In the past few years, I have spent a lot of time clearing out the fallen trees in the wood behind my house. While this is back-breaking labor, my reward was getting a virtually endless supply of firewood. We get a lot of rain here, so I want the logs to last as long as possible.
While occasional light rain will not necessarily ruin firewood or inhibit its ignition capabilities, steps should be taken to protect the woodpile. Raising the stack off the ground, rotating the logs occasionally, and covering it with a tarp when rain is predicted will maximize the wood’s lifespan.
The rest of the article will cover the details of how rain affects firewood and what you can do to keep it viable for as long as possible.
Will Rain Ruin Firewood?
Sorry to be Captain Obvious, but rain is not good for firewood; it will make the wood damp and difficult to light. Over time, water can soak deep into the fibers and slowly but surely make them a waterlogged mess.
If you don’t take proactive measures to protect your firewood, there is definitely the potential for rain to ruin it by waterlogging or rotting it. This is especially true in humid environments where moisture in the air or on the ground just seems to endlessly hang there during the warmer months.
The wood’s porous fibers act as a wicking mechanism and actually draw the water into the fibers, which makes the water get deeper into the wood. Moisture can initiate the process of mold developing on the wood and induce the beginnings of wood rot setting in.
If you do not notice this problem early enough, the rot could spread to an extensive part of your woodpile and quickly ruin the whole lot of it. Rot will degrade the wood and make it become “crumbly” and unsuitable for burning.
The ends of the logs are most susceptible to this wicking action, and if they get the brunt of the rain and are constantly wet, the log will soak deep into the center of the wood, and it will take some time to dry.
How Long Does It Take Firewood To Dry After Rain
After a rainstorm, previously dry wood usually only takes 30 minutes to a few hours to dry out if exposed to a heat source or left in the sun. However, the exact time is dependent on how wet the wood became. Light rain has less penetrating potential than heavier rainfalls or melting snow.
As you might expect, light rain would not penetrate as deeply into the wood, and as a result, it will take less time to dry out and become usable again. If your woodpile has become wet through an overnight rainstorm and you forgot to protect it, you will need to take steps to dry out it out to get it back into a usable state.
Make Use of Available Heat Sources
If you have the option of placing damp wood out in the sun, you could probably have it back to a combustible condition in less than a day. I recommend rotating the logs after a few hours to get the full effect.
Alternatively, if you have a fire going with some dry wood that wasn’t in your woodpile, you can stack the damp lumber next to the fire or your wood stove. This will speed up the drying process, and it could dry out in 30-minutes to an hour or so next to the fire or stove.
If the wood was subjected to a significant downpour and has become thoroughly wet, it could take days, even up to a week, for the wood to dry out naturally in the sunlight. This will also depend on the strength of the sun and the level of humidity in the air. Weaker sunlight, such as in wintertime or high humidity conditions, will slow the wood’s natural drying process.
How to Dry Fire Out With a Heat Source
The best way to dry the firewood would be to place it close to a fire or your wood stove to help the process along and dry the wood out quicker. Drying this wood naturally in the air and sun could take a couple of days.
On the other hand, the woodpile’s outer parts that really got drenched may take a full day next to the stove or fire to lose enough moisture to burn. Air and sun-drying this wood could take weeks or even months for the firewood to dry out completely.
Dry It a Few Logs at the Time
It’s best to dry it out in batches. The logs in the center of your woodpile would probably not be as wet as those on the outside. Thus, if you are in need of firewood urgently, start drying out the ones from the center of the pile. They will dry out quicker than the very wet ones that were on the outer layer.
The firewood will dry faster if you split the wood into smaller pieces, but this will also mean that the wood will burn faster, so you will go through more of your wood in the fire.
When it comes to firewood getting wet, prevention is better than cure, and taking some basic precautions to protect your firewood from the rain will go a long way to keeping it usable for longer.
Here is a good video that explains the process:
Should Firewood Be Covered?
Firewood does not need to be covered all the time. However, it should be covered when possible to protect it from rain and snow or other elements that could cause it to become damp. Throwing a tarp over it when rain is expected is a good proactive measure to take.
Of course, it might be even more critical to get it off the ground first. The damp ground will cause the bottom layers in your firewood pile to absorb moisture from the ground, and it can permeate through the entire pile over time.
Elevating the firewood pile a few inches off the ground will also allow airflow to reach under the woodpile and help it dry out from the bottom. It will also protect it from running water from a rainstorm or melting snow.
Firewood can be elevated by placing it on a wooden pallet that provides the necessary airspace or on stones, bricks, or concrete blocks to keep it off the ground.
How Do You Protect Firewood From Rain?
A tarp is the best way to protect the top and sides of a firewood pile. Just make sure that there is space for airflow and moisture to escape from the wood as it dries. If the moisture cannot escape, mold will develop, and the wood will begin to rot.
Alternatively, sheets of heavy-duty plastic can also be used to protect the firewood from rain and snow. If you cover your firewood with a tarp or plastic, you should open up the cover on warm sunny days to help season your firewood faster.
Just remember to cover the pile at the end of the day to protect the wood from overnight rain or the settling of dew on the wood during the cool evening.
Cool Fact: On many homesteads and at some semi-permanent campsites, a three-sided shelter with a roof and a cement floor is often built to store firewood long term while it seasons and to protect it from the elements.
The open side of the shelter should face away from your prevailing winds, and the direction rain typically comes from. This will prevent wind from driving the rain into the shelter and making the wood wet.
How Long Will Firewood Last If Covered?
Firewood that is covered but has the sun and wind on it to keep it dry will easily last 2 to 3 years and be usable. This length of time can be extended even further if your climate is dry and warm. Moisture quickly progresses the decomposition of wood, so wood tends to not last as long in humid climates.
Also, wood that is uncovered and exposed to repeated cycles of drying out and getting wet will not last long. Exposed wood like this can easily breakdown and rot within a year.
Obviously, this also depends on the type of wood. Hardwoods can take years to breakdown, even if exposed to the environment, and softer woods such as pine will break down faster.
Pro Tip: If you are just picking up firewood for a camping trip, you do not need to worry about this as much. Camping trips are generally no longer than several days, which is not time enough for the problem of wood rot to begin or take hold of your firewood stash.
Firewood will ruin over time if it is not stored correctly. While rain will not automatically ruin your firewood, you need to take steps to dry it out properly after it gets damp. If you aren’t careful, it will also start to rot, or at the very least, it will not burn nearly as efficiently.
The prudent option is to cover your woodpile anytime you are expecting wet weather. Otherwise, exposing the pile to sun and wind is the way to go and will help to season the wood. Just stay vigilant and keep a watchful eye on the weather, be disciplined about covering the pile at night, and you will be good to go.
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