How To Tell If Your Wood Is Too Old To Burn?

Close your eyes. Imagine a brisk fall night. The air filled with that crispness we all have a soft spot for. The leaves are turning, football is on, and apple cider or pumpkin spice is on everyone’s mind. What a perfect time for a fire, no? You get your fire pit ready. Gather the family. Now all you need is the wood, but you remember. It’s old, it has been outside for a long long time. Will it burn? Well, that’s what we aim to find out.

Could Wood Be Too Old To Burn? In most cases no. Properly stored firewood can last for years. As long as it has minimal exposure to the elements it should be fine. Even so, if termites have turned your precious fired wood into termite poo, or it is seventy rotten it may not burn well.

Really any wood will still burn but the older it is and any further issues, like rotting, it will certainly affect its ability to burn well. Without further adieu let’s go over some general wood advice shall we?

How to Tell If Firewood is Bad

One may not think wood can go ”bad” but it can. Over time any wood, not just firewood can deteriorate and become basically useless for burning.

Firewood doesn’t take much but if left to the elements and other exposures of the outdoors it can become infested or simply begin to rot and fall apart. One, if not thee, quickest way to tell if the wood is no longer usable is by rapping it with something hard. Anything like a hammer will do for this.

Take the wood and put it on the ground or another suitable surface that will be able to take a “hit”. Grab your hammer and give it a good thunk. If the wood didn’t turn to a pile of crud it is in decent shape. Basically, you’re looking or also feeling for it to feel solid inside still. Weak wood that has been ravaged by termites and rotting will simply crumble apart.

Some other ways to tell if the firewood is bad is by just looking it over carefully. The bark that just falls off, or if it seems crumbly like mentioned before the wood is becoming unusable. The same goes for termites, if it is completely infested with them it will eventually affect your entire supply, and in both scenarios, the wood will simply under perform.

So keep an eye on it, some of this takes a lot of time to happen while others can happen within months. Prevent both by regularly checking the wood at set intervals so you can catch issues early on

Burning Rotten, Is It Safe to Burn Rotten Wood?

Honestly, I grew up believing you could burn anything. Trust me I tried. Now in later years that you can not actually burn everything. This applies to rotten wood. Rotten wood is wood that has been exposed to water and moisture. It can become diseased, moldy, and literally just rotten if this happens its appearance will look off, and maybe even the feel of the wood will be gross.

For those of you with an outdoor firepit burning rotten wood could be ok. Most certainly if you’re in a survival situation burn everything as that fire could save your life. Indoors however is where you could have an issue.

Moldy, rotten wood can release horrid smells, not heat very well, and just be a giant waste of your time. Not so much fun for just a cruddy smelling fire with minimal heat huh?

The other issue is the bacteria, mold, mildew, and any other host of problems could make you sick. Even outdoors it’s best to be careful about this. Too much exposure and things get only worse as your left sick, and with a bad fire at that point. Indoors however is much worse.

You’re basically burning the mold, and bacteria into the air which could expose you to these horrible things for hours or even days especially with the smoke seeping into anything it touches. I’m all for the rustic smoke smell just minus the plague. Ok, it is probably not “plague” worthy but still a pain nonetheless for you and anyone else near that wood.

If you question the wood at all it’s best not to burn it. Spotting mold and other deformities on the outside is easy but you never know what is going on inside that wood. Depending on your situation and if possible it is best to throw the rotten wood out and get new firewood.

Firewood Life

Typically firewood lasts a long time. We’ll get to the best ways of doing this shortly but in general, it’s just not hard to find firewood if you know what your looking for. I have been on camping trips, local neighborhood runs, and all sorts of adventures that required firewood at some point. You can find good firewood anywhere really, but what is the lifespan of firewood anyway?

In a nutshell, firewood comes from fallen or cut down trees. For whatever the reasons trees fall down, are cut down, or harvested specifically for firewood so people can use it for a variety of reasons. Firewood life is pretty much as simple as:

  1. Cut down tree
  2. Cut the tree into pieces
  3. Let pieces dry for a few months
  4. Cut again into smaller pieces (optional)
  5. Burn pieces once dried

That is pretty much it. In outdoor areas, rivers, and even in town, you can find the same basic wood. All you’re really looking for are trees that have an oldish looking wood to them and appear dried out. Anything like that will be great for burning.

After some practice and a few fires, you’ll get the hang of it. After even more practice you’ll even start to pick up on how some woods burn better than others, based on length, smell, and just overall appearance.

Store Your Wood

As mentioned above there are steps you can take to ensure your firewood lasts longer than others. This is for those of you that have wood-burning stoves, or fireplaces that you use to entertain guests, or even just to enjoy a book next to.

Storing firewood is far from rocket science. The idea is the same principles as you want the wood to be really. Keep it in a clean dried out space. This could be outside under a roof-like structure, you can even wrap a tarp around it to help keep any moisture from getting in.

There are “wood boxes” where people basically build a generic box and keep the wood inside there. The better you keep the wood from moisture, and other outside issues the longer it will last as you’ll avoid it potentially rotting or attracting insects that love nesting and using wood.

Unfortunately, no matter what you do the chance remains you’ll never protect your wood from everything. Depending on where you got your wood from you could bring rotting and other things in with it.

Doing your very best to check it beforehand though and as mentioned checking it periodically can go a long way to having your wood last a long time.

Best Way to Store Firewood?

The best way to protect your firewood, is to make sure it is stored properly in an area that won’t get rained on. There’s plenty different fire racks available on the market. Some people elect to just stack their wood up by their house and that’s fine. I ended up purchasing this particular fire rack (Amazon link) due to how well my neighbor’s had help up. Previously, I had just stacked it by my shed, but this rack makes it much more organized and easier to keep covered.

In addition to the rack, you’ll want to pick up a cover that will fit your rack. If you get the rack above, you can pick up this covering (Amazon Link). It fits and does a great job! I’ve been very happy with it.

Woods To Dry?

As we have already touched on rotten and completely useless wood, we should touch on the other end of the spectrum, can wood be to dry? To answer this question is really actually simple. Wood that is too dry isn’t necessarily unable to burn as it will burn quite well, but that’s the problem, to well.

Overly dry wood won’t last long in a fire at all. The question shouldn’t be if it’s to dry, it should be why would you want to? Consider a trailer house, these are typically built with very thin wood that has been dried out and formed to build it.

If you don’t know, when a trailer house catches on fire it is usually burned to the ground within 30 minutes. So you could burn the wood, it just won’t do you much good or last nearly as long.

Good Woods

We’ve talked a lot about the wood you shouldn’t burn so I wanted to take a moment and list a few kinds of wood that you should burn. These are some of the well-known favorites:

  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Appletree
  • Cherry Tree (Black)
  • Birch
  • Elm

Using any of these woods is a great move. They are long burners, easily available in most areas, and just create great fires. I’ve always heard cider trees smell good to but they are hard to find in my experience.

Conclusion Enjoy that Beautiful Fire

In the end, Could Wood Be Too Old To Burn? In a matter of speaking yes, but it could be based on more factors than just age. When preparing for a fire, or relying on firewood for your heat, take some easy simple precautions and protect your wood. Remember to enjoy the fire though, whether it be for your main source of heat or purely recreational these things are just nice especially when you have great firewood!