the wood off the ground - and the wood miraculously dries by the fall.
  5. CO2Neutral

    CO2Neutral New Member

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    I wrestled this idea for two seasons -- I'm not sure what the answer is but I'm glad I store my wood in a covered woodshed with all the doors open (and back) to get some air moving. Being a softwood burner I can get away with 9 months of seasoning like this with no worries. I had hardwood sit out in a shady spot uncovered and I don't know if it would have ever dried towards 20% MC.

    If it's like the cane in my bagpipe reeds (bad comparison, eh?) I have to work hard at keeping the moisture of the core of the cane moist enough. The outside dries out rapidly after a few days the core is dry as a popcorn fart, too. I assume wood follows a similar routine when drying in that if there are more drying days than wet, the odd rain fall won't penetrate to the core so much. So when it's close to burnin' season get it covered and the drying will be settled by then.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Top cover it. Only dry your wood once. >:-(
  7. maplewood

    maplewood Minister of Fire

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    You are not wrong to think that keeping surface water away from wood will help it dry. Given a choice of a well ventilated storage shed (all I'm really looking for is a roof) versus in an open field, I'll go with the shed. And many are getting ready to cover their ranks (just the tops, mind you) for the wet fall / winter, or for those who draw from their ranks all winter, full coverage.
    But practice does show that wood, left open to the elements, will dry. Dry off (surface water (rain) - 1-3 days) and dry out (moisture in the wood grain - 1-3 years). We're not hanging out clothes, we're carefully timing the curing process of our heating source. Inexpensively, effectively and with measurable results.
    How's your 5 year-old back deck? Does it need staining again - out there in all those nasty elements, getting rained on, winter snows, those summer heat waves.... After 4 days of dry July breezes, would you dare light a newspaper under it? Just like kindling - poof! That's what we're aiming for.
  8. freeburn

    freeburn Feeling the Heat

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    Regarding the placing of wood on the ground, what if you have sandy soil so that no water sits anywhere, is it still necessary to put some kind of ground barrier down?
  9. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    i have never had any issue's
  10. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Put junk wood like Poplar on the ground and the good wood on top of it.
  11. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I do believe he's got it!
  12. wendell

    wendell Minister of Fire

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    Sorry, but your analogy doesn't work unless you cover your chilies with Saran Wrap to get them to dry faster. In the initial phase of drying in most parts of the country, you have more water exiting the wood than is going to get on the surface from rain. Once the initial water is off, cover away.

    And I would love to send my wood to AZ to dry too but somehow think I would lose any cost savings from burning wood instead of my furnace. :cheese:
  13. marsfarmer

    marsfarmer New Member

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    Well I heard the Postal Service is hurting for revenues... Maybe we could work out a deal with them?
    I hear what your saying about the chile analogy, but I just meant to point out that drying most things involves creating a moisture free environment. When I dry hops I put them in the sun with good ventilation but I cover them on top so birds don't crap on them and the sunlight doesn't sear out all the hoppy flavor. Nobody likes bird crap beer.
    From the standpoint of efficiency and speed in your woodpile, why not take surface water out of the equation entirely. In New England this year it rained every other day from May through August. I guess I'd like to know if there's some extra benefit to all that exposure to surface moisture through the year or is it just something people live with when they have a lot of cordwood, or bagpipes?
    I should say my dear old dad never covered anything the day before he burned it. He would tell me wood burns better with snow on it. Looking back I think that was a ploy to get me to bring in the wood during blizzards. I also remember plenty of hissing and smoking in that big stove.
  14. wendell

    wendell Minister of Fire

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    On that we agree!

    Remember, I said for most of he country. :lol:

    It is a trade off. We haven't had rain here in 3 weeks so I would've hated to have my wood covered and trapping the moisture in and not take advantage of this great drying weather.
  15. JoeyD

    JoeyD Minister of Fire

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    How much moisture really gets trapped by covering the just the tops? I stack my wood on pallets so when it rains water gets down inside the stacks. The outside of the stacks dry fast and don't need to be covered for most of the year. Surface water dries in a couple of hours. But the middle doesn't get the sun that the rest of the wood gets. Water can stay there for days if there isn't a breeze. Air doesn't travel from the top down to dry your wood but it will go vertical even if the tops are covered. I figure less moisture can only be a plus.
  16. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    well one thing we know...........
    oak takes a long time to season covered or uncovered!

    those with nice covered sheds.... you guys prolly get more seasoning done in the cold winter months than summer ... dry air just sucks moisture right outta the wood...
    dont ask me how i know .. cause i dont but i did stay at a holiday inn last night
  17. rphurley

    rphurley Feeling the Heat

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    I've kept my piles covered in the past, but now I usually leave them uncovered until the fall. I havn't noticed much of a difference. It also seems pretty consistent with the wood that is stored in my shed. All of my wood sits for 18 months or more and it seems to burn pretty well.
  18. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    marsfarmer, you and others bring up some good points. However, I do not feel most of what is printed has much in common with a wood pile. Wood is not like cloth or a sponge (unless it is punky). It won't soak up the moisture from rain. The rain runs off just fine.

    If it is okay to cover the top immediately, then why is it not okay to also cover the sides and ends?

    Simply put, we do not cover our wood the first summer....because it allows for just a little better evaporation of moisture from the wood. I've always noticed that when water evaporates, the moisture seems to go up; sort of like watching a pot boil. The moisture rises....which is the same thing that happens in nature.

    Does it hurt to cover the top of the pile immediately? Absolutely not! If it makes you fee better, then by all means, do it. If you'd like to get the wood just a tad drier, then perhaps you should leave it uncovered for a while; at least through the summer months when the temperature is up for the best drying.
  19. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    jburner, our ground is sand and most of the wood piles are on high ground too. We have quite a bit of the wood stacked right on the ground. We have no problem with it except that the bottom row we usually have to wait for spring to get it because it will be frozen in. The wood is fine though. Just throw that wood that was frozen in onto next year's stack.
  20. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Why not take surface water out of the equation entirely? You can, if you wish but you won't gain anything by doing so. As I've stated, wood is not a sponge; it won't soak up the day's rain. The outside of the wood will be wet the same as the rooftop of your house. Watch to see how quickly your roof dries; that is because it hasn't soaked up the rainfall (hopefully). It is the same with the wood pile.

    Again, it does not hurt a thing if you want to cover immediately. We don't and won't. The wood I cut last winter (9 cords) was split and stacked completely before the end of April. It is still uncovered and doing just fine. We won't burn that wood until probably the winter of 2015-16; possibly one year earlier or later. So why didn't I cover it immediately? I could have, but I get just a little extra drying time that first critical summer.

    So to answer your other question, no, it is not just something I live with. It is planned.
  21. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Joey, you asked, "How much moisture really gets trapped by covering the just the tops?" Not a lot. But by leaving it uncovered the first summer, you get that little extra drying because the moisture can evaporate easier. No doubt there are doubters and will come back at me for these posts, but we've tried many ways over the years and this is simply the best way we've found.

    You also stated, "The outside of the stacks dry fast and don't need to be covered for most of the year. Surface water dries in a couple of hours. But the middle doesn't get the sun that the rest of the wood gets. Water can stay there for days if there isn't a breeze."

    It would take one God-awful rain for water to get to the middle of our stacks. Last month we got 5" of rain one day and 2 more in the next 2 days. I looked at our stacks of wood and the water didn't get anywhere near the center of the stacks. Only the very tops and the sides. That moisture left faster than it came.

    I agree with your last statement, "I figure less moisture can only be a plus." That is exactly right and that is why we try to get as much moisture from our wood as we can. I'll be covering that 9 cord of wood in November or December. We'll burn it in 6-8 years. We will be happy campers!
  22. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Well. it's been raining here for two days now, like most of the country.

    Just to see, I went out and checked my wood.

    Sure enough, the uncovered, 2011 pile is sopping wet.

    Oddly though, the 2009-2010 stack (in the woodshed) is dry!

    I don't care what anyone says, the dry stuff is dryer than the wet stuff.
  23. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Great observation Dune! lol
  24. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I remember back in the old days, the rain soaking my uncovered wood late in the Fall and worrying about whether it will turn cold and freeze solid. Then, all Winter long busting the frozen splits apart and chipping the ice off of them.

    I also remember back fighting with tarps in the pouring rain that the wind ripped to shreds. I remember the tarp shreds freezing to the wood and finding little bits of blue plastic all over the house. Over the years I learned to use the silver tarps and how to tie them down so they stayed put. Also learned how not to let the tarps chafe on sharp edges and shred.

    I sure like my woodshed.
  25. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Well, maybe I put this in the wrong thread...I've been known to be wrong before, But some thread somewhere, everyone gave me a buncha crap for saying it was a good idea to cover the top of the woodpile.
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