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Wood Pile Step Down

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by soupy1957, Jan 10, 2010.

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  1. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    Ok folks, based on my other threads, you know by now that I'm a newbie to having a home wood stove and am covering all the bases to make sure that I am burning efficiently and effectively.
    Yes, there are tons of threads on the stuff I'm introducing, yet again, but I'm thankful for those of you who will contribute yet again, to help out yet another beginner.
    This thread is designed to talk about wood piles, aging, dryness and step-down procedures for my wood stock. I buy my wood, (being a suburbanite and not having more than a half acre of land). I have Pine trees around my property that I WON'T be burning, and some American Red Cedars along the back, and two Sugar Maples. I'm thinking that "one day" I may burn the American Red Cedars and the Sugar Maples, but they are by no means an un-exhaustible resource for me, since there are only limited numbers. (Yes, of course I could replant, but these trees are 50 years old, and I'm not going to live long enough to see the next batch of 50 year old trees).

    A little off topic here, and paranthetically added: My wife told me yesterday that we spend $2,000.00 a year for fossil fuel for our oil-fired furnace (only two years old) and our hot water heater. Given the current price of wood here, (albeit cut, split, aged and delivered mind you), which is about $260.00 a cord, it STILL would only be about $800.00 season for firewood, as opposed to the price previously stated, that we pay for fuel oil. If I truly wanted to be foreign oil free, I'd also have to reconfigure our hot water system, to burn from some other source.

    Back to the topic: So I had a half-cord delivered to my house, (not the first time I've had wood delivered here, but the first time since the wood stove was part of our lives), to the tune of $140.00, and I stacked it in the garage. I don't have a moisture meter (yet anyway........have to convince the wife to allow for the expenditure), but the "clink" sound between a few pieces, and the witness marks, seemed to imply that his wood WAS truly "seasoned" for about 6 months perhaps.
    My original thought was that the wood stove would be more of an aesthetic thing, but based on yesterday's conversation with the wife, she seems to be more tuned into using is as much as possible, which I didn't expect from her.
    That being the case, I'll probably use up that half-cord in a couple of weeks, and will still need perhaps a "rick" of wood to finish out the season (I dunno how to gauge my need yet.......will know after a full season). But I DO know that I'll have to stockpile as much dry,seasoned wood as I can (I hear from most folks who burn efficiently, that they typically go through about 3 or 4 cords of wood each winter.....YMMV.........), in preparation for next winter.
    (I presume that all of you who burn only wood, are heating your water with electric water heaters, or wood-burning heaters? We will still be dependant on fossil fuel for our oil-fired water heater, unless we change that too. But since we just bought that water heater, I don't think we'll be replacing it any time soon).
    What do you "we burn wood all the time" folks do when you go away from home for extended periods of time, (from a day, to a month away). Do you THEN fire up your fossil-fuel furnaces?
    I've been looking at the variety of wood-sheds that folks use, and I'm thinking it might be just "easier" to make the garage into one massive wood shed. I figure that the "step-down" aspect of wood storage, (piles way out back with tarps, to piles near the house, to a pile inside the house), is the only way to keep a good rotation going for the next season.
    -Soupy1957

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  2. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    As far as usage, your oil consumption is probably a good place to start. To replace 200 gallons of oil, you need a cord of premium dry hardwood and an efficient burning system. So, a rough estimate might be 4-5 cord per year but that depends on how much oil is used for dhw and if you are going to heat the house to the same temperature after switching to wood.

    If you do some reading in the woodshed, you will find the storage questions debated in detail. How many years ahead should you be? Should it be stacked in the garage? Should it be near the house before you are ready to burn it? How high to stack? How many rows to stack? Heap vs stack? My solution is 8 cord stacked right outside the door under an overhang 10' high and 32' ft long with easy driveway access. The rest stays outside in heaps until it is dry. That works for my site as it is high, dry (no bugs), sunny, windy and we get our share of snow.
  3. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Hi soupy if I were you I'd only bring well seasoned wood into my garage.

    So yup your step down method sounds good to go...esp if the wood going into the garage was cut and split 2 years ago. Also it sounds like you plan on always buying your wood ahead of time, like a year ahead of time to stack in the yard. 'Seasoned' has a lot of meanings, green wood has fewer and green wood is usually less expensive. So buy ahead and be master of your own domain. Most long time wood burners don't cover the tops of their split wood until the fall. Then we cover it when it's dry. btw you can burn anything if it's dry.

    Oh and were 24/7 burners and we let the propane heat the house if we go on vacation. With the money you save burning wood don't worry if the heater kicks on occasionally. Remember it's only heating the difference between something like 65 and 75° so it's no big thing. You may have to move the heating plant wall thermostat in order to keep a more even temp thorough the house.

    Best of luck.
  4. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    With oil at $2.50/$3 per gallon (and climbing), the analysis I did showed that electric hot water heat was far less expensive when you factored in how inefficient an oil boiler generally is at heating hot water. There are a few other threads on this topic - look them up.

    I built storage for 3 cords of wood in my garage. I wouldn't put fresh cut wood in the garage to begin drying, but if it has been outside for a summer/fall, moving it into the garage should be fine. My father-in-law is overeager to move fresh cut wood into his barn and it gets kind of moldy there. That wouldn't make my wife happy if I did that.
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I have a natural gas furnace and water heater so I'm not dependent on foreign oil but gas prices do tend to follow oil prices anyway. I have no desire to heat 100% with wood but I do try to keep the house warm enough that the furnace won't kick in but the price of gas is a motivator. The thermostat on the furnace is not setback so it does run a bit every day and is my sole source of humidity. Between the gas furnace, cooking, and DHW, my gas bill averages $2 per day. Ever since I built my house, I've been supplementing with wood heat so I have no idea what it would cost to heat entirely with gas. I burn somewhere between 4 and 8 cord a year at $100 a cord.

    I have 18 acres and could harvest trees from it but I have mostly undesireable species. For $1200 I get 12 cord of logs delivered that I buck, split, and season. What doesn't fit in my shed stays stacked outside and moved to the shed later. I try to maintain a 2 or 3 year supply.
  6. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    I heat only with wood, but my hot water is LP gas and so is the cook stove/oven. I never go away, but in case of emergency I still have the old forced air LP gas furnace that I can turn on if needed.
  7. Cearbhaill

    Cearbhaill Feeling the Heat

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    I never go away :blank:

    And step down is what we do- I have major piles (raised) in the woods as well as huge rounds yet to be split, my main stacks on pallets in the yard, a smaller stack on pallets under cover of a carport, a smaller stack in the garage on a huge rack, and an even smaller stack in the family room in a smaller rack, all of which eventually lead to the really small rack next to the insert.
    Lots of wood related exercise happening here.
    It seems counter intuitive to be moving each split up to five times before it is burned, but for us wood piles are something we seem to like rearranging. I don't like to keep wood indoors, in the garage, or under the carport during the off season as bugs are annoying.
    In the off season it's just the "need to be chopped" stuff in the woods and main stacks on pallets.
  8. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Soupy, not sure of your yard situation, but in my case, I've really been mulling over the idea of a shed in the front yard. It would be behind a bunch of 20ft. spruce (i think), so unobtrusive yet much easier for me to get to the wood in the winter.
    I started a thread a few days ago about the same thing, and most folks on here have similar methods for doing the wood shuffle.
    I have a couple of rows in the back field that are 96ft. long and 5 ft. high- 5 cord ( only one is full though :-S ). When dry, that gets moved to the front of the house into tarp covered stacks. From there, it goes to the porch, then into the house at least a few hours before it's needed.
    We have too many animals to be gone for extended periods of time, so we've turned into homebodies. If we happen to go downstate, it's about an 8 hr. round trip, plus whatever time spent there. Up to 14 hrs., and at those times (rarely), my sister-in-law comes over a couple times to feed the fire and take care of the animals.
    We'd love to do wind and solar, but until pricing comes in line with what people can afford without subsidies, no thanks. My combined utility bill is usually under $100/month. LOOOONG payback to go green.
  9. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Soupy, that one remark about you WON'T be burning pine. Why not? Season it and it will burn just fine.

    We heat 100% with a wood stove and heat the water with LP so we do use some LP but certainly don't use as much as the neighbors do!

    Heating entirely with wood can get interesting if you want to go away for an extended time. It all depends upon the weather. If daytime temperatures will be above freezing and especially if it is sunny then it takes very little heat. Our water pump is under ground level and we do keep a 75 watt light bulb on once the outdoor temperature is below 10.

    Indoors, we have used a little ceramic heater (Pelonis) and it is amazing how much heat that will provide and as long as it keeps the house around 50 all is fine. If we decided to go away for a week or two then we would drain the water pipes just to make sure nothing would freeze. It does not take that long to drain the pipes, blow them out and then put some anti-freeze in the drain traps. Then upon returning home the first thing would be to get a fire going and get the water turned on. It sounds like a bit of work but it is not that much.

    On making the garage into a woodshed, I would not. I like the wood stacked outdoors, especially if you are buying it. If you stack the wood so it is off the ground and the wind can hit the side of the pile, that wood will dry a whole lot faster. You also would not have to be concerned with bugs or mold. We do cover out wood piles once it gets late fall or early winter but cover the top of the stack only. Never cover the sides or you stop the drying process.

    As for rotation of the wood, that is easy to keep track of. We keep a 6 or 7 year supply on hand a lot (sometimes only 3-4 years though) and have no problem knowing which wood was cut when.
  10. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    Yea, if pine is seasoned, I suppose I'd burn it.........it's just so damn sappy otherwise.

    -Soupy1957
  11. hareball

    hareball Member

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    I'm in the same boat with you Soupy, only 1/4 acre here and houses in every direction. I need to watch my smoke and maintain a "easy on the eyes" woodpile. I've already hit the wall though with unseasoned wood. I'm at the point now I'm just gonna start stacking all along the fence line of the back yard. I have a 4' Wood fence and will stack just under the top. I also have a garage where I can keep wood but atm I have hibernating snakes and once they are moved out I have to choose between a 600 gallon Piranha tank or wood storage haha
  12. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    600 gallon tank?! That's one HECK of a fish tank...............unless you are making money off the fish tank, I'd dump it, in favor of the wood stove and the wood.

    I have an 8' stockade fence around the perimeter of my backyard (we won't even DISCUSS the pain in the rear THAT job was, to do), that I'm thinking might be a good wall to put wood near (the slats of the fence are not butted up against each other now, since the fence has aged and the wood had shrunk; so the airation would be adequate). Would be a lot of tarps I'd need, to keep the wood dry......I'd have a "blue" fence, essentially......lol.

    -Soupy1957
  13. hareball

    hareball Member

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    The biggest problem with the garage tank is heating it if the tank is out there.

    I think I will skip the tarp. I'd still rather have the firewood here aging than deal with green wood a cord at a time through the burning season.
  14. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Storing wood: Putting seasoned wood into your garage should be fine . . . except I would hate to lose my parking space as I kind of relish getting up in the morning and not having to brush off snow and start scraping the ice from the windshield.

    If you have some space, a wood shed can be both attractive and make a nice way to store your wood . . . and if it is built properly some folks would say you can use it to store and season your wood.

    In my own case, I have uncovered wood stacked at my house which is next winter's wood . . . and this year's wood that is being burned is under cover in my woodshed. Last year I simply tarped the wood, but I can tell you that a woodshed is really, really nice.


    Saving money: Burning wood can most definitely save you money. Granted I do not buy my wood, but get wood from the family land . . . but even if I had to pay for wood it would still be worth the cost. Last year I used less than a quarter tank of oil. While I burn wood as often as possible I do not kill myself to make sure the fire is always going . . . if my wife and I are out for too long and the fire dies, so be it . . . I figure for every hour that the woodstove is going and the oil boiler is silent I am saving money . . . and so if the oil boiler kicks on on those wicked cold mornings after 7 or 8 hours of letting the fire go without reloading . . . so be it . . . and if my wife and I take a trip to a warmer climate for a week and the oil boiler is left in charge of heating the house . . . so be it . . . we keep the thermostats to 60 degrees all the time so the oil boiler doesn't kick on a lot . . . but when it does it is for our convenience and even then I figure we've already saved a lot of money so I can live with the boiler using up a small amount of oil each winter.


    Saving more money: If you really want to save even more money burning wood you can see if any local wood dealers will deliver the wood to your home in tree-length. You will need room to process the wood and the will to cut it up and split it (and of course the tools to do so) . . . but in the long run you can save quite a bit of money doing the work yourself . . . plus you will know exactly when the wood was cut and split.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Soupy, those blue tarps do not work well for covering wood. They get torn up pretty bad really fast and when they get wet and then freeze you are better off without them. We use old galvanized roofing and anything like that works well. Fiberglass sheets work well too as does the rubber roofing material.

    Some have used the tarps with some success by putting a hardboard between the wood and the tarp but I question it.
  16. hareball

    hareball Member

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    For a stack up to 18" wide you think roofing shingles might help?
  17. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    They will help as long as you can put them on so water does not go through the cracks. That says if you try it you perhaps should have the top of the pile on a bit of a slant so any water runs off the sides of the pile. I've thought about trying that on a couple of stacks because we do have some old roofing laying around that we removed from a barn. Just might give it a try next fall. As for the felt or tar paper, I doubt that would work as it would get torn up pretty quickly. But if you put some plywood down an tar paper over it, that might work. I've never tried that one but did hear of someone who did. Sadly, I don't know how it turned out.
  18. hareball

    hareball Member

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    I have some left over from doing my roof last fall. Once I stop burning and am able to start stocking I'll give it a shot. :)
  19. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    I think multiple-stage wood piles seems like too much work. Instead, I'd go out now and buy 8 cords of wood, enough for probably two years of burning. I'd stack it in round holz hausens, each 8 feet in diameter, about 7 ft tall, holding about 2 cords apiece. In a couple of afternoons you can stack the wood and it will look pretty nice if you're careful, so there will be piles of loose firewood in the yard only a couple of weeks each year (assuming you plan to buy cut/split firewood). Four 8 ft diameter piles will easily fit in your yard. Each winter, you'll burn about two of these stacks, and you'll buy wood for another two. That way you'll be burning two-year seasoned firewood (after next year, of course), and can forget about moving it more than once. Also, you can wait to buy until late winter or spring, when prices might be better, and still have plenty of time to season the wood. If you are anbitious, you could even make six holz hausens and be three years ahead, and your firewood will be really nice and dry.

    A few other thoughts:
    I wouldn't count on your own trees as a significant part of your wood supply. Even if you clear cut the yard, that will probably be only one winter's wood.
    I would rely on the oil heat for backup. I'd leave the thermostat on about 55 degrees so if I left the house, it wouldn't freeze when if fire went out. That way I'd will still save lots of money, but not have to worry about constant fires all the time.
    I wouldn't change my new water heater to a wood fired one until I'd burned a few years and felt sure I wanted to change. I enjoy burning wood, and like saving money, but I don't want it to become too much of a chore by forcing myself to do it every day to have a hot shower.
  20. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    "holz hausens".................Please define, and or illustrate.
    -Soupy1957
  21. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    A holz hausen is a round stack of firewood. I honestly don't know if holz hausen is a name used anywhere but here (I have never heard it anyhere but here), but the legend on this forum is that holz hausen is the german name for the stacks, meaning 'wood house.' Anyway, you can find lots of threads on this forum about holz hausen, and one advantage they have is that they are free standing, look sort of cool, and hold alot of wood in a relatively small space. You could also make square or rectangular stacks, I guess, with the goal being neat stacks that look OK in the typical suburban yard and hold enough wood. If you can stack two or more years in advance, you won't have to worry if the wood you buy is seasoned, might get a better price becuse you can buy in spring or summer, and you'll have plenty of wood on hand is a cold winter or blackout comes along.

    I have a new computer so I will have to do a little work to post pics, but Ill try to post pic of my holz hausen.
  22. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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  23. mnowaczyk

    mnowaczyk Member

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    Soupy1957:
    "Hope hopes and low expectations" I believe that's a requirement for the first year of burning. Here are a bunch of thoughts form someone in his first year of burning.

    If you have not seasoned your own wood, don't have high expectations for this year. I get excited every time I light a fire. My hopes are always high, but I will be calling the oil man in about a week or so. We keep our thermostat at 67. Oil is doing all of our heating between probably 5 AM and 10 AM (or noon) on average.

    Midnight last night I tried hard for an overnight burn in my 2 cubic foot box with what I think was my best stack ever. The largest split was nice and dry hardwood (maybe oak). I spent a half hour with the multiple sizzlers to assure it took off, still had at least 50% of the three largest charcoaling splits at 5:30 AM and 400 degrees at the corners, 575 on the glass and doors. I finally got to the stove at 9 AM to find what appears to be nothing but fluffy white ashes and a temp of 150. I've got too much work to start from kindling right now. Maybe if the house was ice cold, or my wood was dry, I'd try to get the fire going. But it doesn't seem worth it today. Mama told me there'd be days like this. I guess that's why central heating was developed.

    At least in my first year of burning, I need to set the thermostat at the temperature we like the house (but there will be lots of colder spots). Then I see how long I can go without the furnace. That's my easy solution. I could not imagine this frustration while wearing a winter jacket inside the house. :) If you want to heat your whole house with wood, I too would recommend 2-3 years of wood, at a cord per heating month. Expect that you will need that, hope you won't. Worst case you burn maybe 1.5 years worth in 1 year, but you will still have enough for next year. So that will be OK. Right?

    I do think I've been burning more wood because my wood is not dry, and I've been messing with the fire more than I should. With my best overnight burn attempt, it seems I can get 5 hours out of my stove, with only 30 minutes of work. Theoretically, I could do 24/7 with five loads a day and 2.5 hours of fire-tending. Damn, that's a lot of work to save less than $40 per day on oil! I must need drier wood in order to spend less time tending the early fire. But the reason I opened this topic... was to consider that maybe I should be using less than a 1/4 cord per week, and believe maybe I can do that with drier wood.

    Man... moving, covering, uncovering. I don't even like to think about how much work this can be to save less than $40 per day. I should not forget the less tangible benefits:
    - That hot fire warms you to the bone
    - Hey... we'd never set our thermostat at 73 degrees with just oil heat. I have no idea how much it would cost to keep the house that hot... (probably still less than $40/day though)
    - I guess I'm a pyro at heart and have found a reason to build a fire
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