How Long Can You Store Firewood Outside?

by Carole
(Ottawa, Canada)


How many years can I keep white ash once it's cut and split? I have the chance to get a lot of it free, but I don't use that much wood each winter.

If I store it outside stacked, will it rot or go moldy or otherwise go bad? I live in Ottawa, Canada with long cold winters and hot summers.

I have no room for a woodshed so the wood would have to be out in the open. Would it be better to cover it with a tarp?


Carole in Ottawa



Great question! With the conditions you have described you should be able to store the firewood outside for approximately 3 or 4 years before you have any issues with mold or decay.

I normally keep my firewood on a three year rotation which works really well but there are A LOT of variables that determine how long the wood will last.

Moisture is firewoods worst enemy. Since you don't have room for a woodshed I would do a few things.

First...choose a storage location that receives a lot of sunlight and airflow. This will help keep the firewood dry and prevent issues with mold.

Second...elevate the wood off the ground by using a few 2x4's. Wood that has contact with the ground will soak up moisture and decay within a year or two.

Third...cover the top of the stack with a tarp. Let the tarp hang over the sides a little bit but don't cover the whole stack of wood. Wrapping the entire wood stack in the tarp will prevent air from reaching your firewood which only promotes mold and decay.

If you follow these basic steps I feel confident you will get 3 or 4 years out of your firewood before you have any issues. Even at year 5 you will probably be able to use most of the firewood, but some of it might be showing signs of decay.

I hope this helps,


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May 02, 2020
Store in cut slabs or leave whole?
by: Hard_Yakka


Okay I have a part time land clearing business and have been hauling a lot of hardwoods back to the farm to split.

Problem is it's spring and the second busiest time for us, slabbing and splitting out the firewood for the 2021-22 winter is not going to happen until fall unless gathered information says differently.

I usually have the time to process but we hauled a lot of wood out this year....30-40 cords probably. The logs are set up off the ground on old treated fence posts so they shouldn't start rotting from ground contact too soon.

My question is how long would you leave the uncovered logs, most are 20-26' long, before cutting or would be be better to cut and store as rounds before spitting, again all wood is hardwood. White and black oak, madrone, ash, and maple. Thanks


With the wood elevated, I think you will be just fine leaving the logs at 20-26' long until you have time to cut and split them in the fall.

It's amazing how much moisture stays inside the wood when you don't cut them into rounds so you might run into a little bit of moisture issues with the oak, but if you get the oak cut and split in the early fall when things slow down for you, you'll be fine.

By splitting them this fall you'll still have all of the 2021 summer to allow the sun and wind to dry out the wood.

Oak typically takes about 2 years to fully season, so when you cut and stack the oak I would stack it first (making it the last rows in your wood shed or wood rows) so you burn it last.

Stack the ash last (making it the first firewood you burn in the 2021 winter) since that will be plenty dry enough by then. You can fill the gap between the oak and ash with the other hardwoods you have.

I had my property logged 5 years ago and the red and white oak tops have been in the woods for 5 years. This year they are finally starting to get a little punky and rotten on the exterior but the heartwood is still good.

With that information I would think the oak trees would be fine for a couple of years even if you didn't get them cut up this fall before you would need to worry about the wood rotting.

I hope this helps,


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