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How to Store Your Firewood Properly (Stop Wasting Wood!)

How to Store Your Firewood Properly (Stop Wasting Wood!)

With autumn here and an army of fire pits being deployed nationwide, I thought I’d take a moment to make sure folks have the information they need to store their firewood properly.

This is very important — wood can ruin in as little as one season, leaving you with a pile of rotten, smoke-inducing, and composting material.

Even worse is that some storage approaches invite pests like mosquitoes, ants, termites, and even snakes into your outdoor space. You do not want this to happen.

So with that in mind, let’s dive in and fully explore how to store firewood properly.

Simply put, you want to maximize airflow while keeping your logs as dry as you possibly can. This can be achieved by putting your wood on an elevated platform, ensuring a top cover keeps out the rain. Employing this strategy will keep your firewood seasoning properly and reduce smoke when it’s time to burn.

However, a word of warning — wherever you choose to set up your woodpile, you’ll potentially attract unwanted pests. Powderpost beetles, longhorn beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and termites will be attracted to a large pile of wood.

If you decide to store the wood next to an existing structure (such as your home, garage, or shed), you must be diligent about pest-prevention. Unfortunately, the only sure proof way to ensure your dwelling stays pest-free is to keep the woodpile far away from it (30 feet, minimum)!

The last thing you want to do is provide habitat for invasive insects in your own home!

Where to store your firewood

In addition to storing your firewood dry and with ample airflow, be sure to pick a good location for long-term storage. But where should that location be?

There are a lot of options. I’m going to try to go through each one and lay out the pros and cons, as well as any caveats you need to need to know if you choose that approach.

Inside the house

Many folks will say that you shouldn’t store firewood in your house, regardless of the situation. This is hogwash — you can definitely put firewood in your home for short-term storage.

In fact, the Purdue Extension Department of Entomology says you can store your logs inside up to two days before you burn them.

What about for an estended period of time?

As most firewood is cut from dead or decaying trees, insects can be a problem. You shouldn’t store the logs inside your home for a long while unless the wood is properly seasoned.

Well-seasoned wood has a moisture content of at most 20%, while also lacking the sap and smells that attracts most wood-boring insects. While you may still get a few stragglers, you won’t be inviting the whole neighborhood!

Finally, examine the wood carefully before bringing it inside your house. This should certainly catch any pesky critters that might encroach upon your living area.

Storage Rating3/5
ProblemsYou can inadvertently introduce pests to your home.

In a garage

You might think that storing your firewood inside your garage is better option than inside your home. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Storing firewood in your garage is worse for the wood and can attract unwanted pests. Large temperature fluctuations caused by the lack of climate control and the opening of garage doors will cause condensation, which can introduce moisture to your wood.

The equation changes slightly if you have a climate controlled garage, but temperature fluctuations will still happen.

Storage Rating2/5
ProblemsYou can inadvertently introduce pests to your home. Temperature fluctuations can cause moisture accumulation and the problems that go with it.

In a basement

As long as your wood is well-seasoned and pest-free (and your basement stays reasonably dry), a basement is a fine place to store firewood.

While it does carry the same pest risk as simply storing firewood inside your house, it has a major benefit as well. Simply put, it keeps the firewood out of your way!

Storage Rating3/5
ProblemsYou can inadvertently introduce pests to your home.

Directly on the ground

You can definitely store your firewood directly on the ground, although elevating at least a few inches is ideal. Having a gap between the wood and the ground promotes airflow and ensures proper drying.

Additionally, the lack of airflow can introduce moisture to your woodpile, causing rot and encouraging pests to set up shop. Make no mistake — if this is a long term solution, it’s going to cost you some wood.

However, in a pinch, temporarily storing the wood on the ground will do fine. It can even work well in a longer term arrangement if you properly cover it.

Storage Rating2/5
ProblemsLack of airflow can prevent the wood from seasoning correctly. The added moisture can cause wood to rot and introduce pests.

Next to a house

Whether to stack firewood next to your house is a fiercely debated topic all across the internet. Some folks say it’s fine, other’s are diametrically opposed to it. As with most things, the correct answer lies somewhere in between.

The short answer is that stacking firewood next to your house introduces unnecessary risk and can create unnecessary problems. Falling rain from your house adds moisture to the pile, while the close proximity to your home encourages invasive insects to come inside.

Risk doesn’t necessarily mean that something will happen and many folks report that they’ve stored their firewood next to their house fine for years. If I had to give advice to someone determined to stack their wood there, it would be to keep a close eye for insects and mold.

Storage Rating2/5
ProblemsThe close proximity to your home can invite unwanted pests and add to the moisture of the woodpile via gutter runoff.

On a deck

Storing firewood on a wooden deck long-term is terrible idea. Not only does this put your wood pile in close quarters with your home, but the wood’s presence can introduce mold and cause the deck to rot. On a long enough timeline, the weight of the wood and the rot can cause structural damage to the deck itself.

For composite decking, it’s less of a bad idea, but it’s still not an ideal setup.

I would avoid storing firewood on a deck if you can possibly help it.

Storage Rating1/5
ProblemsAll of the same problems from storing the wood next to your house. Can shorten the lifespan of your deck.

In a deck box

Deck boxes make great storage for all sorts of things, so it stands to reason that it might make adequate storage for your firewood.

I would advise you to only store well-seasoned wood inside of deck boxes. The reason? Deck boxes actively block airflow from the inside. This is great for things that are already dry, but a nightmare for things that are still slightly damp.

The dampness will definitely create mold, mildew, and pest problems. If you’re not sure whether or not the firewood is properly seasoned, I wouldn’t risk it.

Storage Rating1/5
ProblemsDamp wood will quickly rot and ruin, while inviting pests. Seasoned wood only.

In a shipping container

This is an odd one, but many folks have asked whether or not you can store firewood in a shipping container. While unique, this is actually a great approach as long as the sides are kept open.

Open shipping containers check all the boxes of storing firewood:

  • Keeps the wood dry
  • Allows airflow if the sides are down / open

The only disadvantage I can think of is that the closed-in nature will attract insects and other pests. This might also include snakes and bee/wasp nests. If you choose this option, be judicious with checking!

Storage Rating3/5
ProblemsPotentially attracts pests. Provides an inviting home for snakes, bees, and wasps.

On pallets

Pallets are a cheap, easy, and effective way to maximize your space for firewood storage. I will unabashedly recommend these as an economical way to stack and season firewood for any household.

The only drawback is their lifespan — you’ll need to replace pallet-built firewood racks every 5-10 years, so you can’t expect to have them for life. But they’re cheap enough to use and still come out ahead!

While you can put firewood directly on pallets, you can construct sophisticated racks out of them as well (here’s a guide I particularly like).

Storage Rating4/5
ProblemsNot many. You’ll need to get new pallets every presidential administration.

On concrete

Finally, you can store firewood directly on concrete. This is slightly better than storing it directly on the ground, although you’ll still run into the same problems with pests and rot.

If the choice is the bare ground vs. concrete, choose concrete. But if you have any other options, choose those!

Storage Rating2/5
ProblemsLack of airflow can prevent the wood from seasoning correctly. The added moisture can cause wood to rot and introduce pests.

Commercial firewood rack

More many folks, it’s worth the money to purchase a commercial firewood rack and put it under an awning and judiciously use a firewood cover during the wet season. The rack holds firewood an adequate height above the ground to promote airflow and reduce the presence of pests.

Most will last for decades, and an 8-foot long rack will easily hold a 1/2 cord of wood. Most models will fit anywhere — bare grass, under eaves, on your patio, or anywhere you have some free space.

If you’re looking for a recommendation, I’ve found the ShelterLogic Heavy Duty Outdoor Firewood Rack to be top-notch.

Storage Rating5/5
ProblemsCosts money.

Treating your woodpile for pests

I’ll be writing a more thorough article on how to keep pests out of your firewood pile in the future. For now, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Do not spray firewood with pesticides or insecticides. Most of the time, this won’t solve your problem and will release hazardous gasses when you burn the wood.

Placing mothballs around the firewood pile can help with mice and other insects, but isn’t a silver bullet. Mothballs work great in closed areas, but the smell often disperses quickly outdoors.

Make sure you have adequate drainage around your firewood to ensure there are no pools of standing water. Choose a spot that won’t accumulate moisture over time.

Minimize plant growth around the stacks. Tall grasses naturally entice bugs and rodents to the area.

Purchase Diatomaceous Earth and apply it around the woodpile. Although the name is hard to pronounce, it’s an effective way of keeping insects away. It kills bugs by cutting into their exoskeleton and causing them to dry out.

Common questions

Does a firewood rack need a roof?

Many wonders wonder whether or not firewood racks need a roof above them. Ideally, yes — firewood racks need something above them to keep the rain from causing issues to the woodpile. However, it doesn’t need to be a dedicated roof. Fire pit covers like this one, or the eaves on your house, can provide the protection necessary.

Should you stack firewood bark up or bark down?

Purdue University claims that it doesn’t matter if you store firewood underneath shelter (as we advise above). However, if your firewood is exposed to the elements, they recommend to store the wood bark down.

Their reasoning is that water can collect in the u-shaped trough in the wood, which increases the time it takes to dry the wood and ultimately accelerates decay.

How long does wood need to season?

Firewood requires as little as six months, or as much as two years to completely dry out. This all depends on the time it was cut, what kind of wood it was, and the weather at the time. A rainier season will prolong the seasoning process whereas a sunny, dry season will cause the wood to season faster.

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