Firewood: Shed or Stack?

Remember that wood only really dries in New York State between April and November when temperatures are above 40°F and humidity levels are relatively low.  A well-sited and -built wood stack does most of its work during July through September with high heat and low humidity. A good wood shed—see example below—works all year long.

McMahon’s Redi-Air Wood Shed©


If instead of a good wood shed you use the stack and tarp method, this method requires a surprising amount of space dedicated to wood drying: about 128 square feet for four cords, typical (minimum) of most home needs; that’s one stack 4 feet high by 4feet wide by 32 feet long per year, two of them at the beginning of winter.  In addition to food gardens, the life-after-oil front yard will be dedicated to wood storage – about two car parking spaces worth of wood; more if you’re home isn’t very well insulated and/or your stove burns inefficiently.

Tarped Stacks -- Drying Methods

Does this look like your wood stack?  …Uh…not good.wet_wood _pile

Proper construction of your fuel-wood stack (you’re crafting a stack not making a pile here) involves the same things as any building: a stable foundation, stable shape (not too tall for the width), solid connections (the way the wood stacks against itself) and a sound roof.

Skillfully drying firewood (or building lumber) requires managing all the moisture factors – precipitation, temperature, and air movement – through the proper location and construction of a wood stack.


Optimal wood drying and storage sites are:

○    Easily accessible to sled, cart, truck, or tractor
○    Off the ground
○    In a warm sunny area (against a south-facing wall can be ideal)
○    In an area with good air flow
○    Near the point of use

A solid foundation can also be made by propping up pallets or 2x4s to form a wide, level surface with plenty of support points.

Ensure air access underneath the stack. Remember that the bottom layers are most likely going to get wet in snowy weather as it drifts against the pile and by lower air flow volumes and wetter air near the ground.  Ideally, you burn the top three-quarters of the pile and then restack the remaining one-quarter on top of another stack for the following year.

Stable connections between the layers of cordwood are made by ensuring that the wood is of a uniform length – usually 16 inches or 18 inches – that they are layered up neatly and flatly, and that any retaining of the walls (see figure 1) are rock solid.

A sound roof is best made out of anything impervious, large, flat and rigid, like scrap plywood or, best of all, scrap metal roofing. Ensure that the roofing is pitched and drains water away from any area that would backsplash onto the wood.  Drying wood under a tarp seems like a fine idea until you try it.  When you do, you realize how hard it is to keep the wind from removing or misaligning it and snow from forming depressions in it so that water slowly percolates into the pile.  If you must use a tarp, heavy canvas or rubber tarps are infinitely more workable than light poly tarps. If you want info about how you can get a McMahon’s Redi-Air Wood Shed© to end your wood-drying hassles, contact us anytime .


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