Wood is the main component of many products we use, including furniture and firewood. The quality of wood, its type, and the drying process involved all play a role in determining the quality of the finished products itself. If you are one of those people who use wood logs daily, be it for camping, cooking, or heating purposes, then you might have heard of kiln-dried wood. Because you need to get the best firewood for your fireplace or camping trips, you should give kiln-dried wood a go. In case you are still on the fence about the merits of purchasing kiln-dried wood, read our following guide to get a better idea of why it is a worthwhile investment.
What Is Kiln-Dried Wood?
To understand why kiln-dried wood is so popular with many people, you have to know how it is made and how its drying process compared to other traditional drying practices. Put simply, kiln-dried wood is the type of wood whose moisture level is reduced and controlled through a process called “kiln-drying.” The reason why this type of wood logs is considered the best is that it is very energy-efficient and fast to produce.
Usually, kiln drying relies on the hardwood like ash and oak. Since hardwood is often favored to softwood like cider, the logs produced by kiln drying are of a higher quality than the ones produced by standard seasoning. As kiln-dried ash wood is in high demand, it is sometimes hard to find. Yet, it is now sold online to bridge this supply/demand gap, and this makes buying kiln dried ash logs easy and accessible for a lot of people. Compared to normal seasoned wood, kiln-dried logs may seem a bit overpriced. Nonetheless, the quality that this type of wood offers is simply unmatched. To better understand why kiln-dried wood is preferred, we need to take a look at the kiln-drying process itself.
How Does Kiln Drying Work?
To non-experts, kiln drying might seem like a tedious, long-winded process. While it certainly involves multiple steps to get the desired result, the process itself is a lot faster and more controlled than traditional seasoning. Here is a breakdown of the full steps of kiln drying.
1- Cutting the Trees
As mentioned before, kiln drying depends more on the hardwood than softwood. To make sure that they are choosing a good tree, lumberjacks who work in the kiln drying industry usually go for big ash, oak, and alder trees. The tree is then cut down to get the necessary logs. Notably, the kiln drying industry also produces wood for flooring and furniture, so the cutting process might be a bit different depending on the desired product. After that, the wood pieces are organized according to their shapes and prepared for the drying process by removing their bark.
After being shaped, the wood is then inserted into a closed drying chamber. There are many types of drying chambers, but the most popular one is the conventional variety that uses a furnace or a water heater to operate. The heat source works on sucking the moisture out of the wood, vaporizing it in the process. Then, the excess water vapor is expelled from the chamber by running the chamber’s fans. Dehumidification chambers are also another lesser-known type of kiln drying rooms that depend on a pump to suck the moisture and remove it from the kiln chamber, storing the excess water to be used in other ventures. Regardless of the drying technique, kiln drying is a very controlled process through which the moisture level of the wood can be precisely reduced to the required levels, thus eliminating the need for moisture meters.
Kiln Drying vs. Seasoning
Both seasoning and kiln drying has the same objective: reducing the moisture level of the logs to acceptable levels. Nevertheless, the length, technique, and the results of both processes are vastly different. Below are some of the core differences between seasoning and kiln drying.
One of the main differences that give kiln drying an advantage is its speed. Seasoning involves leaving the wood logs to air dry. Without a doubt, this process takes a lot of time—around 6-18 months. So, if you want to have firewood by winter, you need to cut your logs in the spring. On the other hand, since kiln drying depends on a heat source, it makes the drying process much faster. It may take more than three drying cycles for the wood to be ready, but each cycle does not require more than ten hours to be completed. Thus, the firewood can be ready in just a few days as opposed to several months.
Moisture inconsistency is perhaps the biggest drawback of seasoning. The ends of logs often lose moisture faster than their middle part, so air drying can leave you with logs that are overly dried at the ends but still wet in the middle. On the contrary, kiln drying sucks the moisture equally from all parts of the wood, leaving you with perfectly dry logs. This has a direct effect on the efficiency of the logs when burned, as it allows the firewood to light up faster and burn slower.
Trees are full of bugs, fungus, larvae, and eggs. This can cause a huge problem when using the logs later on, as you will be risking infestation every time you chuck seasoned logs into your fireplace. Since seasoning relies on air to dry the logs, it does not get rid of these bugs. Kiln drying is the complete opposite; it eliminates any bugs or insect eggs by using heat. The high temperatures involved in the kiln drying process kill any pests, presenting you with a safe product.
As seasoning does not use heat to dry the wood, the resulting logs need to be cured by utilizing harsh chemicals to ensure they are fully sanitized. These chemicals become active and mix with the smoke the logs produce when burned. Indubitably, this can cause a lot of health issues, especially for people suffering from asthma and similar conditions. Kiln-drying does not entail the same risks because it depends on heat to sanitize the wood. So, you can safely use it without worrying about any subsequent health issues down the line.
The Benefits of Kiln-Dried Logs
Now that you know more about kiln drying and how it holds up against seasoning, it is time to know the merits of using logs produced by kiln drying. When compared to typical seasoned wood, kiln-dried wood appears to be far more superior. If you are still skeptical, here are some of the advantages of using kiln-dried logs:
1. It Burns Cleaner
One of the many complaints people have about using seasoned wood is that it deposits a lot of soot and creosote. If you are not familiar with creosote, it is a substance produced by burning wood, and it sticks to the inside of your fireplace or woodstove after it cools down. When you use your fireplace again, creosote can catch fire, creating a safety hazard. Not only that, but it is also considered a poisonous substance that causes many health problems when inhaled. Its effects are even more severe for those suffering from respiratory conditions. As opposed to seasoned wood, kiln-dried logs burn cleaner, meaning that they do not deposit creosote when used. This makes kiln-dried wood a great investment for families that include young kids or seniors who are more susceptible to the dangers of creosote.
2. It Is Easily Ignited
Camping is often associated with being cold, wet, and slightly uncomfortable. However, with kiln-dried wood, you can make camping a breeze. If you are a fan of going on extended camping trips, then you need to take reliable logs with you to cook and keep yourself warm. Kiln-dried wood can be an amazing asset to any camper, as it catches fire fairly quickly, eliminating the need for spending time, effort, and resources on building a fire. With just a simple spark, kiln-dried wood can be used to build long-lasting campfires that will keep you and the rest of your company toasty warm and ready to explore the wilderness.
3. It Burns for Longer
Although firewood is not exactly an expensive resource, using too many logs in a short period can be costly. To save some money, you should opt for kiln-dried timber since it is a more economical choice than seasoned wood. By tossing just a few logs in your fireplace, you can keep your house warm for the whole night. This way, you can enjoy your time reading a book or conversing with your family instead of going to and from the fireplace all night to add new logs. Not only does this efficient feature help you save money, but it also enables you to reduce your consumption of wood-based products and play an active role in protecting the environment.
4. It Doesn’t Produce Smoke
Do you know how heroes kill their campfire in the movies to prevent their enemies from spotting them? Well, they would not have to do this if they used kiln-dried logs! Kiln-dried wood is a very clean source of heat, which means that it does not produce smoke when burned. Seasoned and greenwood are the exact opposite, however. Greenwood, in particular, produces pitch-black smoke when used, which can be irritating to the nose, eyes, and lungs. While seasoned wood does not produce as much smoke as greenwood, it still creates some. When compared to both options, kiln-dried timber is the clear winner.
5. It Smells Great
Whether you love camping or not, you cannot ignore the awful smell campfires can leave in their trail. In fact, this smell can linger on your clothes for days, no matter how much you try to get rid of it. Yet, this smell is solely dependent on the type of wood you use to build your campfire. Because seasoned and green wood produces smoke, this scent can then transfer to your clothes or even the food you are cooking, giving it an awful burnt taste. So, why settle for this when you can have a much smoother camping experience? If you opt for kiln-dried wood, you can rest assured that your food remains delicious and does not end up tasting like it was cremated!
6. It Can Be Easily Stored
Traditional firewood requires an outside shed for storage. Because it contains pests and bug eggs, trying to store it in your house can have severe consequences, leading to a full-blown up infestation that proves extremely difficult to get rid of. On the other hand, kiln-dried logs can be safely stored inside your house. Just try to arrange the logs on a raised platform and keep them covered to prevent them from touching the floor and acquiring moisture.
The Drawbacks of Kiln-Dried Timber
1. It Shrinks
The kiln-drying process can be quite taxing on the wood. As the process relies on sucking the moisture out of the wood in just a few hours, this sped-up technique does not allow the wood the time it needs to adapt to its new state. This, in turn, can make the logs significantly shrink in size. Furthermore, this shrinkage can make the wood more fragile and easily broken. However, this can be considered an advantage if you need to easily decrease the size of the logs to fit your fireplace.
2. It Can’t Be Produced at Home
One of the many aspects that makes people like seasoned wood is that it can be produced at home. After all, you just need to store your logs and let air and heat do the rest. On the contrary, unless you have a kiln chamber lying around, you will not be able to make kiln-dried wood at home. This explains why kiln-dried wood is more expensive than the seasoned variant. While you may not be able to kiln dry your wood, you can rest assured that you are buying high-quality kiln-dried timber whose water content amounts to a mere 12-15%,
Kiln-dried wood remains the best choice for any homeowner that regularly uses their fireplace or wood stove. It is also great for campers who want to make their camping trips just a little bit easier and do not want to be stuck with carrying five pounds worth of timber! Whether you want to avoid the health complications of burning traditional logs or the insects that come with them, you should certainly give kiln-dried wood a try. Its pros greatly outweigh its cons, so you do not have much to lose by investing in it.