How important is top covering

Welderman85

Feeling the Heat
Nov 1, 2017
264
Chesaning MI
How important is it to cover wood stacks

My mom And a few other family's in her neighborhood had a bunch of trees dropped. I ended with with around 12 cord of wood. I only burn a cord a year so I got a good supply for a while it was all sugar maple and ash. I split and stacked it all now I'm just wondering how to cover it
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
21,486
central pa
How important is it to cover wood stacks

My mom And a few other family's in her neighborhood had a bunch of trees dropped. I ended with with around 12 cord of wood. I only burn a cord a year so I got a good supply for a while it was all sugar maple and ash. I split and stacked it all now I'm just wondering how to cover it
To me it is essential
 
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Geoff C

Member
Oct 29, 2011
97
PA
If you only burn a cord a year I wouldn’t worry about it.

The US forest service did a test in Alaska and found uncovered cord was subject to 110 gallons of rain water per year. I can only assume that would take longer to dry than wood covered from that.
 

hickoryhoarder

Feeling the Heat
Apr 5, 2013
442
Indiana
The top layer of splits is a cover. That has worked well for me, but I've never kept anything more than three years.

Because I got some questionable wood this year I made covers out of 3/4" plywood, 24" wide by 5 feet long. Painted the weather side. Works real well, but it would get expensive for the amount of wood you have.

The most important thing for me has been off the ground. Even on the driveway isn't that good, unless I put 4x4 pressure treated under the wood before stacking it. That works great. My stacks are in the sun and wind year-round.

In late November I lean about 50 pieces of wood against the house, which stays completely dry (and gets sun) because of a wide soffit. Then I keep replenishing that from the stacks. Works real good.

In my experience your maple will benefit more from staying dry than the ash. Ash has been super easy for me to work with, no matter what I do.
 

johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
2,791
Eastern Ontario
I do not think in the 45 years I have burned wood to heat my house
I have ever covered my stacks. It is important to get it up off the ground
so air can circulate under the stacks. Depends on where you live I guess
When I put my wood into the basement in September it is at 16 to 18 % M/C
buy January it is at 12 to 14 % Just my nickels worth.
 

Welderman85

Feeling the Heat
Nov 1, 2017
264
Chesaning MI
It's all stacked on pallets so it's off the ground. I dont have a good place to store in doors during burn season. I just bring in a little at a time
 

Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
895
Palmyra, WI
Keep in mind the locations of responses. The US climate shifts from very wet and humid, to arid desert, from east to west, then back to rain forest in the pacific NW. Here in the Midwest, SE WI, I can get away with no top covers on stacks in 3wide sections. Full sun. No woods nearby. Others milage may vary. Wood to use for winter gets put inside in August, usually during or near the end of a mid summer drought. If the stacks were to last a decade - hmm, I have some stacked like mentioned for 7yrs, without decay. If it's dry, it'll hold up. Damp, shade, rain (like the NE or NW), cover it.
 
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Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
17,240
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Top covering sucks but it’s better than nothing. A nice shed or barn, that’s good stuff.
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
4,900
07462
Before I built my woodshed, top covering was essential to me, but it also was a pain in the butt to, I still stack about 4 cords of wood outside on pallets and I will cover them with a tarp come the fall rainy season / winter snows. My biggest advice here is to let the stacks air out during the summer, rain wont affect them, cover them come October when the weather starts changing. Stack smart, I still cant wrap my head around people that stack 2 rows on a pallet line, making them flush or level with each other then laying a tarp on top and expecting there piles to be dry or drain off, what I do is stack two rows next to each other, then add another 15" of splits exactly in the middle of the 2 rows (make a spine) then cover it with a tarp, this allows the water to drain off the sides, also provides a little more ventilation.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,464
Nova Scotia
If the pallets are on the ground they might be pretty rotten after a few years and your wood might end up on the ground after all. Always a good idea to get pallets up off the ground on say concrete blocks. Or use plastic pallets.

I top cover with tarps that are as wide as the stack. It is pretty easy - lay the tarp out on top, and put another layer of wood on top to hold the tarp. That top layer also keeps the sun off so they will last longer. If you pay attention to the top layer of wood under the tarp & how it is arranged, and sloped, water will run off.
 

EODMSgt

Feeling the Heat
Dec 11, 2018
265
White Mountain Region, NH
I fill the wood shed just before the first snow flies from stacks that have been seasoning (uncovered) out in the sun during our short summer/early fall. I then top cover all stacks that remain with tarps for the winter/early spring (and remove the tarps once the snow is finally gone, usually around mid-May). I double stack so I top cover to prevent snow and ice buildup in between the stacks, which would take forever to dry out and hasten decay of the inner portions of the stacks. I don't worry about rain. I agree with what others have said, the most important thing is to get the wood off the ground (or plan on sacrificing the bottom row to rot) and have good air circulation around the stacks. If they are stacked up against a fence, shed, barn, etc., the wood against the structure will decay much faster due to no circulation and never being able to dry out.
 

Wood1Dennis

Burning Hunk
Jan 17, 2016
109
Eastern Wisconsin
This whole top cover or not discussion can sometimes turn bad in a hurry! But it can make for a fun read!
I think Sawset has it right;
Keep in mind the locations of responses. The US climate shifts from very wet and humid, to arid desert, from east to west, then back to rain forest in the pacific NW. Here in the Midwest, SE WI, I can get away with no top covers on stacks in 3wide sections. Full sun. No woods nearby. Others milage may vary. Wood to use for winter gets put inside in August, usually during or near the end of a mid summer drought. If the stacks were to last a decade - hmm, I have some stacked like mentioned for 7yrs, without decay. If it's dry, it'll hold up. Damp, shade, rain (like the NE or NW), cover it.
I believe the most important consideration is location and location. Location in the country, and location in your yard. If you have an open, breezy, sunny spot and your climate is not extremely wet and you should not need to cover. My experience is burning it within 3 years, not sure about 12.
 

byQ

Minister of Fire
May 12, 2013
527
Idaho
Mountain desert, and it doesn't rain much here. Also, there is usually about 20 days a year over 100 F. Uncovered most pine splits will be less than 10% moisture in a year or two (dry air). If I was running a wood stove I would probably mix fresher wood with the dry stuff, but I'm using a masonry heater so low moisture content is good.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,085
Lackawaxen PA
You can cover a lot of different ways. Most of us start with tarps. But tarps get torn up when it's in contact with the splits.
 

Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,223
Southeast CT
I’ve had notably better success from top covering. it may work out for you on a given year with uncovered, but I’ve had maple absorb a lot of moisture after being at 20% during a wet winter/spring.
If you’re going to have multiple years of wood, at the least make sure it’s off the ground on pallets or something and that it’s not getting overrun by shrubs or anything. That kind of thing can compromise your wood significantly over time.
 

Seasoned Oak

Minister of Fire
Oct 17, 2008
7,071
Eastern Central PA
I had some rubber sheets from a roof tear off in good shape so i cut them into 2 to 3 ft wide strips place on top of the stack. keeps the stack so much dryer. Sure uncovered stacks dry out in between rain events but the rain also trickles down thru the stack and soaks up the wood that dont get air and also soaks the ground below that a dont dry out so quickly with a stack of wood on top of it.
 

JRHAWK9

Minister of Fire
Jan 8, 2014
1,427
Wisconsin Dells, WI
I too need to top cover. My supply is stacked in the middle of the woods and once the trees leaf out it doesn't see much sun or wind. We also see pretty humid summers as well. If my supply were in a wide open area with full sun and wind exposure, I don't know if I would top cover or not.
 
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fvhowler

Member
May 4, 2018
36
Heart of NC
I prefer to top cover to keep stacks as dry as possible. I use sections of vinyl siding to cover the stacks. Two sections snapped together is the perfect width to cover 16-18" splits. Then its weighted down with stones and I rarely have an issue. I was able to secure a source of old vinyl siding and decided to try it. Works great for me. The stacks season for two years, top cover only. A month or so before burning I cover entire stack with a tarp to ensure its good and dry by burn time.
 

kborndale

Burning Hunk
Oct 9, 2008
190
LI
My stacks are left open in the summer but then in October I stack my winter's wood on the patio which has a porch over it. I don't see it being very important over the summer, but once your ready to use the wood keeping it covered is very useful.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,464
Nova Scotia
The main reason I top cover is our winter thaw cycles. We usually have a few. Plus rain/snow events. That leads to big ice build up in the stacks. Really bad if they aren't elevated way up. That ice takes a long time to thaw out & dry out.
 

BigJ273

Burning Hunk
Feb 15, 2015
212
Maryland
I do it. It can be a pain sometimes when the wind rips them off. But I think it’s worth the effort to maintain
 

blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,472
WI, Leroy
All most have to do something come end of Aug. In WI. starts getting wet and rainy towards the later part of Sept. and then the cold starts to set in and the stacks never really dry out by ice and snow time. The last couple seasons have been nasty that way. I have been whittling away at a 15 or so cord pile from when I moved. Like what was mentioned never really redrys towards the center of that mess. Maybe this summer I get to properly stacking whats left- plus the 7 cord in log form yet and then there is at least 2 or 3 cord of rounds laying about. Everything at my place is wide open so the rain , snow just gets driven into every nook and cranny. My best bet is likely going to be a couple of those cargo containers - pole buildings have gotten very pricy plus I get taxed on those- do not think I get clipped on the boxes though. Add a cement floor to pole shed and the wallet really gets hit by the tax man.
 

Gearhead660

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2018
315
WI
I top cover with another row of pallets(get as many as I want from work for free). Then put a layer of thick plastic on top of pallets(also free from work). Covered from elements and still can breathe. That or wood shed.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,079
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I don't top cover . . . but then again I'm getting ready to load up the woodshed with wood left outside since 2017 and 2018 . . . and then it will be another year or two before I burn that wood so it should be pretty well seasoned and quite dry at that point.

I do find that without top covering I "lose" a few pieces (2-7) in each stack -- mostly white birch -- as some pieces become punky when left exposed.

If I did not have a woodshed I would top cover simply because dry wood is easier to ignite than wet or snow-covered wood.

If I had a lot of wood like white birch I would top cover simply to avoid having it go punky.