The thought of warming up near a cozy fire on crisp days is so welcoming through fall, winter and into spring. Whatever type of fireplace you have, be it brick, a woodstove or even a wood-burning furnace, firewood stacks require a certain amount of preparation to keep the wood dry and ready for the fire.
Start With a Foundation
When you're building your woodpile, you want to find a location set far enough away from the house that the woodpile won't allow a path to the house for pests and critters yet close enough that you can access the pile to collect firewood. Some store firewood in a woodshed or lean-to-type of shelter; however, a simple stack is more than sufficient.
Create a platform to raise your woodpile at least an inch or two. There are commercial grates and racks available, but you can create a platform by laying out a few scrap 2x4 pieces or lining up pallets. The base allows for airflow through the woodpile. It also makes the pile less susceptible to rot and insect infestations. Once the base is secure, you can start your woodpile.
Start with larger pieces of wood to create a sturdy base that will keep the pile secure. You can alternate layers with smaller pieces so you mix kindling-size wood with more substantial logs. Another strategy is to alternate the direction, placing alternate layers perpendicular to the previous layer.
Season for the Season
If you gather your own wood instead of buying it, the gathering of firewood is never done. You work through all the warmer months to cut trees down, chop trunks and branches into smaller pieces and split wood into even smaller sizes ready for burning. Even then, the wood is not ready for the fireplace. Wood needs to cure for at least a year, though some experts recommend up to two or three years to fully season. This essentially means that you give it time to dry, or lose all its moisture. If wood still has moisture - or even worse, if it's wet when you put it on the fire - it will smoke and burn much faster. You'll get longer and more even heat if you let your wood cure for a few seasons before use.
Covering Firewood Piles
Whether a woodpile is being seasoned or it's ready to burn, it's important to cover it, especially in the winter season, when there is both rain and snow. Precipitation is the main reason to cover your woodpile as you are trying to let the wood dry out. There are commercial covers available as well as woodsheds and other structures, but the easiest and most economical way to cover your wood is with a tarp. These covers are built to protect against the environmental effects, and practically purpose-built to the goal here.
Find a tarp that is just larger than the top of your woodpile, or fold the tarp to size. You want the tarp to hang over about a few inches but not much more. The idea is to cover the top to shield against rainfall and snow accumulation. However you want to keep the sides of the pile exposed to promote air to flow through the stack.
While a tarp is the perfect cover, it needs a little help to stay in place. You can weigh it down with bricks, and even string bricks together to drape over the tarp. The grommets, however, are ideal for tie-downs. You can use bungee-style tie downs or twine and stakes to hold the tarp in place for the inclement weather to come. This is the best strategy for seasoning wood. However you might want to secure the tarp in a way that allows for easy access to the pile for the wood you plan to use all winter.
With your woodpile set and secured with a tarp, you're ready to settle into a comfortable seat next to the fire and appreciate all that work and preparation.