Degradation of stacked but uncovered hardwoods?

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Minister of Fire
Dec 29, 2016
I fully understand that top covered wood is the best route.......but....

How long can you leave HARDWOODS (ash,oak,maple) not covered before a notable amount of degradation of wood quality has set in?

Can one leave it in the stacks uncovered for 3 years Then move it into a 2 year (10 cord) supply woodshed that is used for the current and next year burn? Therefore, spending its last 2 years under roof.

I am lucky enough to have a approximate. 5 year supply of CSS wood and will easily stay at this level moving forward. I don't really want to put wood sheds everywhere (looks and feel it's a unnecessary investment) and tarps seem like a PITA.

With a wood program like this will my wood quality suffer significantly from spending its first 3 years exposed to the elements not top covered or be just fine?
I would think 3 year is achievable with no issues. I typically season my wood just the way you described, cut, split, stacked with no cover. Its in the elements all year round until the rain season begins in the fall. I get moved into an open lean-to with a roof. I mainly burn ash and maple and its <20% moisture in less than 1 year. The key is getting it up off the ground on pallets and keeping weeds from growing up around it to keep the moisture back. I remove the bark the best I can, I find it hold moisture under it.
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Minister of Fire
Dec 29, 2016
Well, if it's wet and punky, I won't burn it. Right now it just has fungus on the outside. It doesn't really look burnable now, was wondering if proper stacking/covering will recover it.
Split it and stack it under cover of a roof. Oak left like that usually rots from the outside in but if you split it and stack it, that mushy exterior will dry and burn just fine. Knock the back off when you split it and carry on.

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
Southern IN
Hickory and Maple will suffer moisture damage faster than Oak and Black Cherry (except the sapwood on those.) BL, Red Elm, Mulberry , Dogwood etc. hold up well, plus minimal sapwood.
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Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2005
My stacks are under large trees so dead leaves collect on the top of stacks and then that traps moisture. I just tried to use an uncovered stack that is 3 to 4 years old and the first 12 to 18 inches (from the top) is too wet, some soggy. I never covered this particular stack as it's primary purpose was a backstop for pellet gun target shooting.

All my previous hassles with tarps ended when I switched to HDPE tarps which is just used commercial roofing material. They are heavy and don't blow off. There are threads here if you search for HDPE. I got mine by contacting a commercial roofing company and they let me come take whatever I wanted from their pile of recovered roof jobs. Stuff is awesome.


Jan 1, 2015
The uncovered wood has to be moved under cover after a dry spell at the end of summer for use that winter. Of course the top layer would be wet if it’s out in the elements in the middle of winter.
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Minister of Fire
Apr 15, 2014
Is a 12'x24' wood shed too deep?
If I stuff it completely full (15 cord aprox) will it still dry in your opinion.

The wood going in will have been css outside for 2 to 3 years. I've read about recommending air space for airflow but I'm hoping I have mitigated that need by almost completely drying it in its previous form of the outside stacks?

The dimensions of the shed are not really negotiable as it will be a building that is being moved from a previous spot.
Unless I'm about to be told that 6'x24' is way more desirable.

I could cut the sheet metal roof sheets in half and get creative with the existing materials to try and make 2 sheds with minimal additional materials.

It won't give me any more storage but it would decrease the size of the stacks to 6x24 vs 12x24.

What ya think? Stick with 12x24 with the outdoor stacking program or change shed dimensions to ensure proper drying of 3-5 year old wood?


New Member
Dec 12, 2022
There was not a major impact for one season but in couple of situations I had to leave the pile for a two winters and I noticed the wood was deteriorating faster. This was especially noticeable on 3 deep stacks but I even saw it with two deep stacks.
Could you characterize the deterioration you saw in those circumstances? Want to know what to be looking for. Thanks.


Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
Northern NH
Its kind of you will know it when you will compare it but, Wood seasoned undercover ends up with clean light silver gray color on the split faces (darker on the cut faces facing out) the bark is usually still tight on the wood. Wood stacked without an air space on top and a top cover is much darker through the stack, the bark is looser and has started to rot and fall off i. When its taken out of the pile there are lot more debris hanging on it. Cracks in the wood may be larger as water can collect in them and freeze. On the north face (facing away from sun) there may be signs of mushrooms forming. The mushrooms you see are the fruiting bodies of the mushroom, the rest of the mushroom has "roots" that are going into the wood and eating nutrients out of the wood reducing its heating value. The level of deterioration gets higher the deeper and lower in the stack. Leaves tend to pile up against the base which holds water in and reduced airflow down low so the lower rows may have more signs of rot. Leave a uncovered pile unattended for more than 3 or 4 years in Northern New England conditions and its definitely getting deteriorated. Leave wood covered up on above the ground on pallets with an air gap under the cover for more than a couple of years and its almost in suspended animation although eventually the pallets start to rot and sink into the ground.

I cut all my wood and lug it out of the woods by hand. I used to split it by hand. I dont mind the exercise but I learned long ago that the extra time and effort stacking it with a cover on top makes all the difference. It doesnt need to be fancy, I just keep an eye out for material that will work that and grab it when I can. On the first picture I just screw the scrap wood into the logs when I am done stacking with deck screws. On the second shot, that is just temporary until I am done stacking and then I do what I did with the first pile using that ancient galvanized that came off a barn from the 1920s. As long as there is a bit of slope a few nail and screw holes in the roof really makes no difference so the metal is screwed to the cross pieces. I usually stack some pieces of wood up under the cross pieces before winter. BTW the wood storage on the right in the first photo is just 4 pressure treated posts dug into the ground with a roof made out of scrap plywood I had around with a shingle roof. I just put the cedar fascia board on the front and sides to make it look presentable. The tarp is put in place before winter and I just hold the sides from flapping with a scrap wood and screws. The upwind side has a permanent tarp with the back side and the other side wide open year round. I do have a large "X" brace made on the back wall to keep the "shed" from racking. Some years there has been more then 4 foot of snow piled up on my stacks and never lost a roof. Wood goes into my bulkhead before burning and gets loaded in about 1/3 cord loads when it get low with a wheelbarrow. The shed with the tarp is for later winter when the snow is deep.
stack cover 4.JPG
stack cover 3.JPG
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