Outdoor wood storage?

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I'm the proud owner of a new wood stove. I'll be purchasing wood in the next few weeks, and have some basic storage questions.

I live in Wisconsin. My wife and I are debating about indoor vs. outdoor (covered) storage. We have very limited space indoors in our garage and basement, so we may need to store most of it outdoors.

Two basic questions for a wood-burning newbie: Are mice an issue (in freezing temperatures) if the wood is stored outdoors? Is moisture more of a problem?

Thanks in advance for your replies. Any other tips you can offer would be appreciated as well.

-- Steve (hartsman@ticon.net), September 17, 1999


Well, out here in Montana, people do this:

Pick a couple of stout trees 10-20 feet apart. These will act as end supports for your woodpile.

Lay down some long poles between the trees to keep the firewood off the ground.

Stack your firewood crosswise on the poles, using the trees to contain the ends of the stack. Stack it tightly, so you don't build a wood waterfall. If you've got some pieces that are much bigger than others, put 'em on the bottom. You should be able to whack the sides of the pile with no noticeable shaking or settling.

When you've got the wood stacked head-high, stop and cover it with a tarp.

This seems to work best with wood that is already cut to length. Splitting it in advance is optional.

Yes, rodents and insects will live in your woodpile, whether it's indoors or out. Having the wood pre-cut to length, making the woodpile narrower, helps persuade larger critters to hole up elsewhere.

Depending on your esthetics, these kinds of woodpiles can be quite attractive.

Good luck, and remember:

Computers are stupid and they don't care.

-- Brady (brady@docuscribe.com), September 17, 1999.


Yes, mice can be a problem. Better outside than inside, don't you think?

Raise the wood on discarded pallets or 2x4's. That will help. It will also help stop the wood from getting broken down by soil fungi quite so quickly.

-- Jon Williamson (jwilliamson003@sprintmail.com), September 17, 1999.

When I bought two cords of wood several months ago, the guy who sold it to me said to sow salt on the ground beneath where you're going to stack it. The salt will keep grass and weeds from growing there, and it also will keep away rodents, insects and snakes.

-- Ranger (OneRanger@OneRiot.net), September 17, 1999.

"Raise the wood on discarded pallets or 2x4's. That will help. It will also help stop the wood from getting broken down by soil fungi quite so quickly."

NOW you tell me.

Oh well. I figure if things go "bad," the neighbors will be helping themselves to our wood anyway. The pool also.

-- really not looking (forward@to.it), September 17, 1999.

A nice alternative (if you have time, energy, money, etc.) is to lay down a cement pad under the woodpile. This helps keep insects, etc. out of the woodpile. (Based on when I used to live in a cold climate).

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), September 17, 1999.

We've burned wood since 1979, off and on, and outdoors storage is the best way we've found -- unless you have a separate woodshed. We tried storing firewood in the basement and caught the carpenter ants that came in with the wood just in time. Garage storage has the same problem, especially if it's attached to the house. Mice may be a problem -- but if the wood is outside, who cares? If you're insect- phobic, spiders definitely will be a problem. Again a good reason for outside stacking. We use pallets for base and endwalls, and throw a cheap tarp over the top and weather side. No problem.

-- Cash (cash@andcarry.com), September 17, 1999.


Recognize California snow ain't up to Wisconsin snow level, but, some thing's I've learned when living up at 6,000 feet are... have three piles. 1) the biggy outside, off the ground but still close to the house.... remember ACCESS... during a storm. 2) a smaller inside and "dryer" pile for near-term use stored in the garage, when you don't want to bundle up and extract from the main stash. 3) A 7-10 log pile next to the wood stove for immediate use.

Also, make sure the logs are originally cut to fit inside your wood stove. (Nothing worse that having to re-split the pile).

Also helpful to keep a basket of newspaper, kindling and dry pine cones/needles near wood stove as starter fuel.

Have fun!


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-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 17, 1999.


I'm glad you ask because I was wondering the same thing.I had a wood stove put in last year and having wood delivered soon.I was thinking of having a cord put in the attached garage and the rest put outside.The reason for the wood in the garage (for me anyway),easy access to dry wood and knowing it will be there when needed.When it gets low I will add more from outside to the pile inside.The suggestion of putting salt down on the ground sounds like a real good idea.

Has anyone heard of burning potato peels or throwing in a hand full of salt to help with the creosote buildup in the flue pipe?

-- maggie (aaa@aaa.com), September 17, 1999.

Maggie, don't throw in potato peels or salt. You'll just be wasting the salt, and the moisture from the potato peelings is going to contribute to the creosote build-up. Stick with black-ink newspaper, pine cones/needles, and hardwood only.

-- Ann M. (hismckids@aol.com), September 17, 1999.

Just a couple of helpful ideas: Keep a wheelbarrow handy for bringing in the wood for a woodbox (under stairs, or some other easy access area to feed stove). ALWAYS - wear gloves when handling the wood, you never know what else is seeking warmth in the wood.

Just keepin' on, keepin' on

-- Sammie Davis (sammie0nospam@hotmail.com), September 17, 1999.


Thanks for the info,You may have saved me from a flu fire.I will get some pine cones as suggested.

In regards to a wheel barrel,I just bought a rubbermaid garden push/pull cart.It is easier to use and more stable.I chose it over a wheel barrel because of my back problems,plus I will put it to good use for my garden next spring.

-- maggie (aaa@aaa.com), September 17, 1999.

Hi Steve, We lived outside of Madison until quite recently. We heated with all wood. Luckily for us we had a big old dairy barn where we stored some wood. My advice is to use both indoor and outdoor storage. We had an old porch on the front where we would stock about a weeks worth of wood. It is a huge help not to have to go out and dig out frozen wood from under a tarp. We made stacking wood a weekend activity, kids would drag it from the barn to the porch on sleds. Believe me at 6AM, when it is -15F you don't want to go out and bring in wood!!!!

Now we live in the Ozarks. Not nearly as organized here yet but hope to be soon. Congrats on your new wood stove. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Best - Kim

-- Kim (fleece@eritter.net), September 17, 1999.

We burn lots of wood- heat with wood stoves- no central heating system. We use pallets to stack wood on. Do your ends by putting flatish pieces on lets say north to south, with flattish pieces on top of those east to west and so on- this keeps your ends stable. If you want, you can drive a stake- wood or metal into the grounds at ends of stacks to help keep them stable. build stacks up to 4 to 4 1/2 feet high and cover with tarps or metal roofing- tie these down or weight heavily. split wood first if it needs splitting.

Re: indoor storage- lots of people up here put some in a garage or basement- nice when its cold or wet out. Or on a covered porch. It's important if heavy deep snow is a factor, to have some you can easily access. A covered woodshed is on our "want" list- I hope for this winter.......It is a miserable thing to have to shovel out to a woodpile- thru several feet of snow, and shovel the pile out- with lots of wood not found til spring meltdown.

You definitely want something under the stacked wood though, or you'll get wood iced to the ground as well as rot, etc.

RE: mice- haven't found a major problem with it- they defiitely don't come in with the wood. Bugs are a fact of life- but haven't been a problem either.

Get a Chimfex or two and keep it handy- works well in case of a chimney fire.

P.S. We've got a fire going in our woodstove tonite- brrrr- probably frost tomorrow nite........(sigh)....white stuff before we know it....

-- farmer (hillsidefarm@drbs.net), September 17, 1999.

"...help with the creosote buildup in the flue pipe..."

Our woodstove burns very efficiently (it is the reburning type), and it seems we get little buildup unless: 1) We burn wet wood 2) We burn the fire at too low a rate, which is controlled by the venting, because there is more smoke 3) We burn wood with other contaminants on it.

As for storage: if you burn wood that isn't as dry, you're wasting some of the btu's in the wood evaporating the water, which then goes up the chimney. That's quite a bit of heat over a winter. So I would advise covering your wood somehow, once its dry.

We have a vented (bottom front right and top back left, built on top of railroad ties to keep it off the ground) shed, with one side of the roof slanted at a 45 degree angle. That side is made of corrugated clear fiberglass to let the sun shine in.

We use it as a greenhouse for starting seeds in the spring, when the wood is more used up, and it heats the split wood to dry it the rest of the time. It gets dry this way in only one summer, instead of the two it normally takes for maximum dryness. We cut the wood from trees downed (and so presumably drying) for two years, and yet when we split the wood, water was visibly squeezed out sometimes. So I don't know how dry exposed wood would actually get.

There is insulation in the shed walls, and a vapor barrier, including under the fiberglass (which flexes so it doesn't seal well without the plastic sheeting underneath). The vents then control the air flow. Hot air rises within the shed, and goes out the top vent, sucking in cool air from underneath it. Water is evaporated from the wood by the heat and carried away on the hot current. We have a fan on the vent to keep it cooler when we're using it for a greenhouse.

We calculated the btu's we used with natural gas to heat our house, and converted it to cords of wood, and then built the shed to hold that much wood. To keep the stove stocked, we have a big garden cart, which will hold quite a bit, and isn't hard to move weight in. It sits in the garage full of wood, so we don't have to go out so often. Chainsaws are great for cutting the wood (but keep them sharp or they're a hazard), and unless you want a lot of exercise, it is a good idea to rent or buy a logsplitter (very easy and, at times, even fun to use) to get smaller sizes for the stove. It is easier to split wood in the winter if you're doing it by hand, because the water in it freezes, I guess. But wood doesn't dry as well unless its split, so I like the idea of splitting in summer better. Why lose any heat at all to evaporating water in your stove?

Aside: I don't know if this is recommended, but in a pinch, WD40 is great lighter fluid. We haven't used it in our stove. The usual method of lighting for us is tearing newspaper in strips, and using that to catch the wood which is placed on top. Once the stove is warm, things go better. We don't let it go all the way out overnight if we're using it to heat. Coals and a hot stove in the AM start with no match, usually.

-- S. Kohl (kohl@hcpd.com), September 17, 1999.

I was raised in the woods of Ark by my grandparents. The only heat we had was wood heat and the only wood pile we ever had was just that a wood pile. It was a hugh pile, like a small high hill. I don't know the reason for piling wood like this, but everyone did it that way. I never thought to ask why. I still use wood for heat and it is stacked in a neat row between trees covered in a tarp. But my DH was raised in NYC and that is the way he does it...... The best way to bring in wood is with a canvas log carrier. You can purchase one from Land's End if you don't have your grannies old one. Ummmm, I can still smell the real bacon skins crackling on the wood stove, next to the ever present pan of peanuts a roastin.

-- Carol (glear@usa.net), September 17, 1999.

Welcome aboard Steve to the wonderful world of wood. Here's a few tips learned the hard way over the last season. Everyone likes to get oak and hickory for the high btu content, but you'll need some pine or maple for kindling. You'll use more than you think. Also, those wax/sawdust firestarters come 40 or so to a box work great-you can break each one into 3 or 4 pieces and get about 100 or so fires a box if you are frugal. A small chunk with a bit of split pine gets a fire going quickly. Welders gloves help with hot stove handles. Scripto "Aim & Flame" lighters are handy. Fire extinguishers, fire extinguishers, fire extinguishers. If you are splitting manually, cut the wood into shorter pieces. A 10 inch oak log splits easily with a 5 lb axe; a 16 inch log and you've got a battle. If you're a novice with an axe I recommend one with a fiberglass handle over a wood one-they are more forgiving. Get an old rubber tire and set it upon the splitting log. Put the log about to be split inside the tire. The tire cushions against over/under strikes and keeps the split pieces from flying everywhere. Oak and maple (when dried) split easily, elm and osage orange are bears. Stihl chain saws are superb and will bring many hours of joyful cutting. A $149 Poulan or Homelite wont stand up to heavy use and are usually underpowered. Respect chain saws-one goof can be fatal. Enjoy a warm and relaxing fire. Good luck.

-- trafficjam (judgementday@ahead.soon), September 17, 1999.

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