Splitting firewood correctly is a big part of turning raw timber into usable fuel. However, there is a lot more that goes into this than putting logs on a stump and splitting away. You need to be sure that you’re splitting the right wood for fuel to begin with. And that you have the right tools for the job and are splitting consistently.
You also need to be sure that you’re splitting your wood at the right time of year, so it has enough time to dry before you use it in your wood stove or furnace. So, when should you split firewood and why? We get into that (and much more) below!
When Should You Split Firewood?
The absolute best time to split firewood is at least six months before you plan on using it. Six months is more than enough time to lower the moisture content in your firewood, let it dry for quick and even combustion, and give you more logs to burn consistently.
Seasoned wood is going to have a different smell to it, a lighter color, and sound different than green wood when it is knocked against. It’s going to be a lot easier to move around as well, since seasoned wood drops a tremendous amount of water weight.
Like we mentioned a moment ago, six months is the bare minimum for how long you should let your wood dry naturally. If you can go longer – a year or more – you are going to be much happier with your firewood as a fuel source.
What is the Purpose of Splitting Firewood?
Is splitting firewood necessary? The quick answer is yes! You should split your firewood. There are a couple of reasons why you should split-
- Bark (the outermost protective layer of woody plants) keeps moisture and protects the insides and most of the hardwood bark is fire retardant. If you don’t split firewood, it will take time to catch the fire and don’t burn inside completely. So, not splitting wood means a waste of energy.
- Greenwood contains a lot of moisture content (more than 45%). The seasoned wood should have less than 20% moisture. The splitting log can expose more surface area of wood that helps to dry and reduce the moisture content quickly.
- Splitting wood accelerates the burning process and produces maximum heat.
So, Splitting firewood is important for creating perfect sized wood, reducing the seasoning period, get maximum heat, and burns cleaner without smoke or smolder.
Is It Better To Split Wood Green or Seasoned?
It depends on the species of the trees because of their different organic components. Many prefer to split dry wood, many do not. Both have a few advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Split Green Wood
- Splitting green wood allows the wood drying quickly and also helps the wood to dry evenly.
- Some species are easy to split when green(oak and maple)
- Splitting green wood is a healthy task because no dust generates.
- Easy to stack and store.
Disadvantages of Split Green Wood
- Some species are really hard to split in green.
- Green wood is too heavy to handling.
- Need to swing the axe forcefully.
Advantages of Split Dry Wood
- Some species are easy to split when it seasoned and brittle (pine).
- Have a crack that helps to place a splitting wedge.
- Drying can decrease the cohesion force. So, the wood split with a single strike of axe.
- The bark of the dry wood is looser and comes off easily.
Disadvantages of Split Dry Wood
- For splitting dry wood, you have to give a longer period of time to dry it.
- Dust generates.
- The insect can damage the wood while drying.
- Wood may dry unevenly.
Confused? Don’t worry!
If you have a log splitter then you don’t need to think that the wood is green or dry. The log splitter (Our pick: Southland SELS60 Electric Log Splitter) can love to split wood, no matter it is dry or not. But if you don’t like log splitter, pick the top-rated splitting axe & splitting wedge(our pick: Estwing Sure Split Wedge) to go for splitting seasoned wood(Learn more: How to split wood with a wedge).
Tips: Few varieties rot inside if don’t split timely such as hickory, maple, beech, and yellow birch. So you should split them as soon as possible.
How to Find the Perfect Size to Split Firewood
Splitting the wood in the proper size is important for your wood stove and fireplace. 3-6 inches width is the perfect size for the most efficient wood stove. Though you increase the size depending on the dimension of your stove door.
Follow the rules if the dimension of the woodstove door is 6 inches-
- If the log is less than 3 inches in diameter, no need to split.
- If the log is more than 3 inches and less than 6 inches in diameter, split in half.
- Split into four pieces, if the wood 6 to12 inches in diameter.
- If the wood more than 12 inches in diameter, split into 6 pieces.
Remember: all the pieces must almost equal in size.
What Kind of Axe Should You Use To Split Wood?
There are different types of axe available in the market. All are not suitable for splitting wood. Only a good quality splitting axe or a splitting maul can be used for split wood perfectly. Splitting axe and maul are specially designed for splitting wood.
Here are my favorite wood splitting tools that you can try-
Round Logs vs. Split Logs
All the wood provides the same amount of BTUs per pound. No matter it is round logs or split.
The round log has excess bark that is a bad sign for quality firewood. The round log is perfect for outdoor because it burns slowly.
On the other hand, the split log hasn’t excess bark and it dries faster and burns better in the woodstove.
Best Type of Wood For Firewood
The Hardwood Wood
Oak, Elm, Hornbeam, Chestnut, Sweetgum, Cotton Ash, and Beech.
Fruit Trees (Apple, Pear, Cherry), Chestnut, False Acacia.
The Soft Wood
Poplar, Maple, Birch, Linden, Alder, Willow. Maritime Pine, Spruce, Scots Pine, Fir, Larch.
Wood to Avoid
- Exploding woods: chestnut and locust (and plane tree) tend to burst and throw embers. This is also the case for certain conifers.
- The wood that clogs: some wood generates a lot of smoke, but also resins that clog the fireplace such as conifers, which it is preferable to use only at the start of the outbreak.
- Italian poplar, plane tree, and lime tree burn quite badly.
Please note: avoid burning all treated wood and industrial wood: pallets, painted wood, etc. These woods can give off toxic vapors and foul heating appliances.
The best wood species for heating are:
- First: oak, hornbeam, beech, ash, maple, elm.
- Then: birch, fruit trees (domestic or wild).
Note: in all cases, prefer locally produced wood. This contributes to better respect for the environment and local activity.
5 Mistakes People Make When Splitting Wood
- Hit the axe on the middle of the wood. You need to hit the outer edge of the wood to split quickly.
- Let not the bark off.
- Split the small-diameter wood vertically. Have enough chance to miss swing the axe and fall down the log from the splitting block that causes a serious accident.
- Don’t use the right splitting tools. Remember; only log splitter, splitting axe, splitting maul, and splitting wedge can help to done your splitting job perfectly.
- Don’t take advantage of the cracking point on the seasoned wood. Splitting wedge (know the different types of the wedge) on the kerf will help you split the wood more efficiently.
All the questions you have to know before going to split your firewood. Because without knowing those questions your splitting job will more difficult. That’s why I covered all the topics in one article. I hope it helped to make a decision on when to split and which wood you should choose for firewood.
If you have any other questions and opinions that will help our audience, let us know in the comment section below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I split wet, green wood?
There’s nothing wrong with splitting wet, green logs into firewood – so long as you expect to put that wood up for at least six months (and maybe even longer).
Split wood is going to dry faster than whole logs, though, so this is an approach a lot of people like to use when splitting wood in the early to later spring.
Do I need to dry wood before I burn it?
Absolutely! While you can get away with burning bigger logs with higher levels of moisture in them, those wetter logs are going to give you nightmares.
Your stove won’t be able to maintain its temperature, or stay lit consistently. Stick to the dried, seasoned stuff and you won’t have anything to worry about!
Does it really matter what kind of wood I’m splitting and burning?
The type of wood you cut, dry, season, and burn makes a world of difference. Softwoods are going to dry and season much faster than hardwoods. They are also going to burn much faster and throw less heat. That means more tending to the stove or furnace.
Hardwoods are going to take longer to season. They are going to be heavier and more substantial no matter what. That means they’ll take longer to ignite, but they burn steady, even, and consistent.
When is the best time of year to cut firewood?
The best time of year to cut firewood is in the early to late fall through early to late spring. Fall cuts and splits aren’t going to be ready to use that season, but that means they’ll have a whole year to dry.
Spring cuts and splits mean you’ll have just enough time (six months or so) for the wood you’ve worked on to be ready for that season. Plan accordingly!