How to Store logs and Build a Log Store

Fireplace.co.uk Advice Sheet how to store logs and build a log storeThis article will discuss the key points on how to store logs and build a log store. Throughout this article there will be summery points at the end of each stage for quick and easy reference.

Why is it important to store logs correctly?

Article: How to build a log storeBurning dry logs with moisture content below 20% is a completely different experience to burning unseasoned or wet logs. If using a log burner clear stove glass is one small but very much appreciated benefit. Log burner, or open fire, having the wood ignite quickly with very little kindling, and being able to enjoy the pleasure of an intense and longer lasting fire more quickly accompanied with fewer trips to the wood store are some of the more tangible benefits of using properly seasoned wood (for more information on how to acheive an efficent and healthy fire click this link). How to correctly season and subsequently store firewood and keeping it dry, after seasoning is an essential skill you will need to acquire if you are gong to use logs as fuel.  If you use logs to cook with either outdoors in a chimenea , pizza oven, barbeque or indoors using a solid fuel Raeburn, Aga or similar wood burning range your food will taste better and the temperature of your ovens will be more managable.  Once mastered the knowledge to dry and store logs  will pay dividends, your fires will always burn bright,, heat your home, and keep your chimney and the environment cleaner. You will also save money.  By buying or making a well designed, well built, log store, your logs will season quicker, your logs will be stored in a convenient place, and you will ultimately get more heat for your money for  less physical efforts.

As obvious as it sounds wood can not dry quickly if buried under a mantle of snow, exposed to perpetual rain, partially submerged in two or three inches of mud, swathed in wet grass or just left in a heap leaching moisture from the atmosphere and ground. Just throwing a waterproof tarpaulin over an un-stacked, un-split pile of logs won’t help either. There is no where for the moisture given up by the logs to escape to. It will be held trapped in the air under the tarpaulin raising the humidity and with temperature change in the evenings or changing season’s condensate on the tarpaulin to be re-absorbed by the logs. The raised temperature and humidity under the tarpaulin will provide a very fertile environment for micro bacterial activity, yes, that’s right mould, and encouraging fungal growth will accelerate the decay and eventual rotting of your precious logs. Neither is it a lot of fun trying to retrieve a wind blown tarpaulin from high up a tree, a barbed wire fence or apologising to a neighbour for the broken glass in their very much prized greenhouse, or salvaging your waterlogged tarpaulin from their or your garden pond, trying your best to not puncture the lining, or further damage the now bedraggled aquatic plants after a night of stiff westerly winds. 

Summary Points

  •  Cut, split and stack Logs in December
  • 1% drop in moisture content = 1% more energy released as heat

The evidence shows log wood starts to lose its moisture in the winter months but it is in March that there is a high loss of moisture (10%). April is the month with the highest loss of moisture with an estimated peak of ninety litres per meter cubed of logs. In hot summers like the English summer of 2003 logs harvested, bucked (cut to size) and split in December were ready to burn in June that is, having a moisture content of 20% or less when stored undercover and off the ground. Even in wet English summers the difference in seasoning times is minimal with logs stored under cover and off the ground being ready to burn with moisture content of 20% or less a month later in July.  By comparison logs left in the round took a further two months to season. it is advisable to split any logs greater than 10 cms in diameter.  Although two months does not sound very long, that additional two months can very easily take you into autumn when there is an increase in rainfall and the humidity (moisture content) of the air rises. The evidence shows from September onwards wood starts to absorb and retain moisture from the air and rainfall. It is estimated a meter cube stack of logs will re-absorb five litres of water a month from October to December.  As a rule of thumb every percentage point of moisture lost you gain an additional 1% of useful energy from your logs so if at all possible cut and store in December to make the best of the drying season.

Building your New Log Store

The first step to drying the logs is to cut them to length. The size is determined by the size of your fire hearth or stove.  It is a good idea to cut the logs a few inches smaller than the fire hearth or stove remembering it is easier to place a thinner  split fourteen inch log than a fourteen inch thicker full round of wood on the fire or in a firebox .  Cutting the logs not only helps the logs dry out by exposing the interior end grains but also makes them much more manageable to handle. Do not leave cut to length logs lying for too long before splitting as dry logs are often much harder to split then green ones. It is a good idea to split your logs where you have cut them saving man handling them an additional time to either stack them or move them to an alternative splitting area. The winter time is a good time to split logs, there are less bugs, you won’t get too hot as log splitting has a way of keeping you warm, and the exercise will compensate for the loss of similar exercise gained through gardening and DIY etc.  It is easier on the body to mix tasks that is cut for an hour, split for an hour, rather than spend two hours cutting or splitting your logs.

Splitting the logs reveals the interior of the log to the drying processes of the wind and sun speeding up the drying of the logs through increasing the exposed surface area of the log. It is the exposure of the logs to the sun and wind which is essential to the seasoning process and this needs to be borne in mind when considering the positioning of your log store.

Ideally a log store should face due south to catch the full day’s sun risingArticle page: log store image 1 in the East and setting in the West. Try and ensure that the face of your log store doesn’t face the prevailing rain but does catch the breeze. Do not site your log store between sheds, or down ally ways, where the logs will be sheltered from the weather, as this will inevitably hamper the seasoning of the logs.  Do keep in mind, unless you have a cellar, garage, or barn attached to the house, where you can store the fully seasoned logs, you do not want the log store situated too far away from the backdoor. The last thing you want to be doing in the middle of a dark rain swept or snowy winter’s night, instead of sitting in front of the fire, is to have to put on your wellingtons, and rain coat, to barrow a load of logs from the top of the garden or even worse from the far end of a paddock to the backdoor.  You could of course, and it is probably preferable if you have the room to, have a smaller log store nearer the house and close at hand, as a halfway house, between your main log store and fire.   

Summary Point: Positioning Log Store

  • Face south facing sun
  •  Catch prevailing wind
  • Situate close to the house 

We now know the evidence tells us the best time to prepare or take delivery of logs is December, although you might find your local log merchant may discount his prices during the slacker summer months, so take advantage. It is worth remembering similar to log merchants chimney, sweeps are in high demand too, carrying out essential repairs, servicing, and routine maintenance, on stoves and ranges in the lead up to Christmas as everybody gets ready for the festive holiday of which, a roaring log fire, or stove is a quintessential part. You need to plan early so not to face disappointment.  Returning back to the log store having established,if at all possible, it should face due South, North in the southern hemisphere, and be sited in a position to catch the prevailing winds, and not too far from the house or situate an intermediate store closer to the house in the absence of a suitable garage, cellar or barn. If it is a choice between a shady sheltered and dry area, and an exposed, windy, sunny area, choose the latter as the preferred position.   

Now you have identified a position for your log store after giving serious thought to the volume of wood you want to keep in stock and the space you have available.  You can now either purchase a log store of which there are many suppliers, from warehouse style DIY multiples selling flat packs or order a more bespoke individually designed made to order log stores.  My preferred option is to make your own.  A log store is a simple structure and should not be beyond the skill levels of any but the most incompetent amongst us.  Do remember the log store will look good when full, regardless of the build quality, as a well stacked log stack has an interest and beauty of its own and is not something that needs to be hidden away. More important that the aesthetics of your log store is that it is strong in structure, well ventilated, and positioned correctly after all it has a job to do.

In Summery

Article: build a log store beauty of stacked olgs

Before you start your build your log store make a working sketch, noting brief dimensions. You can go and buy timber but I have found pallets provide a cheap, if not free, source of timber and if you are lucky they will all be the same size, reducing the need to cut.  You may need to strengthen the pallets you intend to use for the floor to take the weight of the logs. This is easily done just wedge timbers from a donor pallet between the slats and fix with screws if necessary. Before placing your reinforced pallets on the site you have selected give the underneath side a coat of wood preservative and possibly lay a polythene membrane or staple it to the bottom runners. This will help to prevent the bottom of your log store rotting away over the years.  Once you have your pallet floor in place tie the floor together with pieces of timber. Do not cover the floor, with sheeting to secure it, as you want the air to be able to penetrate the stacked wood pile from underneath, use battens or metal straps to secure the pallets together. 

Summary Point: Pallet Log Store

  • Strengthen Floor
  • Use wood perservative
  • Sit on waterproof membrane
  • Brace sides
  • Roof minimum 15 degree angle
  • Wide ovewrhang all the way round
  • Keep slats wide apart to encourage air flow

If you do decide to use posts, I recommend quite sturdy fence posts you can either secure them to the pallets using long screws or coach screws. Do cross brace the posts particularly at the front as the weight and force is from side to side rather than back to front you do not want the sides toeing out.  You can always concrete the posts in position as you would set a fence post but again depending on the height and size of your log store cross bracing is a good idea.    

Article index page: log store image 2

For the walls you have the choice of using posts one in each corner and possibly one in the middle of each side depending on the length of your proposed log store. Alternatively you can just screw pallets together and again strap them together with timber.   Build the walls of your log store higher by placing one pallet on top of another and securing them with screws, coach screws or bolts. You may prefer particularly if you have used posts to dismantle the pallets and use the slats to build the walls and back. Do remember you want a good air flow through your log store so position the slats accordingly keeping in mind the size of your logs as you do not want them falling through. That just leaves the roof .

There are many material options available for the roof of your log store. It can be made of pallets by covering the slats with slats cannibalised from another pallets or the slats can be removed from other pallets and then screwed or nailed to a the pallet walls. Ideally it would be better to run a centre joist across the length of your log store to enable a more secure fixing of the roof. The choice to felt the roof or paint it is yours. A bit of rain water is going to do little harm to the drying process of your logs as long as there is plenty of air blowing through the log stacks.  You may choose to use corrugated sheeting metal or bitumen.  I am at the moment experimenting with off cuts of polycarbonate roofing sheets for the roof of my latest log store constructing a log store solar kiln hybrid to see how this influences drying times and efficiency (for more information of the benefits and how to build a simple log solar kiln click this link). The important thing with the roof is to have a minimum of a 15 degree tilt to allow rain water to run off. Many suggest the slant runs from front (highest point) to back on the grounds that you will not get a wet neck when retrieving logs in wet weather. I personally run the slope the other way from back (highest point) to front leaving a large overhang as your log store will be facing into the prevailing weather on the understanding  this helps keep the worst of the rain out as the stored logs as they sit in the shadow of the overhang. I tend to overhang the roof all round my log stores for the same reason.  

 

By Phil Cleaver

 

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