When to Split Firewood

What is the Best Time to Split Firewood?

Deciding when to split firewood can depend on the species and the splitting tools you have available and what your objectives are. The most simple answer is to split the wood as soon as possible.

Splitting green or wet firewood as soon as possible can help it dry much faster. When firewood is split the surface area is greatly increased where moisture can escape. The woody part of a tree is designed to hold and transport water from the roots to the leaves without losing it. The outer layers of the wood including the bark is a protective layer that seals in moisture. When you split the wood you are opening up this sealed container so the moisture can escape.

Splitting the wood can also help prevent the wood from getting attacked by boring insects. Some wood boring insects are more likely to bore into whole green rounds but if the wood is split and starting to dry they will be more likely to avoid it.

The other deciding factor of when to split firewood is when it will be easiest to split. This can be a difficult question to answer because the answer can depend on the species and even the indivdual tree. Some species are easier to split when they are green and get tough as they dry. There are also other species that are tough when they are green but get easier to split as they dry. Not only does this vary between species, it also varies between different trees. Within any species there will be individual trees that have different splitting characteristics.

Now it gets even more complicated. There are some species that are easy to split green that get tough as they dry, but then they get easier again as they age and start to crack. With some if you cut them into rounds and let them dry they will get tough. But if the tree dies standing and the wood dries naturally from moisture transpiring through the leaves before the wood will in some cases be easier to split than if it was cut green. But with some wood it’s the opposite. Also some woods split easier when they are frozen so in that case cold weather may be the best time to split them.

If you are going to be splitting the wood by hand you may want to consider the species and split it when it’s easiest to split. If you have a mechanical splitter the ease of splitting doesn’t mater as much. With a mechanical splitter it’s usually best to split the wood as soon as possible.

9 thoughts on “When to Split Firewood”

  1. This is a good article as far as it goes. But it would be really, really nice if there were something about WHICH species are best split dry!

  2. someone gave me a truck load / cord of black acacia firewood logs about 18 inches in diameter. I can’t split them with a maul. the wood is 3 days old. any advice. my wife already told me to go to he gym.

  3. If you can’t split it because it’s too large in diameter, use a chain saw (or other saw) to cut it in half with the grain (the same direction the maul would be used. This will give you a couple of half pieces which should be easier to chop with the maul. You could also quarter it with the chain saw to make it easier still…

  4. So far I have found that most varieties of oak split better while green and that hackberry and cottonwood split better once they start to check . I am using a maul and the fiskers splitting axe.

  5. This article sadly fails to mention which species of wood must be split as soon as possible (wet or green), versus which are okay to dry as rounds. The author dances around the problem.

  6. Perhaps the author does not have access to every species of firewood in the world to test them all out.

  7. Given the circumstances, the author did the best he could. Growing up harvesting wood with my father left me with many of the same impressions. It just all means you’ll need to make the determination on the ground at the time. If it don’t split well at the time, set is aside for later and go cut another species of tree. It is absolutely true though that odds are better when its cold / freezing as wood fibers have been somewhat seperated by expansion of the water molecules.

  8. Maybe, well maybe not, possibly,but ya well depending on? Really, how helpful was thisw article. I might as well roll dice…………………

  9. What I got from the article is that if you use a splitter, doesn’t really matter what and when you split it. It’s a nobrainer that the earlier it’s split the quicker the wood dries. There was not hint at what type of wood is easier green or dry. Atleast a general suggestion would have helped since that was the title of the article.

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