A Better Way to Stack Firewood



Besides practicality, I like heating with wood because the whole process has a beauty about it that nothing else can match. While a cozy fire in a stove or fireplace looks and feels great, even a well-stacked firewood pile is gorgeous to my eye. After twenty years of stacking wood in the usual way, last year I tried something  that I now like much better. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, Scandinavian people have been taking wood heat seriously for centuries longer than we have. They also stack wood in round piles. Curious about why, I gave it a try. I now know that round piles take less time to stack, they shed water better than straight piles, and they’re more stable. At least if you understand a few tricks for building them right, that is.

I lay out my round wood piles with a four foot piece of rope that has a loop in one end. Push a metal spike into the ground where the centre of the pile will be, then pull the rope tight and use the end to guide placement of the outside ends of the logs making up the bottom layer of wood. Keep stacking and checking several layers around the perimeter of the circle, then remove the stake and rope. Fill the centre of the circle with randomly thrown-in pieces of wood, then build more wall when you’ve filled the centre portion, tilting the wall inwards slightly for stability as you go up. Add three or four, 8-foot long wooden poles across the diameter of the circle when you’re about four feet up, then dome the top and place a tarp under the last layer of wood for shelter. Another layer or two of wood on top holds the tarp down and keeps the pile looking terrific, which, as I said, is one of the great fringe benefits of wood heat. To see how I stack wood in the round, check out my video.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

6/2/2019 4:44:21 PM

I've heard that wood burning smoke can cause cancer and it has a lot of carcinogens in it. I really wanted to heat my home with wood stove or Rocket stove mass heater. Any thoughts?

Guy Follen
10/30/2011 3:00:25 PM

Ok, in order to determine what radius of stack is required to create based on a given height - e.g. I don't want mine to be more than 6' heigh... given that a cord of wood is 4X4X8=128 cu ft. and, the volume of a cylinder is Volume=HeightXPiX(Radius) squared, then if you have three cords or 384 cu ft., and want a pile no more than 6 ft heigh, then based on this equation the radius would need to be 4.47ft. You can play with these numbers however you want - e.g. different diameters or different heights. Sorry, pi is a constant 3.14. Hope that helps.

Guy Follen
10/30/2011 2:25:14 PM

Hi - actually, here are a few things that are missing from this description. First, a post is usually installed virtically in the middle before building the pile. This helps with stability and to help determine how much the wood has dried by the amound that the wood sinks around it over time. Also, the wood in the middle should not be just thrown in but should be stacked up against this post standing up - this is to encourage air to flow through and up. Also, from time to time, pieces of flat wood are sometimes placed horizontally on the outer rim to ensure that the stacked wood lies flat. Finally, don't completely cover the wood with a tarp - put a hole in the middle with a raised 'roof' of sorts - or, made a cedar roof that will allow the air to escape. Oh, and unless you want to lose the wood on the bottom, don't stack on the ground - put down some gravel or cement slabs. Good luck!

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