There is no one right way to storing firewood, but knowing a few tips on how to store firewood outdoors can help you decide which way will be best for you. When storing firewood outside, the challenge is going to be in keeping it dry. But the advantage is, wood can dry faster when it is outdoors from exposure to sun and wind.
Methods of storing firewood can be different, depending on whether the wood is already dry or not, and what the weather will be like that time of year. If your wood is already dry, the main things are to store the wood so it is off the ground, has cover to keep it dry in wet weather, and is in a convenient and safe location. Be sure and check with local codes and fire department recommendations, since some areas require firewood to be stored a certain distance from structures.
If the wood is already dry, it doesn’t matter that much if you decide to stack it or not. Stacking it is more of a matter of convenience for you. Stacked wood takes up less space, looks nicer and can be easier to cover. Keeping the wood off the ground is important, especially away from soil contact. Wood will absorb moisture from the ground and dirt will stick to the wood and make a mess. It can also cause the wood to decay.
A concrete slab or even putting a tarp on the ground will help greatly. But don’t expect the bottom pieces to stay dry. This is where a firewood storage rack can be a big advantage in keeping the wood off the ground.
Dry wood should be covered if there is gong to be any wet weather. A passing rain shower followed by a stretch of dry weather well before it will be burned, is not going to be much of a problem. But dry wood should be covered before any stretch of wet weather if it is close to time to burn it. Covering firewood with a tarp is probably the most common way to cover it. This can work fine, but it is best to leave the sides of the pile uncovered for air flow. Only cover the top of the pile so any moisture that does get in can escape out the sides.
If you get wood that is wet or green, it is best to choose a sunny location to help dry it. And if you can put it in a place where it will also be exposed to more wind, that is all the better.
It is common for people to want to cover wood that is stored outside when they get it. If the wood is already wet, this is not always a good idea. Covering wet wood will slow down the drying process by blocking air flow and sun exposure. If the wood is green or very wet, sometimes it is best to just leave it out in the rain since it is already saturated anyway. If the wood is covered by a tarp, it is not going to dry much, if at all, and it can hold moisture in and lead to mold, fungus and decay. If it is already partly dry, you may want to keep the rain off but be sure it can still get air. If you feel you need to keep the rain off, only cover the top of the pile, leaving the sides exposed so air can flow through. After the rain is passed, it is best to uncover it so it will dry.
There is also debate about whether to stack the wood or to leave it in a heaping pile. In side by side tests, I have found that stacking wood does allow it to dry faster outdoors, but only if there is space for air to flow between stacks, and especially if there is only one long stack out in the open air and in the sun. The advantage of a single stack is you don’t have multiple stacks shading each other.