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How to tell if wood is seasoned?

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by aharris, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. aharris

    aharris ArboristSite Lurker

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    Occasionally I get some firewood that looks seasoned, etc. but doesn't burn very well, and in particular, takes a long time to get lit. I have to hold a torch to it etc. Obviously I can tell green wood right off, but is there a way to insure that the wood you are buying is seasoned?

    Thanks
     
  2. HOGBEAR

    HOGBEAR ArboristSite Operative

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    Good seasoned wood will usually have deep very defined splits in the end grain, but varieties season differently so it depends on what kind.
     
  3. tibikedad

    tibikedad ArboristSite Member

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    There is a big difference between seasoned and dry. Two years ago I bought a cord of seasoned wood (I ran out in March), but the wood didn't burn well. I could tell that there were plenty of cracks in the ends, but I figure the wood was untarped before I bought it, and it was wet. The symptoms were a lot of sizzling when I tried to burn it. I quickly recognized it and set it aside for a month under a tarp, and it dried out enough to burn fairly well.

    What did I learn from this? Don't trust anyone who sells seasoned wood to deliver it dry. One big rainstorm can soak the wood, and it won't burn until it dries out again. If you must by seasoned wood, plan on a month or two of additional drying before burning.
     
  4. thombat4

    thombat4 AboristSite Guru

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    One sure sign of seasoned wood is to inspect the ends for cracks and splits known as checks. Most seasoned wood also has a distinct grayish color to it.
     
  5. TreePointer

    TreePointer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Some states/municipalities allow firewood sellers to use the term "seasoned" if the wood is cut, split, and drying for as little as 6 months. For many species of wood, this is too short. My northern red oak firewood will turn gray/black and show cracks within 6 months, but it isn't dry enough.

    Ask the seller what species of wood it is and how long the wood has seasoned.

    If you really want to know how dry the wood is, split a larger piece of the firewood and take a reading in the split with a moisture meter. A reading of about 20% or less should be good. I know of two firewood sellers who actually have a moisture meter with them to settle disputes.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2009
  6. mikenc

    mikenc ArboristSite Lurker

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    I agree with tibikedad. Big difference in seasoned and dry wood. If wood gets rain it will soak up moisture like a sponge. Unsplit wood seems to take a lot longer to season, even with cracks on end inside will have a lot of moisture. Some people use moisture meters but still dosen't give reading of moisture content inside of wood unless you split it.
     
  7. woodbooga

    woodbooga cords of mystic memory

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    At this late stage in the game, probably not what you want to hear - since it sounds like you buy your supply.

    Two options:

    -Purchase cut/split/dumped in spring. That way you'll be assured of how long it's had a chance to season. Preferably do business with a dealer you feel is trustworthy and will give you the straight dope

    -Cut your own. Again, you'll know when the tree was dropped, bucked to length, and split.

    BTW - seasoned doesn't necessarily mean dry. Seasoning is the process by which the 'green' moisture of the tree dissipates. In addition to my seasoned and dry supply in my barn, I have about 6 cords of fully seasoned wood that's soaked to the core outside and untarped from this past weekend's monsoon.

    Also - with smooth-barked species like maple and beech: take a pocket knife and scrape away at the outer layer. If the cambium beneath is still green...well, you have green wood.
     
  8. avalancher

    avalancher Arboristsite Raconteur

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    Add a third one to your list, I carry a moisture meter in the glove box just for that reason.When delivering wood I invite the buyer to choose a stick at random from the back of the truck and I show him the results on the meter.Helps you avoid folks who have no clue as to how to start a fire and blame the delivery guy.
     
  9. Streblerm

    Streblerm Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I would have to agree that there is a world of difference between seasoned and dry. In my state seasoned legally means that it was cut down last season. Here is the definition direct from the dept of weights and measures:

    (d) “Seasoned firewood.” The wood for fuel that has been air-dried and has a moisture content value that is less than or equal to fifty per cent.

    I am currently putting up some wood that has been in log lengths for several years. It is WET, however, according to my cheap moisture meter it is "seasoned". You can tell right away when you make a fresh split that the wood is still wet inside. The plus side is that it seems to be drying out fairly quickly under cover, outside. After a month, with a fresh split, you can easily see the wood is dry about 1" into the log. Its still wet in the middle.

    Someone else mentioned it, if you want to know if your wood is dry, you have to look at the inside of the log, ie. make a fresh split. Either check it with a meter (mine was about 15$) or use your senses to see if it is dry or not. You can get a pretty good idea by weight too.

    I think it takes longer for green wood to dry out vs wet seasoned wood of similar moisture content. The green wood has moisture in the cell walls, while wet seasoned wood's moisture is just kind of hanging around. Some people think differently, but I wouldn't hold it against them. I am hoping my "wet seasoned" wood will be dry in a couple more months.
     
  10. Scootermsp

    Scootermsp AboristSite Guru

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    If you can swing it buy an extra year ahead. For example buy the number of cords you need for Winter 2010-11 now. Tell the firewood guy you will take it green at a discounted price. That way next Winter you will know your wood is seasoned and you save $$$$.
     
  11. laynes69

    laynes69 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I'll knock 2 pieces together. If it sounds like a ball bat its ready for me. If its a dull thump its not ready. Works everytime and I've never had a problem with this method.
     
  12. chucker

    chucker Addicted to ArboristSite

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    not scientific! but it works ,and very well ....
     
  13. wdchuck

    wdchuck Addicted to ArboristSite

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    When I dump the load, or we toss it to a tight target zone, it sounds like bowling pins colliding.

    One guy complained it was too dry. :confused:


    Cracks on the end can close up from rain or heavily humid weather.
    But usually open just fine after a few days in the house, and starts easily, although some wood characteristically starts hard without kindling.
     
  14. TreePointer

    TreePointer Addicted to ArboristSite

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    :agree2:
     
  15. isaaccarlson

    isaaccarlson Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I second that. If it is a thud it is still wet. If it sounds hollow it is done.

    :agree2:
     
  16. willt1981

    willt1981 ArboristSite Member

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    I had one of these once. I brought a load of yellow locust that had been standing dead and not a bit of rot in it. He said the wood looked "old" and refused the load. I asked him what he was after and he said he wanted "spring wood". Seriously? Probably had hard time starting that spring wood when he found it too...
     
  17. Wood Doctor

    Wood Doctor Edwin

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    If you split elm from a dead elm tree, usually the sapwood is dry, but the heartwood will likely not be. That's true for other species as well. Sapwood dries fast. The heartwood takes much longer.

    But if the tree is hollow, you are in good shape with a dead tree because the ants, grubs, and roaches devoured out all the wet stuff. :greenchainsaw:
     
  18. olyman

    olyman Tree Freak

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    nuh uh--not ash--youll be beating with a chisel to get it off--
     
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  19. woodguy105

    woodguy105 AboristSite Guru

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    :agree2:

    also by weight. After a while you know how heavy a seasoned piece of oak is.
     

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