When it comes to splitting logs for firewood or other woodworking projects, patience is a virtue.
While it might be tempting to start splitting freshly cut logs right away, it’s essential to allow them some time to “season” or dry out properly. The question many enthusiasts ask is, “How long should I let logs sit before splitting?”
The ideal duration for letting logs sit before splitting depends on several factors, including the type of wood, its moisture content, and the climate in your region.
In general, it’s recommended to season or dry logs for a minimum of 6 months to a year, but for some hardwoods or in damper conditions, you may need to wait longer.
How Long Can Logs Sit Before Splitting?
The best time to split logs is within 2-3 weeks after they are cut. It will take around a month for them to become noticeably tougher, and it will take about two to three months before they become significantly tougher and dryer.
If you wait too long, it will only get worse. There are still a few weeks left where it will be easy, so you have plenty of time. There’s no reason you couldn’t split it after 3-6 months. The work just gets harder.
A lot of it has to do with the species. Whenever I feel like splitting oak, ash, walnut, I do, but Sycamore has to be split as soon as possible, otherwise it will break into pieces when split.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown:
Type of Wood
Hardwoods like oak, hickory, and maple typically require a longer seasoning period, often closer to a year or more. Softwoods like pine or spruce may be ready for splitting in as little as 6 months.
The moisture content of wood is a critical factor. You want the wood to reach a moisture content of around 20% or less.
You can use a moisture meter to measure the moisture level accurately. When the wood stops losing significant weight or moisture, it’s a good indicator that it’s ready for splitting.
The climate in your area can influence how quickly wood seasons. Dry, arid climates may allow wood to season faster than humid or wet regions. You may need to adjust your drying time accordingly.
Proper storage can significantly impact the drying process. Keep the logs off the ground, in a well-ventilated area, and covered to protect them from rain and snow. Stacking the logs with spacers between them can also improve airflow and drying.
Size of Logs
Smaller logs will season faster than larger ones. Consider splitting larger logs into halves or quarters to expedite the drying process.
To determine if your logs are ready for splitting, look for the following signs:
- Cracks and splits along the grain of the wood.
- A dull, hollow sound when two logs are struck together.
- Reduced weight, indicating moisture loss.
- The absence of a strong, green odor when you split a small piece off.
How Long is Firewood Considered Green?
As long as the moisture content of the firewood is below 20%, it is considered green. The process can take 6 – 12 months since wood has a moisture content as high as 80% at the beginning.
There are several factors that can affect the timing of the drying process, including the size of the wood pieces, the temperature and humidity of the climate, and how the wood is stored.
The fact that it is technically green does not mean you should wait two months before splitting the rounds.
Reasons to Split Wood Green
In addition to being easier, there are other benefits.
Split Wood is Easier to Move and Store
It’s not a good idea to leave freshly cut wood sitting on the ground. Using smaller and lighter pieces of wood makes it much easier to move, transport, and store them.
You don’t need to be a hero to move round after round. Since green wood contains so much moisture, it is even heavier than dry wood.
Split Wood Dries Faster
For wood to be ready for use as firewood, it needs to be properly dried for 6 months to a year. It will dry quicker and more thoroughly if you split wood green rather than when it is dry (other than ease of splitting).
It is possible for moisture to escape from all the newly cut surfaces of the wood after it is split. When properly stored, this can eliminate months of seasoning time.
When Not To Split Green Wood
In addition to drying faster, split wood can also expose the wood to moisture and mud if it is not stored correctly.
You should leave a fallen tree in large round shapes until you have time to move and store it properly if you don’t have time to move it.
You can create many more “open” faces if you split wood and leave it on the ground. Over time, weather, mud, mold, pests, and other things can affect these “open” faces.
A new round cannot always be split immediately, and that’s okay. The process of seasoning wood takes time.
You Don’t Need To Split Smaller Logs
Logs less than 8 inches in diameter can be left to season as they are. It is not wrong to split it – it is up to you to decide if it is worth the effort. The pieces aren’t too hard to split when they’re dry, even when they’re that small.
Extra Soft Wood
As far as I can recall, I have never had this problem. Nonetheless, if you have really soft wood, your axe may stick right in without splitting it. Due to the softness of the wood, the blade is just absorbed by it.
It’s possible to wait a few days until the wood hardens if it’s becoming an issue, but I have never done that. It usually takes just one more swing before it is over.
Remember that properly seasoned wood not only burns more efficiently but also produces less creosote buildup in your chimney, reducing the risk of chimney fires.
Investing the time to allow your logs to season adequately will ultimately lead to a more satisfying and safer firewood experience.