Seasoned Wood: What is It?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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What is seasoned wood? It’s wood that has been dried to reduce its moisture content to 20% or less. This process is usually done through kiln-drying, which achieves a moisture content of 6% to 8%. The result is wood that’s ready to burn and produces a lot of heat and little smoke, making it perfect for stoves and fireplaces.

In this article, I’ll cover what seasoned wood is and how it’s made. Additionally, I’ll discuss some of its benefits and how it can improve your home.

What is seasoned wood

Understanding the Process of Drying Wood: A Guide to Seasoned Wood

Seasoned wood is a type of wood that has been dried to remove as much moisture content as possible. This process involves cutting the wood into pieces, leaving it outside to dry naturally, and removing the water content from the wood. The goal is to achieve a moisture content of no more than 20%.

Why is it Important to Use Seasoned Wood?

Using seasoned wood is essential for the proper performance of your fireplace or stove. Burning wet or unseasoned wood can result in a smoky fire that produces less heat and more creosote buildup in your chimney. By using properly seasoned wood, you can prevent these issues and enjoy a longer, hotter, and cleaner burn.

How is Seasoned Wood Produced?

The production of seasoned wood involves several techniques that can help achieve the desired moisture content. Here are some of the basic steps involved in the process:

  • Cut the wood into pieces: The wood needs to be cut into smaller pieces to speed up the drying process.
  • Setup the wood: The wood should be stacked in a way that allows air to circulate around it.
  • Leave the wood outside: The wood needs to be left outside to dry naturally. This can take anywhere from six months to a year, depending on the type of wood and the climate.
  • Remove the water: The wood needs to be checked regularly to ensure that it is drying properly. Once the moisture content is below 20%, the wood is considered seasoned.

What are the Benefits of Using Seasoned Wood?

Using seasoned wood has several benefits, including:

  • Faster drying time: Seasoned wood dries faster than unseasoned wood, which means you can start using it sooner.
  • Extended burn time: Seasoned wood burns longer than unseasoned wood, which means you can enjoy a longer fire.
  • Increased heat output: Seasoned wood produces more heat than unseasoned wood, which means you can heat your home more effectively.
  • Better air quality: Seasoned wood produces less smoke and fewer pollutants than unseasoned wood, which means you can breathe easier.

What Influences the Quality of Seasoned Wood?

The quality of seasoned wood can be influenced by several factors, including:

  • Type of wood: Different types of wood have different drying times and moisture contents.
  • Proper storage: Seasoned wood needs to be stored properly to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the ground or the air.
  • Time of year: The time of year when the wood is cut can influence how quickly it dries.
  • Initial moisture content: The initial moisture content of the wood can influence how long it takes to dry and how well it seasons.

What Types of Wood are Best for Seasoning?

The majority of wood types can be seasoned effectively, but some types are better than others. Here are some of the best types of wood for seasoning:

  • Oak: Oak is a highly dense wood that seasons well and produces a long-lasting fire.
  • Maple: Maple is a hardwood that seasons well and produces a hot fire.
  • Birch: Birch is a fast-drying wood that seasons quickly and produces a bright flame.
  • Ash: Ash is a hardwood that seasons well and produces a hot fire with little smoke.

How to Choose the Right Seasoned Wood?

Choosing the right seasoned wood depends on your needs and preferences. Here are some factors to consider when choosing seasoned wood:

  • Type of wood: Different types of wood have different burning characteristics, so choose a type that suits your needs.
  • Moisture content: Make sure the wood has a moisture content of no more than 20%.
  • Quality: Look for wood that is properly seasoned, stored, and free from defects.

Why Using Seasoned Wood is a Must for Your Property

Using wet or unseasoned wood can cause a lot of problems for your property and the environment. Wet wood contains a lot of water, which means it will produce a lot of smoke and dirt when burned. This can cause damage to the air we breathe and the environment around us. Wet wood can also cause a build-up of creosote in your chimney, which can be extremely dangerous and lead to chimney fires.

How to Check if Your Wood is Seasoned

It’s important to check if your wood is properly seasoned before using it. Here are some ways to check:

  • Check the moisture level: Use a moisture meter to check the moisture level of your wood. Seasoned wood should have a moisture level of around 20% or less.
  • Look at the edges: Seasoned wood will have cracks and splits on the edges, while wet wood will look smooth.
  • Check the color: Seasoned wood will be a lighter color compared to wet wood, which will be darker and may even have black spots.

How to Season Wood

If you have a lot of wood that needs to be seasoned, follow these steps:

  • Cut the wood into manageable pieces.
  • Stack the pieces in a dry, well-ventilated area, with the cut ends facing up.
  • Allow the wood to dry for at least six months to a year, depending on the type of wood and the climate in your area.
  • Check the moisture level before using the wood.

The Difference Between Seasoned and Unseasoned Wood

Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut and left to dry for an extended period of time, while unseasoned wood is wood that has not been allowed to dry properly. Here are some differences between the two:

  • Seasoned wood is dry and ready to burn, while unseasoned wood contains a lot of water and will produce a lot of smoke and dirt when burned.
  • Seasoned wood burns hotter and produces more heat compared to unseasoned wood.
  • Seasoned wood is considered a higher quality compared to unseasoned wood.

The Main Types of Seasoned Wood

The main types of seasoned wood are:

  • Hardwoods: Hardwoods like oak, maple, and hickory are highly sought after for their ability to burn hot and long.
  • Softwoods: Softwoods like pine and spruce are a popular choice for kindling and starting fires, but they burn faster compared to hardwoods.
  • Red woods: Red woods like cedar and redwood are highly aromatic and produce a pleasant smell when burned.

Understanding the Science Behind Wood Seasoning

Understanding the science behind wood seasoning is important for several reasons:

  • It helps people choose the best method for seasoning their wood: By knowing the different methods available, people can choose the one that best matches their needs.
  • It helps people know how long seasoning takes: By understanding how long it takes to season wood, people can plan ahead and make sure they have enough time to properly season their wood.
  • It helps people maintain the highest quality of wood: By knowing how to properly store seasoned wood, people can maintain its quality and ensure that it burns cleanly.
  • It helps people avoid damage to their wood: By understanding the elements that can cause damage to wood during the seasoning process, people can take steps to prevent it from happening.

The Benefits of Properly Seasoned Wood

Properly seasoned wood offers several benefits:

  • It burns more efficiently: Seasoned wood burns more efficiently than unseasoned wood. This means that it produces less smoke and requires less energy to burn.
  • It creates less creosote: Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood that can build up in chimneys and cause fires. Properly seasoned wood creates less creosote, making it a safer choice for heating.
  • It’s easier to cut: Seasoned wood is easier to cut than unseasoned wood. This means that it’s easier to create the specific sizes and shapes needed for construction or other projects.
  • It’s a great match for customers: Providing customers with properly seasoned wood is a great way to offer high-quality products that meet their needs.

The Ultimate Guide to Seasoning Wood: Tips and Techniques

  • The key to good seasoning is choosing the right wood.
  • You want to make sure that the wood you buy or cut is straight and free of any damage.
  • The size of the wood is also important. The ideal size for seasoning is around 16 inches in length and 4-6 inches in thickness.
  • Hardwoods like oak, maple, and hickory are great for seasoning because they contain less water than softwoods like pine and spruce.

Preparing the Wood

  • The first step in seasoning is to cut the wood to the proper size.
  • Chopped the wood into pieces that are around 16 inches long and 4-6 inches in thickness.
  • Make sure to remove any branches or knots that may contain moisture.
  • If the wood is wet, let it dry for a couple of days before starting the seasoning process.

Setting Up for Seasoning

  • Find an area that is close to a water source and away from any buildings or structures.
  • The ground should be level and free of any debris.
  • Create a stack of logs by placing them in a criss-cross pattern.
  • Make sure to leave plenty of space between the logs to allow air to circulate.

Seasoning Techniques

  • The secret to fast and efficient seasoning is to protect the wood from the elements while still allowing air to circulate.
  • Cover the stack with a tarp or metal roof to keep the rain and snow away.
  • Make sure to leave the sides open to allow air to circulate.
  • Check the wood regularly to make sure it is drying properly.
  • Depending on the moisture content of the wood, seasoning can take anywhere from 6 months to a year.

Storing Seasoned Wood: The Key to Keeping Your Firewood Dry and Ready to Burn

Before you start storing your seasoned wood, there are a few things you need to do to ensure it stays in good condition:

  • Cut your wood to the right size: The optimum size for firewood is around 16 inches in length and 4-6 inches in thickness. This size allows for faster drying and easier handling.
  • Split your wood: Chopped wood dries faster than unsplit logs, so it’s important to split your wood into smaller pieces before storing.
  • Allow your wood to dry: Make sure your wood is properly seasoned before storing it. This means it should have a moisture content of around 20% or less. If your wood is still wet, it will continue to dry in storage and may develop mold or rot.

Storing Your Wood

Once you’ve prepared your wood, it’s time to start storing it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stack your wood with care: Make sure your wood is stacked in a neat and orderly manner to allow for proper air circulation. Avoid stacking your wood too close together as this can prevent air from reaching the wood and slow down the drying process.
  • Cover your wood: If you’re using an open rack or storing your wood outside, it’s important to cover it during wet weather to keep it dry. A tarp or other waterproof cover works well for this.
  • Protect your wood from excess moisture: Make sure your wood is stored in a location that is protected from excess moisture. This means avoiding areas with standing water or high humidity.
  • Check your wood regularly: It’s important to check your wood regularly for signs of mold or rot. If you notice any issues, remove the affected pieces and continue to monitor the rest of your wood.

Partially vs Fully Seasoned Firewood: What You Need to Know

The primary benefit of partially seasoned firewood is that it can be produced faster than fully seasoned firewood. This is because the drying process doesn’t take as long. Additionally, partially seasoned firewood is usually cheaper to produce and sell than fully seasoned firewood. However, there are downsides to using partially seasoned firewood, including:

  • It may produce more smoke and creosote buildup in your chimney due to the excess moisture content.
  • It may be more prone to mold growth and other types of damage due to the excess moisture content.
  • It may not burn as hot or as long as fully seasoned firewood due to the excess moisture content.

How to Choose Between Partially and Fully Seasoned Firewood

When looking for firewood, it’s important to choose the right type depending on your needs. Here are some factors to consider:

  • If you want firewood that is easy to store and use right away, partially seasoned firewood may be a good choice.
  • If you want firewood that burns hotter and longer and produces less smoke and creosote buildup, fully seasoned firewood is the obvious choice.
  • If you’re not necessarily looking for the cheapest option and want to confirm that the firewood you receive is properly seasoned, it’s worth trying a tool like a moisture meter to test the moisture content of the wood.
  • Depending on the time of year and your location, fully seasoned firewood may not be readily available, so partially seasoned firewood may be the only choice.
  • If you have the time and space to store firewood for an extended period of time, fully seasoned firewood is the way to go.

Why Seasoned Firewood Can Be So Inconsistent

When it comes to drying wood, there are two main methods: kiln drying and air-drying. Kiln drying is a more modern and controlled process, while air-drying is the traditional method. Seasoned firewood is dried naturally through an open-air process instead of relying on a specialised kiln, resulting in air-dried logs. This air-drying process can result in inconsistency in the moisture levels. Here’s why:

The Time it Takes to Dry

The length of time it takes for wood to dry depends on a lot of factors, including the type of wood, the level of moisture in the wood when it was cut, and the weather conditions during the drying process. Typically, it takes about a year for wood to dry properly, but this can vary depending on the type of wood and the conditions it’s drying in.

The Weather

The weather can also play a big role in how consistent the moisture content of the wood is. If it’s an extremely wet year, the wood may not dry as well as it would in a drier year. If it’s an extremely hot and dry year, the wood may dry too quickly and become too dry.

The Type of Wood

Different types of wood have different drying times and moisture content. Some types of wood, like oak and hickory, take longer to dry than others, like pine and fir. Knowing the drying time and moisture content of the type of wood you’re using can help you make a better choice when buying firewood.

The Provider

The provider you buy your firewood from can also play a role in how consistent the moisture content is. Some providers may not let the wood dry for an extended period, resulting in higher moisture content. Others may remove the wood from the drying process too early, resulting in inconsistent moisture levels.

The Drawbacks of Opting for Seasoned Wood Instead of Kiln Dried Wood

1. Longer Time to Start and Lower Output

When it comes to starting a fire, seasoned wood takes longer to light than kiln dried wood. This means that you’ll need to spend more time trying to get it started, which can be frustrating. Additionally, seasoned wood typically has a lower output than kiln dried wood, meaning that it won’t produce as much heat. This can be a problem if you’re trying to heat a large area or if you need a lot of heat in a short amount of time.

2. Inconsistent Moisture Content

One of the biggest differences between seasoned wood and kiln dried wood is the moisture content. Seasoned wood has been allowed to dry naturally, which means that the moisture content can vary depending on how it was stored and for how long. This can make it difficult to achieve an optimum burn, as the moisture content can cause the wood to burn unevenly or create too much smoke.

3. Higher Chance of Mold and Damage

When wood is stored outside, it’s exposed to the elements, which means that it can get wet and start to mold. This can be a problem if you’re using the smoking wood for heating, as mold can release harmful compounds when it’s burned. Additionally, if the wood is not stored properly, it can become damaged, which can make it difficult to use.

4. Smaller Pieces and Shapes

Seasoned wood is typically cut into smaller pieces than kiln dried wood, which can make it difficult to use if you need larger chunks. Additionally, the shapes of the wood can differ, which can make it difficult to stack and store.

5. Safety Concerns

Using seasoned wood can create safety concerns, especially if it’s not completely dry. Wet wood can create more smoke and cause damage to your chimney or flue. Additionally, if the wood is not stored properly, it can create a fire hazard.

6. Shorter Shelf Life

Unlike kiln dried wood, seasoned wood has a shorter shelf life. This means that it’s important to use it as soon as possible after it’s been cut and stored. If you want to store wood for a longer period of time, kiln dried wood is a better option.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about seasoned wood. It’s not as complicated as it seems, and now you know the secret to getting the most out of your wood burning stove or fireplace. So, go ahead and season some wood today! You’ll be glad you did.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.