Yes, you can burn unseasoned wood in a firepit, but do so in a place with good ventilation. Cut the wood into smaller pieces to dissipate the water content faster. Use an adequate burn container to limit the smoke’s spread and avoid any “popping” wood parts.
When it comes to firewood, a lot of people avoid burning unseasoned wood simply because it just isn’t quite ready yet to be used.
Whether it’s for a simple fire pit, campfire, or summer bbq, using unseasoned wood isn’t the best idea, but may work if that’s all you have.
What is Unseasoned Wood?
Also known as “greenwood,” an unseasoned wood is a tree that has recently been cut down. It is still “fresh” and has most of its sap and water content to the bark. There is about 60% to 70% water content in unseasoned wood, compared to the 25% of an adequately seasoned one. Seasoned firewood would burn more efficiently without the possibility of harm for the people around.
Drying up unseasoned wood is quite easy and requires only a few things: external protection and proper air circulation. Access to good air circulation makes the evaporation of the moisture inside the wood faster.
If you want to dry the wood fast, the recommended setup is to stack your logs and add a covering to the top. Don’t cover the sides because this is where the evaporation takes place.
The UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment recommends stacking the wood using an additional platform. This is done to make sure that wet soil won’t affect the wood’s drying process. Also, note that stacking wood to walls and fences will likely cause molds and rot from forming on the conjoined space.
The easiest way to store and dry your firewood is with a firewood log rack like this one by Woodhaven. Its structural integrity is very sound, and will keep your firewood off of the ground. It also comes with its own cover that will cover the top 12″ of your firewood.
How Can You Tell if the Wood Is Unseasoned?
Unseasoned wood can look similar to its seasoned counterpart. Hence, it can confuse those who aren’t experienced in buying firewood. The best way to determine if a wood is wet or not is to ask the firewood seller about the product being sold.
But if this is option is not available for some reason, you can try the following methods.
Color and Vibrance Test
Unseasoned wood will still have intact moisture, so it would appear more vibrant. When you touch the exposed wooden part, you will also feel a little dampness or cold. Woods fade in color as the moisture dries out until it appears to have darkened sufficiently and is dry to the touch.
Due to higher moisture, unseasoned wood is often heavier than its seasoned counterpart. Almost 70% of the weight is due to the water inside the wood. Once all of these are evaporated, you can see the significant difference when it comes to its mass.
Hardness and Denseness Test
Cutting unseasoned wood is easier due to its soft plant tissues. The moisture keeps the wood softer, making this the best moment to cut your wood into perfect log splits. Once the soft tissues had dried up, the wood will harden and would be tougher to split. Take note: this rule does not apply to sappy wood like pine.
You can try to peel the bark of an unseasoned wood by hand, and it will be nearly impossible. A tool or a wound in the bark itself is necessary to peel it out of the wood, indicating the presence of moisture. However, the bark from the seasoned logs is loose and can be removed with a flick of a finger.
Sounds and Cracks
If you try hitting a greenwood lightly with your ax (or any other materials,) the sound would be a wet “thud.” This dull “thud” is due to the soft tissues hitting other objects that are harder than it is. A piece of green wood slammed to metal, or sturdy things will likely develop dents and bruising.
Another indicator of an unseasoned wood is that it doesn’t have any cracks around. Since all the moisture from the middle part of the log gets evaporated, it will cause the wood to crack for release. That’s why most cracks from seasoned wood came from the center and extend to the end of the split.
Understanding the Dangers of Burning Unseasoned Wood
According to the University of New Hampshire, wet wood would burn in cooler temperatures. It is a pain in the neck to make the kindling can start to burn. And because the water boils down while the wood is burning, it weakens the fire’s overall temperature.
This is the reason why unseasoned wood is less efficient and more wasteful than its properly dried-up counterpart. In most cases, you will need to use twice as much to get proper heating when using unseasoned wood.
Unseasoned wood will also produce a monstrous amount of smoke. If this darkened cloud doesn’t annoy you, it will annoy your neighbor for sure. Not to mention that it can darken your chimney and can cause a chimney fire.
However, the most dangerous effect of burning green wood is its effect on people with respiratory and lung conditions. Since the smoke can decrease air quality, people with asthma or allergy near the vicinity can be affected immediately. People can also experience coughing attacks and breathing issues, even without respiratory conditions.
Seasoning your firewood is worth your time and effort. Make sure to let your firewood dry for at least six months before using them as fuel. The longer it is left alone, the better it would burn.
How to Burn Unseasoned Wood in a Fire Pit
Burning unseasoned wood is usually not recommended due to the listed reasons above. If there is a shortage of firewood, consumers can instead take a trip to their firewood dealer and buy a pre-packaged one. Before the winter season appears, make sure that you have dry wood, which can last you for months.
If there is no other fuel option than burning unseasoned wood, the best thing you can do is burn the wet wood outside. Use a place where there is plenty of space to use. This is to make sure that there will be no concentration of creosote inside your home. A creosote concentration might result in your chimney igniting and walls darkened.
Split the unseasoned wood into small pieces. Get an appropriately-sized burn container or fire pit, depending on the amount of wood you’re going to use. Stack up the pieces of unseasoned wood with bits of dry kindling into the pit or fire container to start a fire. The higher your stack is, the faster it would be for the greenwood to dry up.
Ignite a dry material (like newspapers or hay bales) and use it to burn your stacked wood. Remember to keep a bit of distance from the fire pit because it can blast off small burning wood pieces. This happens because the water inside the unseasoned wood begins to boil and dissipate.
Only use this method outdoors because the smoke will make your chimney a dark mess (and possibly flammable, too).
Using unseasoned firewood should be a last resort. If you plan on burning unseasoned firewood, be sure to do it in a well ventilated area and keep at a safe distance.
Unseasoned firewood is notorious for creating a large amount of smoke when burning as well as crackling and popping more often than a good seasoned firewood.
When using an unseasoned firewood, always perform best practices like splitting it into smaller pieces to improve chances of it burning safely and effectively.