What to consider before you bring your firewood inside

Firewood

Storing your firewood inside is super convenient, and, when done right, can actually look pretty chic, in an elegantly rustic sort of way.

But there are a lot of potential drawbacks, including pests, mould, and moisture. Before you haul your woodpile inside, consider these points:

Make sure your wood is seasoned

Leave the pepper shaker alone. In this case “seasoning” means leaving your wood outdoors for a period of time so it dries out thoroughly. A good rule of thumb is to let your wood dry for at least six months before you plan to burn it, although some woods will take a year or two to fully dry. Unseasoned wood is harder to light, hard to keep burning, and an absolute magnet for pests, who love the sap and moisture that’s still in the wood’s cells. As well, your stove won’t burn off the tar and creosote in the wood, so your chimney and flue get caked with gunk.

To see whether your wood is dry, test it with a moisture meter or look for these signs (even if you’ve gotten your wood from a vendor):

  • Cracks that radiate from the inside to the outside of the wood
  • Smell and feel—seasoned wood won’t feel cool and damp, and won’t smell “sappy”
  • Loose bark
  • A hollow sound when you knock two pieces together
  • Weight—dry wood weighs considerably less than wet wood
  • Burnability—if a piece hisses as you try and light it, it’s still too wet to burn

Storing unseasoned wood inside is just asking for trouble, so look for an alternative if your wood is still damp.

Think about storage

If you’ve got a large amount of seasoned wood to store and you want to keep it indoors, find as dry a spot as possible and keep it well off the ground and away from walls. Elevated pallets can be useful, especially if you get your wood in bags, as can metal racks. This will allow air to circulate freely, drying the wood out further and discouraging any pests from migrating to your floors and walls.

By the fireplace, make sure you pick the right container—not so big that you can’t reach the top of it, not so deep that you can’t reach the bottom, and not so small that you’re constantly travelling back and forth from your big pile to the container. Again, the container should allow for good airflow as much as possible.

Whatever you choose—whether it’s a copper tub, a couple of rolling racks, built-in shelves, or a space between your wall studs, make sure it’s lined with something durable like a rubber mat so your logs don’t damage any finishes.

Stay on top of pests

Pest control folks would advise you not to store firewood indoors if you’re worried about insects—but there are measures you can take to make sure you avoid a six-legged invasion. Make sure your wood is properly seasoned—insects like carpenter ants and termites like moist, green wood, and they’re more likely to be along for the ride if you bring unseasoned wood inside. When seasoning your wood, try and put it in a sunny spot, and cover it with a tarp—this should help kill off any buggy infestations.

Even if you’re worried about bugs, don’t spray your wood with insecticide. Those chemicals will just end up getting burned in your fireplace, and that’s not so good for your breathing. Instead, place ant and other bug traps around the pile. Inspect your logs before you bring them inside, knocking them together to get rid of any clinging insects. Cut open a log or two before bringing them indoors—you may not be able to see an ant infestation on the surface of the bark or at the cut ends.

Finally, if you do keep firewood inside, try not to store it in a damp basement or garage. While most of the lumber in a home is too dry for most insects’ tastes, wood with any moisture in it can be a tempting treat.

Keep clean-up tools handy

Wood is messy, no matter how careful you are. Keep a brush and dustpan or a small hand vacuum close by, so there’s no excuse not to sweep up any debris right away. Trust us—your indoor firewood pile loses a lot of its appeal when it’s surrounded by a floor littered with bark bits.

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