Moisture content under tarps unreliable, or am I losing it?

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tabner

Feeling the Heat
Jan 17, 2019
266
Eastern CT
Started out burning this year back row of my woodpile all maple and oak that has been CSS for minimum two years, on pallets under a tarp. However my tarp definitely has some holes as it’s been sitting there for a few years and a tree fell on it at one point.
That first row burned great and moisture content was perfect 16 - 18.
I’m now into the inner rows and I’m getting terrible burns, pulled out the moisture meter and I am getting random and intermittent high readings, with some pieces being over 21%.
Is it possible that rows which weren’t on the outside of the pile, combined with tarp holes, could cause this much of an issue?
It seems like unless you have meticulous tarp care a woodshed is almost necessary?
 

Shrewboy

Member
Oct 15, 2020
90
Eastern Pennsylvania
I have the same problem, I got free tarps that have holes and a lot of my wood is not burning correctly (randomly, as you said)
I have been wanting to build a wood shed but the price of lumber dissuades me from doing it.

Now the prices are going back up again lol!

I think people that have uncovered / junky random wood piles are burning it wet in their old stoves, the newer stoves need dry wood
 

Dan Freeman

Feeling the Heat
Dec 3, 2021
463
NE PA
rumble.com
I have the same problem, I got free tarps that have holes and a lot of my wood is not burning correctly (randomly, as you said)
I have been wanting to build a wood shed but the price of lumber dissuades me from doing it.

Now the prices are going back up again lol!

I think people that have uncovered / junky random wood piles are burning it wet in their old stoves, the newer stoves need dry wood
Pallet floor, sides, back and roof covered with a tarp or some junked sheet metal on top can be built cheap. Pallets are available for free at many places.

 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
93,868
South Puget Sound, WA
Started out burning this year back row of my woodpile all maple and oak that has been CSS for minimum two years, on pallets under a tarp. However my tarp definitely has some holes as it’s been sitting there for a few years and a tree fell on it at one point.
That first row burned great and moisture content was perfect 16 - 18.
I’m now into the inner rows and I’m getting terrible burns, pulled out the moisture meter and I am getting random and intermittent high readings, with some pieces being over 21%.
Is it possible that rows which weren’t on the outside of the pile, combined with tarp holes, could cause this much of an issue?
It seems like unless you have meticulous tarp care a woodshed is almost necessary?
I had some maple stored that way several years ago. Rainwater settled in dips in the tarp and then funneled down in the rips. And this was in a shady area where the tree came down, so drying was poor. Burning that wood was a challenge and the only time I have had serious creosote buildup. I would have been better off leaving it uncovered.
 

bigealta

Minister of Fire
May 22, 2010
798
Utah, NJ
I do the opposite of what many here do. My stacks are all uncovered, and under pine trees in mostly shade. The tarps i tried many years ago seemed to trap more moisture than the uncovered stacks and they would never dry out. So now i leave everything uncovered to season. I have a small roofed area that i'll load up 1/4 cord or so, and a couple hoops that i fill with the most seasoned wood and cover that with clear shower curtains. I also have a small wood room in the house entryway that i keep filled with the seasoned wood, and i keep a day or 2 of wood next to the jotul. Also i'll put a few clear shower curtains on the most seasoned stacks after it's been dry weather for a few days. This has worked fairly well for me with my small property.

Also i'll only stack 2 rows max back to back with a space between them, but i'm trying to not have any back to back stacks.
The airflow is So Key to drying.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
93,868
South Puget Sound, WA
Normally I stack hardwood outside uncovered for at least a year. Then it gets moved into the shed for final drying.

I like to top cover, but have learned to not let it hang down the sides. Back when we were processing doug fir and locust I would make a cover for the stacked rows by overlapping big slabs of bark, shingle style just on top. That worked out well.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,598
Long Island NY
I had some maple stored that way several years ago. Rainwater settled in dips in the tarp and then funneled down in the rips. And this was in a shady area where the tree came down, so drying was poor. Burning that wood was a challenge and the only time I have had serious creosote buildup. I would have been better off leaving it uncovered.
I have seen the same: if the tarp is not self-draining (i.e. has puddles), the woven nature of the tarp will let water slowly (i.e. for a long time) drip on the underlying wood.
And wind --> movement --> friction --> holes...

So I built a shed beginning of '21. I chalked the cost up to "Covid stuck at home self-therapy" ;-) (But it was $painful$ indeed.)
 
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gzecc

Minister of Fire
Sep 24, 2008
4,946
NNJ
Tarps are more harm than good. Stack two rows deep 2-3" off the ground in open sunny area. Oak takes 3 yrs depending on size of split. Leave uncovered for first year. Top cover with metal roofing for second year. I burn after second year. I stay away from oak, it takes too long to season. If I get it I split it like a 2x3.
 

Solarguy3500

Member
Dec 3, 2020
248
Western MA
Pallet floor, sides, back and roof covered with a tarp or some junked sheet metal on top can be built cheap. Pallets are available for free at many places.


^^^This

I work for a solar installation company so we always have pallets that the solar panels are delivered on. I used one for the floor, one on each side, and one for the top. I actually left the back open so I could stack from both sides and used some of the slats from broken pallets for diagonal bracing. I then used the old metal roofing from when I replaced my garage roof. I'm just into it for the price of some screws and nails.

IMG_20210411_110624.jpg
IMG_20210411_110658.jpg
Nice thing is you can just keep adding on with more pallets as you get more wood.
IMG_20210425_192140.jpg

I recently built a woodshed 2.0 double wide with some longer pallets that our bigger commercial 72 cell panels are shipped on. I haven't put the roofing on it yet, but this is going to hold a good amount of wood when finished.
IMG_20211122_162052.jpg
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
6,548
07462
I keep one years worth of wood stacked outside before it goes into my shed, tarps are great if you know how to use them properly, even tarps with holes.
If stacking on pallets, turn the pallet 90deg so instead of 2 rows you get 3, stack as normal, then on the middle row stack 1ft higher, this creates pitch so rain water or melting snow has a place to run off, not pool and then find a hole to drain into, if you like just doing 2 rows then after you get your height, run a middle bridge rib between the 2 and go from there. Also try to only cover the top 1/3 of the wood, this allows air to enter, with the center ribs air can drain out the front and back which will take moisture with it on windy days.
 
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tabner

Feeling the Heat
Jan 17, 2019
266
Eastern CT
I was anticipating a wood shed in my future but this has definitely increased the urgency of that project. Just didn’t realize what a frustration these small details could be.
I dug around and found a section of good dry stuff and just threw a load of that in and it is much better, so that’s encouraging.
Side note, I also just did my first full N/S load in this stove and I’m a big fan. I think long term I am needing a wood shed and cutting everything 12” long for N/S.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,598
Long Island NY
I find 12" a drag to stack though. I sometimes get rounds from my tree company, and if the tree was really big (2' dia oak) he cuts them short because of the weight. Foot deep stacks are considerably less stable.
 

ozarkoak

Member
Nov 1, 2020
66
Arkansas
I crisscross stack all the wood I need in a hurry. I was able to get a few cords of red oak from 30% to under 20% stacked in full sun and wind in a little over 13 months. I leave the tarps off all summer and dont start tarping until September or October. I also take the tarps off during stretches of time when the forecast is calling for sun . Crisscross stacking takes a lot more room but it exposes much more of the wood to air/sun. Im a pretty big fan of oak, the heat it provides is amazing.
 
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mar13

Feeling the Heat
Nov 5, 2018
491
California redwood coast
I tarp during the winter and leave uncovered during our reliably dry summers. Before the first winter rains I tarp to the ground with two layers of thick large brown Costco tarps. I stack the wood, and pull out wood, so that there's a slope to encourage drainage. No moisture issues with my wood.

It is a pain to access the wood in the winter, which I do during dry spells. ( No snow here.) I load up plastic trash bins - Rubbermaid Brute 44 gallon being my favorite- with wood which I keep near my back garage entrance for easy access. ( Trash cans become garden debris collectors in the summer.) If we had regular summer rains, I don't think this approach would work.

Regardless of it working for me, I still want a shed for aesthetics and easier access.
 
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tabner

Feeling the Heat
Jan 17, 2019
266
Eastern CT
I find 12" a drag to stack though. I sometimes get rounds from my tree company, and if the tree was really big (2' dia oak) he cuts them short because of the weight. Foot deep stacks are considerably less stable.
I do agree with this concern, although if I design my shed accordingly I should be able to incorporate some sort of supports to help.
So is stacking rows tight up against each other pretty much always frowned upon? Obviously this gives the rows a lot more stability and fits more in. But i understand it's not ideal for drying.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,598
Long Island NY
If you can add supports (or horizontal 2-3 stack branches bridging the stacks at 2/3 their height), it might work.

However, in my experience, the settling (shrinking upon drying) can still mess up the stacking for short pieces. Especially if they are 4" thick or so, which is my preference.

Or maybe my stacking skills just suck.i prefer 18" stacks and keep 3-4" between them in my shed (with those empty spaces along the direction of the prevailing winds).
 
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shortys7777

Feeling the Heat
Nov 15, 2017
396
Smithfield, RI
I'm in Northern RI. Probably similar conditions as you. Had a terrible year for drying. Luckily I have some good dry oak that was sitting from the year before. I am making a shelter this spring to hold 2-3 cords. I burn around 3 a year.
 
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JRHAWK9

Minister of Fire
Jan 8, 2014
1,873
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Early on in my wood gathering days I noticed tarps were starting to degrade pretty easily letting water infiltrate through. I switched to rubber roofing take-offs soon after. I needed something that would stand up to the elements long term, as I season my wood a long time before burning it. Burning 6.5 year old stuff now and what I burn will continue to get older as winters go by.

I stack all my wood leaving at least 9" of gap in between all rows to let the air get to both sides of the splits. Is it necessary, I don't know, but it's how I started doing things and has worked out good for me.

Building a wood shed is out of the question for me due to the amount of wood I have.