Outdoor Firewood Rack Buyer's Guide
Ready to enjoy your fireplace this winter? Don't forget a firewood rack! Firewood racks help keep your wood dry and organized. Now, you can enjoy easy-to-light, well-maintained fires all winter long.
Wood racks are fairly simple structures, but it's not always easy to know which one to buy or where to put it. We'll walk you through what types are available, how to select the ideal location, along with tips for stacking firewood.
Why Proper Storage Matters
Developing a firewood storage system is a simple way to protect the quality of your wood, but knowing what type of wood to use in a fire is also an important safety issue.
Unseasoned vs. Seasoned Firewood
Freshly cut firewood (sometimes called unseasoned or green wood) doesn't burn well. There is still a lot of moisture trapped in the wood, so it is difficult to light. Plus, it smolders and creates a lot of smoke. Worst of all, unseasoned wood causes creosote buildup in your chimney, creating a fire hazard.
Seasoned wood is firewood that has been properly dried and is far more suitable to burn in your fireplace. The time it takes wood to go from cut to seasoned varies depending on the size and variety of firewood, but it generally takes around six to nine months to achieve an ideal low moisture content.
The way firewood is stacked and stored plays a major role in how long it takes for wood to season. Storing firewood off of the ground with proper airflow and protection from rain and snow allows the moisture in the unseasoned wood to evaporate and protects the wood from mold and decay.
Check out our article on how much firewood you need to learn more about seasoning wood. You can also find tips on sourcing firewood and estimating how much you'll need for the winter.
Where To Put A Firewood Rack
You have lots of options for where to put your firewood, but here are some tips to help you choose the ideal location:
Beneath a Covered Structure
This is the best option since you can keep great airflow around the wood, while simultaneously protecting it from rain and snow without the need for a cover. A small covered pavilion, pole barn, or even a lean-to structure are great for wood storage. Make sure you stack the wood at least 12 inches from the wall of the structure so that you keep good airflow and protect the walls.
We do not recommend storing wood in your garage or within a completely wooden enclosure, both for fire safety reasons and to prevent the possibility of termite infestation.
Along the Edge of a Building
If there is not a covered area for wood storage available, consider putting the firewood holder along the wall of an external building or structure away from the home. Lay a layer of plastic or tarp on the ground to help shield against moisture and keep in mind the previously mentioned rule of a 12-inch gap between the wood and the wall. If possible, position the wood storage rack on the downwind side of the prevailing wind so that the wall of the building acts as a shield against rain and snow.
Standalone Rack with Cover
Finally, if you don't have any good options under a structure or alongside a building, you can place the rack in the open as a standalone structure. Just make sure you follow these guidelines to protect the wood as much as possible:
- Cover the ground with plastic or tarp.
- Position the wood so that the cut edges are parallel to the prevailing wind to draw out moisture and speed the drying process.
- Unless you live in a dry climate, invest in a rain cover.
Log Rack Types
Now that you know your options for where to keep a wood rack, here's an overview of the styles available.
Tubular Steel Horizontal Rack
One of the most common and cost-effective options, these racks are manufactured from tubular steel and can hold anywhere from one-eighth to a full cord of firewood. They have low mounted rails that are typically at least 4 inches off the ground. Many models are expandable, meaning they are designed to easily bolt another log rack to the end of an existing one, as long as you have the space to do so. These log racks often feature a one-third cover or a full cover.
Square Tube Horizontal Rack
These racks are similar to the round tubular racks, but the thicker gauge, square tube construction allows for greater wood capacity and durability. With smaller dimensions than rectangular models, square racks are unable to hold full cords of wood. Square log racks are ideal for those who use their fireplace less frequently.
Featuring a half circle design, these racks aren't able to hold as much wood as the horizontal racks, but they have aesthetic appeal and keep the wood higher off the ground. This is especially useful in areas where the ground tends to stay damp.
Log Rack Brackets
By far the most cost-effective option, this type of kit comes with corner brackets and guides so that you can build your own log rack out of dimensional lumber. This method is easy on the budget, but make sure you use treated lumber and brace it properly to keep it safe and durable.
Should I Use A Firewood Cover?
Choosing a cover (or deciding whether you need one in the first place) is all about finding the balance between keeping good airflow and protecting your firewood from the elements. If you store your wood under some sort of roof or overhang, or if you live in a drier climate, you probably don't need to invest in a wood cover. On the other hand, covers are a great option if your wood is frequently exposed to rain and snow.
There are two main styles to choose from:
Partial Covers (1/4 or 1/3 Covers)
These covers are usually made with PVC or canvas and, as the name implies, cover the top fourth or third of your wood stack. This prevents snow and rain from soaking the wood from the top down, but still allows reasonable airflow to let the wood dry and season. When wood has just been cut and stacked, this is the perfect cover to use, but keep in mind that it won't protect from wind-driven rain that soaks the side of the wood stack.
This type of enclosure fully covers the wood and seals it tight. Although it is ideal for preventing all contact with rain or snow, there are limitations. This type of cover is only recommended for wood that has seasoned for at least 6 to 9 months. Fully covering wood prevents the wood from seasoning properly and encourages mold, mildew, and other fungi.
How To Load Your Wood Rack
Now that you have your rack, it's time to load it like a pro. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when stacking wood:
- Organize by size. Having different sizes of logs is great for fine-tuning your fires, but it makes it even easier when you stack them large to small, left to right, so you can always grab exactly what you need. (Some crescent racks have a separate space for smaller starter logs.)
- Organize by seasoned vs. unseasoned. If your wood was cut at different times, keep track of what wood is dry and ready to use and what wood still needs to cure. You can store unseasoned wood bark side down to help it dry out and flip it over when it's dry so that the bark acts as a covering.
- Use older wood first. Keep in mind that firewood can decay after around 4 years, so try to use up the older wood before it loses its quality for fires.
- Stack for safety. Never stack logs point to point since a sudden shift in the wood can lead to pinched fingers or worse. Instead, stack the flat sides against each other.
Since most racks are designed to disassemble, they ship easily via a small parcel carrier. They're also relatively lightweight, so you can move it to your desired location without too much hassle.
Maintenance and Safety
The nice thing about log racks is that they are designed to come into constant contact with the abrasive fibers of cordwood. Their durable powder-coated finishes require no upkeep. That being said, there are some things to check:
- Make sure any and all fasteners are still tight after a log rack has been loaded and then depleted. The strain and flex put on the steel can cause screws to loosen over time.
- Look to see that no cracks have formed in the steel runners.
- If using treated wood in the rack, ensure that the wood is in good condition with no cracks or splits.
- Don't stack the wood too high. It's generally recommended to stack no higher than 4 feet, but this could vary based on your model.
- Don't store a lot of wood inside your house. It's fine to bring a few logs in, but keeping lots of wood in the house is a fire hazard and invites critters and pests.
- Don't let children play on the wood racks. This could cause the wood or even the entire rack to tip over and cause serious injury or death.
- Follow all of the instructions and recommendations for the specific model you buy.
A little planning goes a long way in making firewood storage convenient, effective, and safe. Now that you're armed with these tips and suggestions, you'll be well on your way to enjoying your fireplace without the hassle of disorganized, wet firewood.
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