Is my wood ruined or does it need more drying? Some punky?

  • Active since 1995, is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.


New Member
Nov 22, 2022
Hi everyone,

New to fireplace wood burning. We had some trees down at my parents place a few years ago. My dad stacked it on pallets 4 rows packed together and heavily tarped all around, so horrible conditions. I uncovered a few days ago and only left the top covered.

Many pieces were black and rotting. I threw the worst to the side. And took some that looked not bad. Though I think it's not fully dried? Seeing smoke from the fire, some sizzle so those are definitely moist.

Most are logs and some old pieces, probably 6 years since splitting these 30" diameter rounds. I split them into wedges. Before the splitting, they sat as rounds for probably 3-4 years. I split those wedges again to make them smaller. Some feel soft on the ends or in the middle but still split. Some split and break into large chips if I don't get s good swing.

Anyway, the pictures will probably tell you more than I can. Just split today.

Plan to stack them in the sun and cover the top.

Most of this should be maple.

How does it look? Needs more drying? I have a moisture meter at the parents so will eventually grab that.

I made 2 separatish piles. One feels hefy, and not soft. The other is softer and feels like it lost weight. The picture with the white fence is the worse stuff.

20221122_163039.jpg 20221122_163042.jpg 20221122_163044.jpg 20221122_163049.jpg 20221122_163053.jpg 20221122_163029.jpg
Yep, there's a good bit of rot in that batch. No, it won't come back, it's gone.

But it's still useable, it just has less BTU's than before. Pretend you're burning western softwoods, like our brothers and sisters on the west coast. ;lol
Haha got it. Yea, it's free wood and if I don't use it, it's just going to sit there, so some BTU better than wasted BTU.

What about concerns? Easier to absorb water so have to be careful with keeping it dryer. Will it reach a 20% or less moisture reading, ever?

Fungi/mold - seems like there are people on two sides about being okay and not okay (sensitive/allergies, etc)
Yes, punky wood does have a propensity to attain a higher MC% when it gets wet. I suspect that may be more from reduction of the denominator more than addition to the numerator, in other words the same amount of water measured against the lower weight of a rotten piece of wood, rather than actually more volume of water. But whatever the case, you'll do well to keep it top covered.

The rot most likely started and mostly occurred while in the round for 2-3 years, but sealing all sides while stacked on pallets over dirt certainly would not help. All moisture coming up from the dirt could have been trapped in that envelope. Always best to stack over something impervious if possible, and to only top cover, so the sides can breathe and dry.

The mold/fungus thing might be an issue if you try to store indoors, but I would never even consider storing any firewood in my house. My wife is very allergic to mold, as are my kids to some degree, and punky wood has never been an issue for us. It goes straight from outside into the stove, and the stove exhausts back outside.
If you just split this, regardless of how the rounds were stored, your wood is likely still wet. Wood doesn’t really start drying until after it’s spilt.
Get that moisture meter and test a few pieces from each of your piles.
  • Like
Reactions: Dmitry
I'd top cover, and let it dry ( the fresh split stuff).

If nothing else, you can mix it with more seasoned and get some BTU's out of it.

I burn "uglies" when I'm home, and save the good stuff for when I need the firepower (overnights , long day time burns in the winter) .

I'd also take a chance on splitting those rounds.

My 2 Cents :)

Welcome to the Forums !!!!
When splitting rotten wood, you'll find that it lacks the grain structure to split cleanly, breaking more like blocks of styrofoam than proper cordwood. In this case, just split it large, it won't be heavy. I alternate between tossing this stuff right into the firepit, or stacking it, depending on mood and how much I aim to get thru in a day.

More often, at least with oak, you'll find rotten sapwood with good solid heartwood. In that case, I endeavor to just chisel the sapwood off with the splitter wedge, and then split and stack the heartwood only. Sapwood can be 3" thick on large red oaks.
It set up too long. Say "Auf Wiedersehen" to this rotten wood. It would make great paper. Why waste your time, and firewood stack space, with crummy wood, when you can acquire good wood?
The wet partially rotten wood will dry faster than fresh wood because it's more open. If covered, of course.

Tarps can sag in places,. collecting water that.slowly leaks thru onto the wood. Ensure your tarps are draining properly. And check often if that's still the case.
Didn't realized I hit reply.

I plan to stack and split those smaller logs if it's usable, I don't mind the time and space it takes. I like to do this for some light workout. It's not our main source of heat, more of a fun activity and ambiance. Plus, I work from home so I have plenty of time.

Plan to get some pallets and stack. Also plan to get a cord as well. I would like to buy uncut rounds. Do many people do this? Is it worth the savings if you like the workout? Is there a different price/measurement for this?
Last edited:
Buying firewood length results in getting many different lengths - meaning loading your stove will not be very efficient because you'll have shorties and pieces that are too long.

I would get long length, buy a (electric if processing near the home) chainsaw. I do so too. Corded chainsaw, a fiskar x27 and a fiskar maul with sledge hammer.
Buying firewood length results in getting many different lengths - meaning loading your stove will not be very efficient because you'll have shorties and pieces that are too long.

I would get long length, buy a (electric if processing near the home) chainsaw. I do so too. Corded chainsaw, a fiskar x27 and a fiskar maul with sledge hammer.
Realized I meant uncut rounds and edited my post. But I'm not against log lengths if that saves more money! I'm thinking about a chainsaw. There are some down trees as free wood around here, but need to cut up.

Reading a lot about kickback stories. I mean I'm a health 30s with muscle, self sufficient, have great reflexes, and mechanic/farming/restaurant etc etc abilities so I work with angle grinders, saws, heavy stuff and am smart about it so I think I'll be fine
Last edited:
Yes, that's why I called it firewood length.

Price will depend on the local market.
Here wood is free, and it depends on the tree service whether they have rounds or logs lengths. If they don't have equipment to lift log length into their trucks, it'll be cut into rounds (and sometimes even split in half - no one going to lift a 30" dia oak round 5 ft up into the truck...)

Find the right vendor and go for it.
Chainsaws are incredibly dangerous tools for sure, but, to maximize wood burning savings it's really a requirement. You can mitigate many of the risks with proper technique and gear. I've been cutting log length for years. It saves me tons of money and I get the exact sizes I want.

I personally would recommend a high quality gas saw like a Husqvarna or Stihl if you're gonna cut anything of size. Something slightly bigger than you think you need. Pushing a smaller saw too hard is one of the ways to increase your injury risk. I think 18" is good for most people but I personally would prefer 20-24". Bigger saws are heavier and use more gas so a lot of people have more than one. Big saw for thick logs and the smaller more maneuverable one for other cuts.

It's all about safety with chainsaws. Just get the proper gear and be smart! Have someone show you the ropes. Always respect it. I've got hundreds of hours on my saw and I still am respectfully afraid of it.
I just bucked upa 17 ft 17" dia log length maple here. With my 18" corded electric saw.

Like a knife thru the butter. Sure, a hotter knife might go faster, but for the average three cord user, an electric is perfectly adequate imo.

Added benefit is that the chain stops immediately upon release of the trigger as it's braked. And it always starts, and is immediately ready to go and won't stink up and noise pollute the neighborhood, in particular when idling.
I think it depends how big the logs you get are. I regularly get 20-24" logs. A 17" maple is a lot different than a 24" oak.

I've used my friends electric saw before and found it underwhelming even after I sharpened it for him. It really just comes down to log size, density, and knotty-ness which will be best. If you can get away with an electric, great. But I don't think it's worth pushing a smaller saw on big logs. That's just increasing risk.

Im not concerned with noise or motor pollution. People are constantly using leaf blowers, mowers, tractors, clippers and oodles of other gas powered tools around here. I'm also only using it heavily a few days a year. I also only have one neighbor.

TLDR - It's personal preference. I myself prefer to err on the side of the bigger, more powerful tool. Less work I have to do the better.
I've done 30" oak with it too.
Yes, it needed cutting from both sides. But in my case most logs are indeed below 20".

I regularly use a Stihl from a friend (when cutting with that friend). I just don't see the benefit ad compared to the electric one. But only if working close to my home. Otherwise gas is it.
Am I crazy to consider a manual saw? :)
No; just depends how hard you want to work. You’ll be fine with a chainsaw if, as mentioned, you respect it and be careful as with any “power” tool.
We bought our first chainsaw 5 yrs ago when we started burning wood, and I’d have never made it with a handsaw only… maybe when I was much younger!
Ours is the smallest gas powered Stihl MS170; anything it won’t cut I shouldn’t be messing with. The only drawback is it’s small fuel tank, but I get a break to refill it.
I’ve heard good things about the battery operated saws they have now, too; specifically Stihl and Milwaukee.

As far as the rotten wood, that’s how we got started with the addition of some scraps from the local sawmill. There was a pile similar to yours left on our property when we bought it, uncovered rounds in a pile on the ground. We eventually split it all (by hand, we now have a log splitter, too) and properly stacked and top covered the best of the worst, and threw the really crumbly, spongy stuff in the outdoor fire pit pile. Once dried it burned just fine - you’ll certainly want to “borrow” that moisture meter, or get one of your own.
Cheers and welcome! If you like a workout, being outdoors, and the reward of your own warm fire, you’re gonna love this wood burning thing.
Am I crazy to consider a manual saw? :)
That depends on how much you'll be burning.
5 fires a year, no.
More than that: yes.

I once felled a birch by hand saw. 20" dia and I estimate 50 ft tall. Three cuts to fell and a trip to buy a chain saw. I do like to work; two years ago I split 8 cords by hand to get ahead (have seasoned wood). Sawing by hand is just awful in my view.
Manual saws can be fun, but also a good way to make you 30 year old joints feel more like 60, if processing any amount of firewood. It all depends on your goals, expected usage, amount of free time, etc. I actually have my great-grandfather's one-man and two-man felling saws, and played with them a bit when I was younger, but they are hard work in any good hardwood.

If shopping chainsaws, most firewood cutters want 50 - 70 cc, with the 60'ish cc saws finding a real sweet spot in this crowd. Cutting Mass hardwoods, a 63cc Stihl MS36x will cut real nice with 18" - 19" of exposed bar, meaning you either mount an 18" bar with factory dogs, or a 20" bar with silly big felling dogs to reduce the exposed length. Note that the specified bar length on a chainsaw has NOTHING to do with the saw's actual ability to pull that chain through a given wood, it only indicates the flow rate of the chain oiler and ratio of oil tank capacity to gas tank capacity, larger bars requiring more oil.

Usually best to decide what size bar you need, then shop a saw to match that:

16/17" = 45 - 55 cc
18/19" = 55 - 65 cc
20"+ = 65 - 75 cc

As you go up in size, the jumps get bigger, as RPM's generally drop and torque climbs out of proportion with displacement. My 85cc saw pulls a 28" bar thru white oak with no trouble, nose fully buried, but it's only running 12,000 RPM top speed.
Last edited:
We have just a fireplace, no inserts. Stacked the other day.

Looking at the 562xp or maybe xpg? Don't know if the heated grip and carb are worth it? I'm pretty resilient to cold weather but sounds nice. Looking t ordering from mowers at jacks. Anyone have experience with them? Just called and talked to them. Beats anyone else and local price by $25-30.

I'm proficient with engine work and maintenance so I will be doing all that myself.

Called around and found a tree service company that will delivery log lengths for free. Talked to the owner. Asked what sizes I'd like and everything. Very nice. He says they always have wood, and it beats driving further to dispose of.
Last edited: