Why 16″ Is the Best Firewood Length


There are many considerations to be had when cutting your own firewood. Among them is the question of how long to cut the pieces of firewood. Well, ponder no longer! I’m here to tell you that 16″ is the best firewood length by far. It is a standard length that can fit in every wood stove, it can be handled easily by anyone in the household, it splits easily, and its numerical divisibility makes it easy to calculate volume. It is the most common length of firewood, and for good reason. Of course, you are free to cut to any length you see fit. After reading this article, you won’t want to. Without further adieu, let’s discuss why 16″ is the best firewood length

16″ Logs Will Fit into Any Woodstove

Very little in the world of forestry and forest products is standard. Every woodstove is different, and every log and piece of wood has infinite variability in shape and size. Luckily, even without that standardization, 16″ logs will fit into (almost) any woodstove. The exception of course, is very small stoves made for tents, tiny homes, and other more novelty and recreational dwellings. Those are built for smaller stick-sized pieces. In virtually all other indoor woodstoves, however, a 16″ log will be able to fit in regardless of any twists or burls that may alter the geometry of that piece of wood. It eliminates the variability.

Especially for smaller indoor woodstoves, cutting pieces too big can be a serious problem. There is nothing more frustrating than trying (and failing) to put a large piece of wood in a stove. If it doesn’t fit, you then have the problem of having to sort out and store (likely until outdoor fire season) a soot-covered, overly-large piece of firewood. Not fun. I’ve also had incidents of breaking the glass on wood stoves by forcing in a large piece that really had no business being there. I wasn’t being very smart that day, but it is best just to avoid that potential problem and cut your firewood to a length of 16″.

16" firewood is a length than can fit in any wood stove.

Firewood Cut to 16″ Lengths Will Split and Dry More Easily

While one may not think of the length of firewood affecting splitting ease, it is a primary factor! The longer a piece of firewood is, the more difficult it will be for an axe or splitter to separate the wood fibers. This can be crucial when dealing with tough firewood species like beech. Likewise, longer pieces of firewood will take longer to dry, as there is more volume relative to surface area. Of course, pieces shorter than 16″ will split and dry even better, but there comes a point where a piece of firewood is too short, and it is inconvenient to keep having to run to get more wood to feed the stove. 16″ lengths is a good balance.

Similar to the benefit seen in woodstoves, 16″ lengths also has the advantage of working with virtually all wood splitters on the market. Every splitter has a limit to how long of a piece it can split. Generally, cheaper wood splitters are more limited, but 16″ firewood will be compatible with all of them.

16″ Logs Can Easily Be Handled by Anyone

Unless you live by yourself and you are cutting firewood for yourself only, it is highly probable that the wood you cut will need to be handled by other people–people who might not be as strong as you. At a length of 16″, you can be sure that everyone is going to have an easy time stacking it, moving it, and stuffing it into a stove. Even kids can help out. If you aren’t cautious, firewood that is cut too long a length can add excess and unforeseen difficulties for others in your household, making winter harder than it already is. Don’t be that guy. Have some consideration and cut to an appropriate length.

This is particularly true if you plan on selling any amount of firewood commercially. You don’t know who your customers will be. They could be elderly or otherwise unable to do much lifting. Treat your customers well and ensure they are satisfied with your product by cutting to a more convenient and universal length.

Use a firewood length that is easy to handle.
Easy to Handle!

Firewood Cut to 16″ Lengths Is Easier to Measure

Firewood volume is almost always measured in cords. A cord is a standard measurement of a stack of wood measuring 4’x4’x8′. That’s nice in theory, but in reality, firewood is rarely stacked in neat piles to those exact specifications. Luckily, if you cut firewood to 16″ lengths, it can be easy to calculate. 16″ is an easy divisor of 4′. Every 3 rows of 16″ firewood will equal 4′, making it incredibly easy to calculate cord volume.

Obviously, this is crucial for commercial firewood operations that must be able to sell customers accurate volumes. It can also be important to those cutting for individual use. Knowing and keeping track of firewood volumes allows you to more easily plan your winter and ensure you have enough to meet your heating needs. If you want to learn more about winter firewood requirements, we have an article on the subject here.

It’s the Best Firewood Length for a Good Reason

Henry Ford said it best: “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” Firewood can be a lot of work, especially if you are harvesting and cutting it yourself. Successful use of firewood as a heat source thus depends on proper planning and logistics. It is not enough to cut firewood, you have to have a system of firewood from beginning to end. Every part of the process must be thought out, from cutting, splitting, and stacking, to moving the firewood from the pile to the stove, and even timing when to fill the stove and how to adjust the damper. It is by no means a passive fuel source. It pays great dividends to operate wisely every step of the way, for fear of making your life harder than it needs to be. In light of that, 16″ is truly the best length for firewood. It just makes sense. This winter, make your home heating a well-oiled machine and cut to 16″!

Zachary Lowry

Professionally trained as a forester, I spent my early career working for large timberland owners in northern Maine, managing forest land and investments. These days I work on my own land and help timberland owners large and small manage theirs.

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