Sunday, September 28, 2014

Design Workshop: Smart Ways to Store Wood Outdoors

Shorter days and cooler nights are a reminder of how much I look forward to the fall, but also that winter isn’t far away. I watch the hard frost creep closer my studio here on the East Coast with each day, and I realize that it’s probably time to stack that firewood I’ve been drying over the summer.

In colonial America the woodshed was an essential part of the homestead that protected a hard-won resource from the weather and allowed it to season, or dry. It was usually attached to the home, allowing for easy access in the dead of winter and to the outhouse when combined trips made sense.

The amount of wood necessary to heat a home today is far less than in colonial times, but at 128 cubic feet (4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet), a cord of wood is still a large amount of space to account for. Whether you heat entirely with wood, or it supplements another heat source, or you just like the flicker of fire on a cold night, you still need to keep your supply dry. And you might as well store it in style.

There are generally four practical things to keep in mind when designing an outdoor wood storage shed: size, location, protection and air circulation. (There are additional things to think about, but more on those later.) Let’s look at the basics first.


Your first task is to decide how much wood you want to store. Firewood is sold by the cord (and fractions thereof), which, when stacked, is 4 feet deep, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long. Because standard firewood splits are 16 inches long, a 128-cubic-foot pile of wood is essentially three rows of split logs. A face cord is one-third of a full cord, essentially one of those three rows: 16 inches deep, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long.

A face cord is usually adequate for limited seasonal or aesthetic use only, whereas one or more cords would serve an average, well-insulated home as a primary heat source (wood boiler, stove etc.). Of course, all of this depends on house size, climate, heat loss and insulation, so consider these rough guidelines.

Keep in mind when sizing your storage that any wood kept above shoulder height will be both difficult to stack and harder to access during the heating season.

Location and Protection

Historically, firewood used for heating and cooking was stored outside but close to the kitchen. Storing firewood close to its point of use is certainly convenient in the winter, when access can be made difficult by snow and ice, but getting it all there — the chore of stacking — can be cumbersome. How much wood you’ll be storing will inform you location choice as well.

The integrated wood storage in this carport is an ingenious solution, and between the two sides, it can store quite a large amount of wood. The choice to place it close to the entry means it’s a short distance between the spot for wood delivery and the storage cubbies, and an equally short distance (and covered path) to inside.

More Smart Ways to Store Wood Outdoors

Design Workshop: Smart Ways to Store Wood Outdoors

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