May 26, 2019

Virginian solar dryer seasons firewood quickly

Q. I plan to use my fireplace this fall, but all I have is recently cut green firewood. Is there any way to get wood to season fast so that I can use it this year? — J.Z.

A. It is very important to use properly seasoned firewood, even in an open fireplace. Damp green logs are not only difficult to light and keep burning, but they fill your chimney with flammable creosote.

Later in the winter when you build a hot fire with well seasoned wood, a chimney fire may start. Many homes and lives are lost each year due to chimney fires from creosote buildup. Have your chimney cleaned regularly.

You can usually tell if wood is seasoned by knocking two logs together. They should make a ringing sound, not just a dull thud. The ends of seasoned logs are usually checked and cracked.

The simplest and most efficient method to season wood quickly is by building a do-it-yourself Virginian solar dryer. In early spring, this solar dryer can also be used as a cold frame for starting plants. In the summer, it can be used to dry fruits and vegetables naturally.

It is basically an 8-foot-by-6-foot plywood box with a sloped clear front. Make the framing with 2×4 lumber and use 3/8-inch plywood to cover it. The open front can be covered with clear plastic film, fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) or old storm doors.

Add several air outlet vents to the plywood top section and in the top of the sides near the back. Standard roof vents work well or you can make your own from sheet aluminum flashing.

Cut low inlet air vents in the bottom of the plywood sides near the front. Cover the vents with screening especially if you plan to use it for food drying in the summer.

Paint the entire inside flat black and cover the floor of the dryer with black plastic film. The black color intensifies the sun’s heat. Position the dryer so the front faces south.

This does two things. The heat creates natural (thermosiphoning) air flow through the dryer. The hot air also reduces the relative humidity inside, so the wood dries faster.

Build two large doors in the back panel. When stacking wood inside, place small wood strips between each layer of wood. This provides air circulation between the layers. Stack the split logs with the bark side down.

Write for Update Bulletin 986 showing do-it-yourself instructions, illustrations and required materials list for making a Virginian solar wood/food dryer and cold frame and a heat content/selector guide for 60 types of firewood. Please include $2 and a business-size SASE. Send to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

Q. I am building an addition to my house. Should I add an air barrier wrap under the siding? Is it worth the money to add it? — D.V.

A. With standard studded wall construction, an air barrier house wrap is one of the best methods to reduce air leakage into your house. The film wrap material allows water vapor to pass through it but not air.

At a cost of about 10 cents per square foot, it is worth the money, especially if you are doing the work yourself. To be most effective, make sure you tape all the edges and joints. Most building supply retail outlets should carry several brands of it.

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