If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, you may want to cut your own wood and season it yourself. Plus, if you have plenty of spruce trees on your property, then you’re golden! Spruce wood is great wood for a fireplace or wood burning stove, but before you get started with seasoning it, there are a few things you need to know so that it’s seasoned properly.
Depending on many factors such as weather, when the wood is cut, and how small the pieces are, seasoning spruce wood can take as little as 6 months to as many as 18 months. Spruce wood stored in dry, warmer conditions will season faster than wood stored outdoors in the elements.
There are many determining factors to take into consideration, but spruce can make a decent firewood when it’s properly seasoned. Keep reading as we go through the best ways to season spruce wood, and how long it will take for it to dry!
Is Spruce A Good Choice For Firewood?
Spruce trees are evergreen conifers that are often found in the northern reaches of North America. Typically, evergreens like spruce are considered softwoods which don’t burn as long or as hot as most other hardwood species such as maple, hickory, and oak.
Spruce wood is fairly decent as a firewood as long as it’s properly seasoned. Spruce wood doesn’t have much of an odor when it’s burned and produces only a slight bit of smoke.
A cord of spruce firewood puts out approximately 15 to 16 million BTUs of heat when burned. Depending on the specific variety of spruce, it can produce very few sparks (Engelmann Spruce) to a lot of sparks and popping (White, Blue, Norway Spruce).
Here’s a quick chart to compare spruce firewood with other popular species.
Common Firewoods Compared To Spruce
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Now, keep in mind the specific species of tree as this is a general chart. For instance, most species of pine really snap, crackle and pop when they’re lit and are much better to be used outdoors while most species of oak and maple are produce excellent heat and are low popping (white oak being exceptional in that regard.)
For more information, check out our article on the 9 firewoods that produce the least amount of smoke to see some of the best for indoor fireplaces! You can also bookmark our guide on the hottest firewoods to compare BTU’s across popular species.
Spruce Can Cause Creosote Buildup
Honestly, all firewood when it’s burned creates some buildup. The smoke that rises into the air, or flows through the chimney can accumulate inside. When too much collects, that’s when things can get dicey. According to the EPA, creosote comes from the tar of burning wood.
Burning green firewood or wood species that contain a lot of sap can cause creosote buildup faster. Spruce firewood is a sappy wood, but when it’s seasoned properly, it won’t smoke much or cause problematic buildup.
It’s a good habit to have a professional chimney service technician check your chimney every year before starting your first fire of the season. They can tell you if it needs to be swept out or not and can offer the service for you.
The Need-To-Knows For Seasoning Spruce Wood
Although we’d love to say that spruce wood can be used immediately – that’s just not the case. There are so many considerations you need to take to make sure your spruce wood is dried properly so that it’s effective as firewood.
1. Spruce Wood Should Be Cut To A Certain Size
Firewood is usually cut to lengths between 16” and 18”. Then it should be split into pieces between six to eight inches wide. When firewood is split and cut in this manner, more surface area is opened so the wood is able to dry faster.
If you’re using a fallen spruce tree, make sure to take a look at our guide on what to check for before using dead trees as firewood.
2. The Wood Should Be Dried To 20% Moisture Or Lower To Use
Weather, stacking, and location can all factor into how long it takes for spruce to season.
You are looking for the wood to dry out to a moisture content of around 20% or lower. You can use visual and physical clues to determine the approximate dryness of the wood.
3. When There Are Radial Cracks On The Wood, It’s Ready!
When you see greyed ends of the spruce wood and notice small, radial surface cracks, the wood is usually dry enough to burn.
Are There Any Simple Tricks To Determine If Spruce Wood Is Dry Enough?
Yes! Luckily, there are a few good ways to test the dryness of the wood – let’s take a peak below.
Dry Wood Makes A Ring Sound
Dry wood when knocked against each other makes a distinct sound. Dry wood sounds more like a ring, compared to the dull-sounding “thunk” of wet wood.
Burn One Piece To Test The Dryness
Another way to test the dryness of the firewood is to burn one piece. Throw a small piece into a roaring fire and notice how it burns. If the wood catches fire in a few minutes, then it’s properly seasoned. If the wood smokes, sizzles, or struggles to catch fire, it still has too much moisture trapped inside.
The best way to know for sure how wet or dry your wood is, is to use a moisture meter. The General Tools MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter will give you an accurate measurement so there’s no guesswork. The digital readout tells you exactly how much moisture is present in your firewood so you know the exact moment it’s properly seasoned.
How Long It Takes To Season Spruce Wood (And How To Do It)
So, without further ado – how long does it take to season spruce wood?
Spruce Wood Can Season In As Little As Six Months
Wood dries out when exposed to the sun and warm temperatures. Wind and rain are also factors in drying out firewood. Under the optimum conditions, spruce wood can season in as few as six months.
To achieve a quick turnaround on your spruce firewood, you should cut and split it in the winter.
When the colder months settle in, the sap in spruce trees retreats to the roots, meaning it won’t be as sticky and gummy when you cut and split it. This also helps the wood season faster as it doesn’t have to contend with so much sap.
Spruce Wood Can Take Up To 18 Months To Season In Sub-Optimal Conditions
There are a few reasons why your spruce wood can take a long time to season – and especially it takes longer if you don’t do it correctly.
Any tree that’s cut down will eventually dry out, or simply rot if it’s kept too wet. By not allowing airflow, keeping it in the shade, or being too covered up, you could be looking at a much longer seasoning time.
Why It May Take Longer To Season Spruce Wood
- Leaving your spruce firewood whole (not split), improperly stacked, and going through a rainy, humid, snowy season can take extra time for your firewood to dry.
- Stacking your firewood right up against a structure like a garage or the side of your house will restrict airflow causing the wood to season slower.
- Even cutting the trees at the wrong time can add months to seasoning time.
- If your spruce tree is storing sap.
When springtime rolls around, the sap that was being stored in the roots of the tree starts to flow through the trunk and out to the leaves, or needles in the case of spruce trees. This sap is thick and sticky. Have you ever cut or damaged a pine tree? Very sticky!
That heavy sap moves throughout the tree during the warmer months and takes a long time to dry out. This sap also causes more sparks and popping and smoke when the wood is burned.
What Is The Best Way To Season Spruce Firewood?
There is a proper method to seasoning spruce, and all firewood for that matter. To season firewood correctly you need plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, airflow, and protect the wood from water. You also need to know the best way to stack your firewood for proper seasoning.
1. Get Your Spruce Wood Into The Sun Quickly
First and foremost, you need to keep your spruce wood off the ground and in a spot that gets a lot of sun. In fact, don’t let it sit on the ground for more than a day or two before you stack it up. Leaving the split wood on the ground can invite bugs and fungus to start attacking your hard work.
The sun is one of the best and fastest ways to get your spruce wood seasoned. Chances are, you cut the tree(s) down in a shady forest. Don’t waste any time in getting it processed and out into the bright sunlight.
Find a spot on your property that gets plenty of sunlight and isn’t shaded. Southern exposure is best, as the sun is hottest in this direction, and shines longer from the South.
If you haven’t cut the tree down yet, plan it out so that you have time to cut the trees, split them and get them stacked in the sun within a short amount of time. Plan an extended weekend if you have several trees to cut down and split. Leaving the wood on damp, leaf littered, shady ground will invite rot and insects toward the cut wood.
If you’re looking for an excuse to take down that spruce tree in your yard, take a look at our piece on the reasons to cut down your spruce tree, along with the best time to do so!
2. Cut Your Spruce Firewood Into Smaller Pieces
Smaller pieces of wood create more surface area for the moisture to evaporate faster. You should cut the spruce wood into 16 to 18-inch pieces and then split them. This not only helps the wood to dry faster but makes it easier to fit into wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Spruce wood is known for being fairly knotty, which can make splitting more difficult. The optimal split size is between six to eight inches thick.
This size helps to season your wood faster and gives plenty of surface area for the wood to burn quickly and hot. Logs that are too large can smolder for a long time. When this happens the wood can create a lot of smoke and produce less heat.
If you’re only planning on cutting a few trees, then the Fiskars Super Splitting Axe is just the thing to make this chore a little bit easier. Of course, cutting the logs shorter will make them easier to split, even if they are full of knots.
According to the USDA, there are a few spots with limitations to cutting firewood and you may need a permit .
3. Stack The Wood Off The Ground To Allow Proper Airflow
Stacking your spruce firewood properly is extremely important. You don’t want to throw it all into a loose pile. Sure the outer logs will dry quickly, but inside where there’s little to no sunlight or airflow, the wood could rot, get termites and other insects, and take longer to season.
First, use something to lift the firewood off the ground. You can use pallets, bricks, cut saplings, or whatever you have handy to keep your firewood off the wet ground. You only need to get it elevated by a few inches.
Crisscrossing the wood may end up taking up more space, but it allows more airflow between the logs. This helps to dry the wood faster. If it’s packed tightly, it will take longer to dry it out as wind and air have a harder time flowing around the wood.
4. Keep The Spruce Wood Five Feet From Any Structures
Good airflow is another way to season wet firewood quickly. This means not only stacking the wood in a manner to get maximum airflow, but also keeping the stack away from obstacles and walls.
Don’t stack your firewood up against your garage, a building, or near other trees. You should leave at the very least, five feet of distance away from your stack.
If you know the direction the wind typically blows in your area, stacking the wood with the ends facing the wind will help to season it faster. Wind helps to carry surface moisture away from the wood. Sun and heat bring the water out, but the wind is what carries it away.
5. Store The Wood Away From Water
When storing and stacking your spruce firewood, keep it away from water. While this is intuitive, think about things like sprinklers, and low lying areas that may flood in your yard. You don’t want to store your wood in these areas.
Many yards now have sprinklers to keep the yard looking green and lush, be sure not to stack your firewood anywhere near sprinklers. The water spraying on them every day will obviously hinder the seasoning process.
Also, watch out for low areas that tend to gather water after rain. You don’t want to have your firewood soaking up water from the ground while it’s trying to dry. That’s why it’s stacked off the ground.
6. Cover Your Spruce Wood If You Expect Rain Or Snow
For the best results, don’t cover the firewood stack unless you’re expecting a lot of rain or heavy snow. When you do cover, don’t let it go all the way to the ground, the wood still needs airflow. The best way to cover is to only protect the top of your firewood stack, and then remove it when the sun comes back out.
How To Protect The Firewood While Uncovered
Another way to protect your wood without covering it is to put the bark side up at the top of the stack. Tree bark has natural water-repelling properties, so even in rain and snow, most of the water will end up running off the wood instead of soaking in.
Now, if you have a way to cover the firewood stacks with a structure, or roof, several feet above the stack, this would be ideal. It’s not necessary but will certainly help speed up the process. Rain will hit the roof and run off without getting the wood wet, and it still has plenty of sunlight and wind drying it out.
Following all these steps, and with ideal conditions like getting perfect, warm, sunny, slightly windy weather—which, really, how often does that happen?—will allow your spruce firewood to properly season in as little as six months.
How To Store Seasoned Spruce Wood
Once your spruce firewood is properly seasoned, you may want to move it closer to your house. Picking a more convenient place will make things easier when you have to go outside in the cold to bring more wood in for the fire.
Once it’s dry, you want to protect it from rain, and you don’t have to worry so much about airflow or sunlight anymore.
1. Stack The Firewood All One Way
Now your spruce firewood is properly seasoned, you can re-stack it to take up less space. You can move it closer to your garage or house, and stack it all one way instead of doing the crisscross method.
Stacking it this way saves space and will leave the wood stack looking neater. It still needs to stay a few inches off the ground. If you will be burning firewood every winter for heat, investing in a firewood rack may be worth it.
If you plan on storing your firewood for an extended period of time or will be replenishing your stacks every year, getting a sturdy stand will make your life easier. The Woodhaven 8-Foot Firewood Log Rack with Cover is a great option. It’s made of rust-resistant, powder-coated steel and comes with a rain and snow cover.
2. Keep Your Spruce Wood Covered After It’s Seasoned
Now is the time to cover your wood to protect it from rain and snow. Only the top needs to be covered. A tarp or heavy plastic can do the trick, but only let it drop down about a foot or so.
When rain hits your firewood, some will be absorbed into the wood, which will make burning difficult. While it will dry out quickly, if you need the wood immediately, you’ll have to remove the top layers to get to dryer wood that will burn quickly.
If you’re storing your firewood over the ground, it’s a good idea to cover the ground with a tarp or polyethylene plastic. Moisture will rise from the ground, grass and weeds can grow underneath it and cause the bottom logs to remain humid. These problems will invite pests and possible rot, so block that moisture with an impermeable barrier.
3. Make Sure To Allow For Good Airflow Under The Wood
Another reason you don’t want to completely cover your firewood is it still needs airflow. When it’s covered tightly or all the way to the bottom the firewood can deteriorate. Moisture can accumulate under a cover, and if there’s no airflow to carry it away, the wood can become moldy.
Spruce firewood can be a fair wood to burn either in your fireplace or for heat. You need to season it properly though.
To season spruce firewood correctly and in the shortest amount of time, you need to:
- Cut the spruce trees in the winter when the sap is stored in the roots
- Get the cut wood into the sun quickly
- Cut the wood into small, easy to handle pieces
- Allow plenty of airflow
- Stack it correctly
- And keep the spruce firewood out of water
When all of these steps are followed, you can get your spruce firewood seasoned in as few as six months!
For more information and to learn about other types of firewood check out our article on the best firewood to burn overall!
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Ramos, Marcelo Alves, and Ulysses Paulino de Albuquerque. “The domestic use of firewood in rural communities of the Caatinga: How seasonality interferes with patterns of firewood collection.” Biomass and Bioenergy 39 (2012): 147-158.
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Nord-Larsen, Thomas, et al. “Drying of firewood–the effect of harvesting time, tree species and shelter of stacked wood.” Biomass and Bioenergy 35.7 (2011): 2993-2998.