There are 5 main factors that will determine whether any location is a good place to season and dry your firewood.
If you can find a way to meet these 5 conditions, then you will be able to effectively dry your firewood regardless if you use a shed, a garage, a shady spot outdoors, etc.
With that said, some firewood storage options are naturally better for drying than others. So, we’re going to cover the 5 factors, and highlight how they apply to several common ways of storing firewood. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:
- 5 Elements for Drying Firewood
- Will Firewood Dry in a Shed?
- Will Firewood Dry in a Garage?
- Will Firewood Dry in the Shade?
- Will Firewood Dry in a Pile?
- Will a Dehumidifier or Fan Help Dry Firewood?
- How Long Does it Take to Dry Firewood?
Let’s get to it!
5 Elements for Drying Firewood
Fundamentally, there are 5 main things that will determine whether your firewood will dry or stay wet:
- Air flow
- Sun exposure
- Rain / snow protection
- Low humidity
No matter where you stack your firewood, if all of those elements are sufficiently present, then your firewood will season well and stay dry.
On the other hand, if one (or even all) of those elements are missing, then you might get stuck with firewood that stays wet and is unusable in a wood stove. With that said, some of the elements above are more important than others, so it’s possible to get your firewood nice and dry if you only meet some of these conditions.
Now, let’s look at the example of a shed, and analyze whether it’s possible to dry firewood inside of one.
Will Firewood Dry in a Shed?
Firewood will dry in a shed that has open sides if the wood is stacked properly and exposed to sufficient sunshine and air flow. However, if firewood is stacked in an enclosed shed, this can prevent or slow the drying of the firewood due to the limited airflow and sun exposure.
As you can see, the answer to this question depends quite a bit on the TYPE of shed that you use. To make things as clear as possible, let’s dig into each of the 5 elements for dry firewood, and discuss how a shed can affect them.
1. Air Flow
There are woodsheds that have open sides, or sides with big gaps in the walls, and these can work really well for drying / seasoning firewood. Here’s an example of the type of shed I’m talking about:
As you can tell, there is still plenty of room for wind the blow through the shed and through the wood.
On the other hand, you might have a shed (like the one’s you can buy at Home Depot) where it is completely enclosed. If that’s what you have, then it will prevent airflow and your firewood will either dry really slowly, or not at all. With that said, if your firewood is ALREADY seasoned and dry, then an enclosed shed could help you keep it that way.
It’s also worth mentioning, that weather you use a shed or not, the way you STACK your firewood also has a big impact on airflow. Your firewood will dry much more effectively in neat stacks, than in a haphazard pile (which will trap moisture inside the wood on the bottom).
2. Sun Exposure
Since all sheds have a roof, they all limit at least some sun exposure.
However, if you have an open sided woodshed like the one shown above, then you can still get sufficient sunshine to dry and season your firewood. And there are a couple of things you can do to make sure it gets the most sunshine possible.
For example, you can position the shed so that the face (i.e. the long side) of the firewood stack faces South. This provides some benefit, at least in North America, because the South side of any structure gets the most sun exposure. You can also position your shed AWAY from anything that will create shade (i.e. other buildings, trees, etc.).
If you happen to have a completely enclosed shed, you have a similar issue here. The firewood won’t be exposed to any sunshine, so it will be difficult to get that firewood to season. However, if the firewood is already seasoned and dry, then an enclosed shed could help keep it dry.
3. Rain / Snow Exposure
Perhaps the number one benefit of using a shed of any kind, is that it protects the firewood from rain and snow. This does have a significant impact on how dry your firewood will get / remain.
However, this might not be as important as you think it is. Let me explain.
There are two types of “dryness” when it comes to firewood:
- Seasoned “dry”
- Weather “dry”
Before any firewood can be burned, it must first be seasoned, which is a natural process that reduces the “base” moisture content of a piece of firewood. For example, freshly cut firewood will typically have a moisture content of over 60% and it will take several months (or as long as 2 years for certain species) for the firewood to fall below 20% moisture, which is the point at which it is considered seasoned. This is one type of “dryness”
But, firewood that is thoroughly seasoned can still get wet from rain, snow, etc. And when a piece of wood gets wet from the weather, it must dry out again. This is the second type of “dryness”.
As a firewood user, the practical application of this information is the amount of TIME that it takes to dry firewood. As I mentioned, firewood can take anywhere from a few months to two years to season (more on this below). But, if firewood that is already seasoned gets wet in the rain, then it can dry out again much more quickly. For example, in just a couple of sunny days.
For that reason, I think that airflow and sunshine are much more important than rain/snow protection, because they have a bigger impact on the seasoning process, which takes much longer than drying firewood after a rainstorm.
Humidity is affected by your geographical location, in addition to your storage location.
For example, you may live somewhere that is very humid, like the Midwestern states (i.e. Indiana, Michigan, etc.) and the Southeastern states (i.e. Florida, Louisiana, etc.), which are among the most humid regions in America. If you do, then it is more difficult to dry your firewood in general, because of the natural humidity in the air (but don’t worry too much, I’m from the Midwest and we successfully dry out firewood all the time).
With that said, the level of humidity inside an enclosed shed could be lower or higher than the outdoor humidity. For example, I’ve been in storage spaces that are pretty moist, and I’ve been in a few barns that are bone-dry.
So, when you consider storing your firewood in a shed, consider whether you are actually better or worse off (humidity-wise). An open-sided shed like the one I showed above, is going to be pretty much equivalent to firewood stored outdoors. But, if you put your firewood in a shed or garage that tends to attract moisture, then it’s probably going to hurt you more than it helps you. If you want to get scientific, you can use a hygrometer to measure humidity.
Finally, your firewood will dry better if it is elevated off of the ground.
The ground gets moist (think of the wet dew you see on grass in the morning), and if you separate your firewood from that moisture it will dry better.
Some sheds are actually a big help in this area. Look again at the open-sided shed pictured above. You’ll notice that it has a platform on the bottom that keeps the wood elevated. In addition to separation from the ground, this also allows for better airflow, because it allows wood to circulate under the wood.
You can accomplish the same goal anywhere, including in an enclosed shed or outdoors. You can stack your firewood on pallets, or on wood slats, or you could even buy a firewood rack. All of these approaches accomplish the same goal of elevating firewood. And that means that weather you are outside, or inside, or a little of both, then you can still meet this condition to dry your firewood.
So, that covers each of the 5 elements. Hopefully you now have the info you need to make an informed decision regarding a wood shed. A closely related question that is often asked, is whether firewood will dry in a garage. Overall, the same considerations apply, but there’s a few differences. Let’s quickly cover that next.
Will Firewood Dry in a Garage?
Firewood will typically not dry very well when stored in a garage, because of the limited air flow and sunshine. In addition, depending on the condition of your garage, it could actually be more humid than the air outdoors. As a result, it is usually better to season firewood outdoors or in an open-sided woodshed.
With that said, if your firewood is already seasoned and dry, then storing it in your garage could be an effective way to keep it dry. But before doing that, you should also consider the risk of introducing pests (like termites) into your garage, and the effort required to move the stack from outdoors to inside the garage.
If neither of these are a problem for you, then storing seasoned firewood in your garage could be a good option. As a point of reference, I have stacked firewood in a small barn and even directly in the house many times, and have not had any serious issues with pests. Plus, moving a batch of seasoned firewood inside by hand is good exercise.
Will Firewood Season in the Shade?
Firewood will still season in the shade as long as it is properly stacked and has good airflow. However, it will take much longer for firewood to season in the shade, compared to firewood with optimal sun exposure. Whenever possible, it is better to season firewood in a sunny location.
I don’t think this will be a surprise to you, but the 5 factors still apply here.
If you eliminate sun exposure, the firewood will not dry nearly as quickly. However, if the firewood has good airflow, is elevated, and is protected from excessive moisture, then it should still season over time. Albeit more slowly.
Will Firewood Dry in a Pile?
Firewood that is stored in a pile will typically still dry to some extent, but it will not dry as quickly or as thoroughly as wood that is properly stacked. In fact, the firewood in the middle of a pile (especially on the bottom) can retain so much moisture that it begins to decay or even mold.
Given the choice between a pile of firewood and a nice stack of firewood, you should go for the stack every time. With that said, I understand that it is more difficult and more time-consuming to make a stack than it is to make a pile.
So, as a compromise, you could consider trying a Holz Hausen firewood stack. With a Holz Hausen, the outer circle is stacked carefully, but then the interior of the wood can simply be thrown or dumped in. If done right, this could save you some time while also helping your firewood to dry more thoroughly. Here’s what a stack like this looks like for reference:
Will a Dehumidifier or Fan Help Dry Firewood?
Technically, a dehumidifier or fan would help to dry out firewood. However, the dehumidifiers and box fans that are used by most homeowners are not designed for this purpose. This could result in damage to the equipment and electricity costs that are too high to justify.
As a result, you will usually be better off drying your firewood outdoors or in a shed / barn that has good airflow. I have personally never used a dehumidifier or fan to dry out firewood, and I don’t think I’ll ever need to try it in the future.
How Long Does it Take to Season Firewood?
One final question that you may have, is “how long does it take to season firewood?” This is a really common question, and it depends on a number of factors. Some of the factors are the 5 we mentioned above, but another one that I haven’t mentioned yet, is the species of the wood.
In general, it takes 6 months to 2 years to season firewood that is properly stacked in a good location. A big part of the remaining variation in drying times comes down to the species and density of the wood. For example, dense hardwoods like Hickory and Oak take much longer to season than softwoods like Pine.
Here’s a video from the Burly Beaver YouTube channel where I dig deeper into this question: