Do standing dead trees still require seasoning

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Aug 21, 2014
central illinois
This year I was able to convince my wife we needed to convert our large inefficient fireplace with an Osburn Matrix Fireplace insert. I have a fair amount of wood that has been cut and split for 16-24 months. I'm really hoping if we use the fireplace insert as much as I would like to that I may fall short on wood this season. As most know last year was really cold here and our wood hungry fireplace ate up quite a bit. Hopefully the new insert won't burn it up as quick but it should see more 24x7 use as well meaning we will still use about the same amount of wood as we did with the fireplace. We are in the Midwest and the timber behind my house is all hardwood, oak, hickory, and some red elm.

Here is my question: If I go back and cut down a dead oak, let's say one I know has been dead for 3 years now, would it still require the 24 months allotted time for seasoning or will it already be drier to start with because it's been dead for several years. any chance of being able to cut/split that dead tree now and use it towards the end of the heating season like late January/February time frame?

I realize the best way to determine this is with a moisture tester and burning wood at 15-20%. I plan on starting with one from Harbor Freight for now just so I have an idea of where I'm at just haven't made it down there yet.


Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
central pa
It will be drier than if it was live and will take less time and it is possible that some of the upper branches might be ok now but you wont know till you test a fresh split. 2 years is by no means a given it can be more or less depending on size of splits location of the stacks average temp and humidity ect.
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Minister of Fire
Sep 28, 2010
Nothing to do with "seasoning". Any standing dead tree will have varying moisture content, typically with the extremities much drier than the lower stem.

Once you get it c/s/s then the air-drying can commence. For most otf the treee, as if it was just cut green, for many species.

For some species the drying can take longer than if just cut green, because of sapwood starting to rot. The clock is ticking. :)


Minister of Fire
Feb 20, 2009
Central Mass
I got a moisture meter from Lowes, its a General, takes a 9 volt battery and I think it was under $30. That's the best way to test firewood.


Burning Hunk
Nov 21, 2013
S.E. Massachusetts
Yes they will but it is different from tree to tree. I have found that a dead standing oak with no bark on it at all can be ready to burn with out seasoning from about 4' off the ground upward and the lower trunk will dry in a few months if split on the small side and stacked in the right location. I have also found that if it is dead but with the bark still on and with small mushroom like growths on the bark it will be mostly all punky where ever the growths are making that part of the tree about useless . How ever the rest of the tree will still be good. So I would look for trees with no bark at all if you can. This will help you get ahead on your burnable wood.

Sconnie Burner

Feeling the Heat
Aug 23, 2014
Western Wi
Some will, some won't. I would get a moisture meter and check them as I was splitting it. Thats what I did this spring as I was cutting for my first year of burning. If its at 23% it might dry out enough if stacked loosely in as much sun as you can. If they are at or under 20% they get stacked right away for burning. I found some trunks with bark missing to still be over 25%, some oak was 30-34% with bark on. While The upper limbs up to 8" with bark missing were ready to burn right away.


Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Depends. . . .


Feeling the Heat
Nov 15, 2013
SE Minnesota
Elm with the bark falling off usually is dry in the upper part. Oak usually is still pretty wet and will need 2 years in my experience.


Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2013
appleton, wi
I cut some standing dead aspen that was dead a few years thinking it'd be ready to burn that winter. I was wrong in that assumption, it was still pretty wet and hissed nicely when added to the fire. On the other hand i have cut standing dead ash and that was dry as a bone so i guess it depends on tree type and maybe location.


Burning Hunk
Jan 6, 2011
Central NJ
I am still splitting a black oak that was dead for two years. It's at 39%. I don't expect it to be ready for quite some time.
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Minister of Fire
Dec 5, 2012
Upstate NY
Dead oak is my favorite burning wood but I never think it will be ready before its time. I harvest it and seek it because I prefer it.
If you are pressed for time look for Elm or girdle dying trees. Now is the time to look for dieback in the crown, disease, bugs or root rot. While there are leaves.
I go after dead oak laying on the ground and its always full of water. Here in NY where I am. Its usually good to go within a year, though, it still needs to dry. Not the 3 years they say here for live trees.
Dead standing are dangerous, they never fall where they are supposed to. Most of my dead oaks die from root rot and just tumble over or the ground becomes soft and the whole tree falls over roots and all. I have several of them along streambanks.
My BIL cuts large trees for me and we cut a dead standing chestnut oak and it was half rotten. It caught the chainsaw and went the opposite direction and is still standing snagged on a giant beech.
its not worth roping and pulling.
I would look for black cherry and red maples. They both dry quick. Or buy envi blocks.
And still go after that oak.

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
Southern IN
I would look for small dead trees, they may be ready to go now, even Oak. I'm talking like 6-8".


Sep 16, 2014
NE Indiana
I just hauled some standing dead ash that was cut one week ago. The big rounds from the bases, 16-18"+, are in the 25% ballpark, but everything else smaller is around 20%. Not too bad for freshly cut dead ash.
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