The oak, just like any other tree, contains a certain amount of moisture when harvested. Oak is a solid choice of good for a campfire or a stove.So, how long does oak take to season properly? We have the answers.
How long does oak take to season before you can burn it?
How long it takes to season oak before burning will depend on the method of seasoning and the time of timber harvest. Typically, if you use the natural seasoning method, a freshly cut and well-split oak contains 60 to 80% of sap content and will take at least one year to season well.
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What is seasoning?
Let’s first clarify what we mean by seasoning. Seasoning doesn’t involve putting spices like salt, pepper, or anything else on your wood.
You might have heard of a “seasoned veteran” either fighting a war or playing a sport. In the world of burning firewood, seasoning refers more to the latter.
How do I season?
Seasoning firewood involves letting it dry out thoroughly. First, decide where your stack of firewood is going to go. If you already have an open-sided shed or outbuilding for the purpose – then great! You could also prepare a tarp.
If you live in a normally rather dry area, you might be able to just leave it outside.
Regardless of how you do it, you’ll want to set your oak firewood in the most direct sunlight possible – and not wrap it up too tight or from all directions as to allow air to circulate and dry your wood.
Wrapping your oak firewood completely means that air can’t escape – and can have the opposite effects of rotting and softening wood with stagnant moisture hanging around.
How about actual stacking? This starts with taking the larger logs and putting them at the bottom of a stack.
Then stack medium-sized logs in a layer of three or more on top. Then stack the smallest pieces up high. Leaving a little space between logs also helps dry air reach more places faster.
Drying Oak Wood
There are at least 600 species of oak trees worldwide that can be categorized as evergreen and deciduous. Out of the 600 oak species, 55 are found in the US and share common features and characteristics.
Oak is a hardwood tree that features a scaly and hard bark and a thick stem. Regarding the oak’s lifespan, it can live up to 200 years and grow up to 70 feet in height and 9 feet in diameter.
The best way to ensure that oak properly seasons is to split it into sizable sections when freshly cut.
This is because oak can generally be hard to split once it starts to dry.
Additionally, other people prefer putting oak in cold areas because when they freeze, it also becomes easy to split. During the splitting process, ensure the wood is on a stump because splitting it on the ground can be tough.
Alternatively, you can also use a hydraulic splitter to save time and energy.
3 Ways To Dry Oak And How Long They Each Take
Because various species of the oak tree are growing worldwide, the sap content and moisture will differ depending on the climate of different regions.
But, since most of the oak tree species share common characteristics, it would take them at least 1 year to season properly.
After 1 year, most of the sap content has evaporated, and the wood is dry enough for you to burn. Additionally, the period an oak will take to the season will be influenced by the different methods you will use to season.
The following are the common methods used to season oak and other woods:
Natural Drying and Seasoning
Natural seasoning provides the most common technique used by people because the method is simple and affordable to implement.
It represents storing oak in an efficient area to season it naturally.
Before you season oak and every other kind of tree, you will need to split it into small sections to increase the exposure of sap to sunlight.
If oak is left out to season naturally, it will take at least 1 year to season fully.
Typically, the wood shrinks radially and longitudinally to build a dry and strong structural appearance.
This technique involves putting a wood pile in an air-tight container and then warmed using electricity, gas, or solar energy.
Additionally, other individuals prefer using vacuum kilns which effectively remove the moisture content of the wood as well as increase the evaporation of the sap present in the wood.
If the kiln is heated at a constant and well-balanced temperature, the wood will dry and season at a steady rate; it may take 6 months to 1 year to fully season an oak wood when using this technique.
The only drawback of this technique is that the firewood produced will have a low quality during the process compared to the ones produced during natural seasoning.
Air Drying and Seasoning
Even though this process deals with wood drying, it also helps because it quickens the seasoning process.
Stacking wood is a common pattern that creates spaces between them to allow air to circulate through sufficiently.
This process requires an environment that is dry, clean, and protected from rain and snow because they will interfere with the seasoning process. Additionally, the place should have a steady and consistent airflow to enable quick drying and seasoning.
Like natural seasoning, air drying and seasoning may take at least one year to season fully.
How do you know if Oak has fully seasoned?
Even though oak will generally require at least 1 year to be dry and seasoned properly, there are cases where this will be different.
For instance, if you harvest oak during the winter season, it will take much longer to season than during summer.
This is in the assumption that you are using the natural seasoning technique.
Therefore, it is important to check if your wood is properly seasoned with the following techniques:
The Feel of the Oak Wood
The first technique is to feel the wood by measuring its weight. Typically, wet wood will weigh more than dry wood.
Another thing is to monitor and check the oak wood’s condition; if the wood has more cracks, it is dry, but if the wood has few holes, it will require more seasoning.
Therefore, if you minute some of these aspects, you can tell whether your oak wood is dry.
The Use of a Moisture Meter
This is the most efficient and accurate way of checking whether oak wood is properly seasoned. A moisture meter is available both in online shops and physical hardware shops.
Typically, freshly cut wood contains moisture content that needs to be dried and seasoned effectively.
However, dried wood does not mean it is seasoned; it may contain moisture in the inner layers of the wood.
Therefore, measuring the moisture content level is essential to identify if the wood is seasoned enough. The moisture content of a well-seasoned wood should be less than 20%.
Drying Oak Wood FAQs
When should I start seasoning?
Assuming you cut down your own trees – as soon as they are ready for chopping. If you bring a load of unseasoned firewood from elsewhere – start as soon as possible. Seasoning can start no matter the weather – after all, it’ll be sitting somewhat outside for over a year.
Can I burn unseasoned wood?
If you’ve ever started an impromptu bonfire or just plucked wood from nearby trees to start a fire – you know this is definitely possible. Wood doesn’t need seasoning to burn. Seasoned wood just has higher potential to burn longer and be easier to keep going because the moisture content of the wood is mostly gone – it’ll probably also be less smoky.
You may have also learned the hard way once or twice: If you received rain right before a bonfire and didn’t cover wood, it can be rather difficult to impossible to start because the wood is so saturated.
What do I do with wood after seasoning?
Oak wood logs are usually too big to be tossed directly into a fireplace or firepit. The next need is to chop them up. Note that seasoning firewood also makes it easier to cut, simply because the wood is dry and will more readily break beneath your axe or chainsaw because most of the water is gone.
When you do cut up your oak wood, you’ll want to aim for logs that are 6 to 8 inches in length so you can put a few in the fire without pushing to the edges of the pit. Smaller pieces are also easier for you and kids to carry.
Can I buy seasoned oak wood?
Most likely! You could visit a hardware store or lumber yard and see if they carry seasoned wood. This route might be preferable if you want to start a fire sooner and your wood isn’t quite in the right stage of dryness to burn as well as you hope.
- There are about 600 oak species in the world
- An oak tree takes at least a year for it to be properly seasoned
- There are different methods of drying and seasoning wood
- It is advisable to split oak while it is green
- Oak is categorized as a hardwood tree