How to Tell if Wood is Seasoned?

You've probably heard of the term "seasoned wood" if you've been looking into different firewood options. Wood needs to be sufficiently dry for it to burn efficiently. Seasoning reduces the moisture content of the wood and dries it out, making it perfect for burning.

Dry, seasoned wood burns cleanly and efficiently, maximizing the benefits of your wood burning fireplace or wood stove. So, how can you tell if wood is seasoned?

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Difference Between Seasoned and Unseasoned Wood

Wood that has been freshly cut will have too much moisture in it to burn effectively in a fire, therefore it must be dried out before being used as firewood.

Unseasoned wood, sometimes known as "green wood" or "wet wood" burns inefficiently because the fire will burn the extra moisture in the wood first before adequately combusting it.

Burning unseasoned wood will:

  • Be hard to light.
  • Be difficult to burn.
  • Produce more smoke.
  • Make hissing or popping noises as it tries to burn off the excess moisture.
  • Produce less heat in general.

In contrast to dry and seasoned wood, unseasoned wood will have the following characteristics:

  • Having a greenish appearance, therefore the name "green wood".
  • Feels damp or moist to the touch.
  • Difficult to snap or tear apart.
  • Has a soft bark with visible moisture.
  • Leaves strands when ripped apart.

If your firewood exhibits any of the qualities listed above, it was most likely not seasoned long enough or under the proper conditions.

What is Seasoned Wood?

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Seasoned wood is the exact opposite of unseasoned wood, often known as "green wood." The moisture level of wood determines how much water is contained within it. Seasoning is a method of drying firewood that involves leaving it outside for a period of time to allow the moisture level of the wood to naturally decrease. Seasoned wood moisture content is less than 20%

Seasoned wood will have the following characteristics:

  • Color is darker, with a brown or grayish hue.
  • Lighter in weight.
  • The texture is coarse and dry to the touch.
  • The ends may split easily.
  • The bark is easy to peel.
  • Produces a hollow sound when hit against each other.

How Long Does It Take To Season Wood?

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If the moisture level of seasoned firewood is 20% or less, it means it’s ready for burning.

So, how long does it take for firewood to dry out? It depends on the type of wood.

Most wood is seasoned within 6 months to 1 year. Hardwoods take longer to dry than softwoods because they are denser. For some hardwoods, seasoning might take anything from 1 to 2 years.

How To Tell If Wood Is Seasoned or Not

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  1. Color – Seasoned wood is darker, browner, or sometimes with a grayish hue, with few to no green undertones. They are less vibrant than green wood.
  2. Sound – When two pieces of dry wood are struck together, they generate a hollow sound. Simply put, dry wood will create resonance, while green wood creates a gentle sound.
  3. Smell – The scent of the tree will differ depending on its species. The sappy scent fades to a mild woody scent as the wood dries. The aroma of green wood is more intense, seasoned firewood is odorless.
  4. Weight – Wood loses moisture content and gets lighter as it dries. Greenwoods have a high moisture content, so the weight difference will be more noticeable compared to dry, seasoned woods. Seasoned wood will be much lighter in weight.
  5. Bark – There are bare spots and loose bark on seasoned woods, which makes them easier to remove.
  6. Cracks – Seasoned woods may have cracks that go from the center to the edges. But this should not be your determining factor. Some dry woods do not crack, while others may be too green to burn even if they do.
  7. Split test – To determine its moisture content, try splitting a piece of wood open to see if it feels dry to the touch. Dry and seasoned wood will be dry on the inside.
  8. Split shaped – Prior to stacking, most firewoods are chopped to length and split. Although wood does not necessarily need to be split to season, splitting it while it is still green helps speed up the drying process. As a result, most firewoods are already split.
  9. Combustibility – You can also test the moisture level by burning several test pieces of wood. In contrast to green wood, which takes longer to burn, seasoned wood is quick to combust and burns easily.
  10. Moisture level – Lastly, if you're still unsure whether the wood is dry or seasoned enough to burn, you can always get a moisture meter to read its exact moisture level. All you have to do is insert the moisture meter into the wood to test it. Seasoned wood should have a moisture level between 10% and 20%

A moisture meter is a small, low-cost gadget that can help you determine whether your wood has obtained the appropriate moisture content levels to be used as firewood. They can be found at local hardware stores and woodworking supply stores.

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The quality of the wood you burn matters. Whether you're buying pre-seasoned or kiln-dried wood or stacking and storing your own firewood, you'll want to make sure it's at the right moisture level before you light it.

You'll get the most out of your wood burners if you have a decent supply of dry, seasoned wood on hand. It promotes a clean and efficient burn in your wood-burning fireplace, fire pit, wood-burning pizza oven, and wood-burning stove.

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