How to stack a firewood pile to build a holz hausen

There are many different ways to stack firewood.  In this post, I will discuss how you can build a woodpile which is easy to build, dries wood quickly and leaves you with a unique looking woopile which will impress your friends.

This type wood pile has been called many different names other than a holz hausen such as holtz hausen, holden hausen, round or a beehive stack.   All of them describe a woodpile where firewood is stacked in the shape of a round cylinder.    Stacking the wood in this way, helps create an stack effect airflow which rises in the center toward the peak of the woodpile.

Hols Hausen Advantage:  Unlike other methods of linear stacking, the holz hausen is a stand alone woodpile without the need for firewood rack or shed.   As some say, the "stack is the rack".     You don't need to build a rack that's going to rust or fall apart in a few years.   If you have a lot of wood, you can avoid building a woodshed by building multiple piles or larger ones.

Below I will walk you through all the steps, tips and considerations on building your very own holz hausen.  

Step 1:  Location

If you are trying to stack a bunch of firewood so it can dry out over the coming year , you may want to stack it in a area that's out of the way but easily accessible so you can get your split wood to the location easilty.   If possible, the woodpile would ideally be in an area that is somewhat dry and accessible to any breezes that blow.  Also think about how accessible the woodpile will be when it's time to burn the firewood.   You may want to stack woodpile closer to your home so you do't have to walk too far through the snow to grab another load for the fireplace or wood stove.   If you have an outdoor firepit or a pizza oven, you may wan to locate it near them for easy access to the wood.

Once you pick a good location for your pile, make sure the ground is level, solid and relativiely clean.   Move aside any leaves or sticks in the area where you would want to build the pile.  

Step 2:   Decide what diameter you would like

You need to decide what size of woodpile you would like to build.   This includes how big a diameter you want as well as how high you intend to build it.   These two dimensions will determine how much wood you can ultimately stack in the holz hausen.   A common size for a holz hausen is one that is 8 foot diameter.   You can also make larger woodpiles but you need to consider that it may be hard to reach the inside of the pile on say a 10 foot diameter woodpile.   Also note that as you build a smaller diameter woodpile, it get's more difficult to stack the wood properly.   For example, a 6 foot diameter takes more skill to build properly and you may want avoid building one this small until you have some experience.

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Step 3:   Starting the base  

For this example, we will assume you are building a 8 foot diameter woodpile.     Your first step is to find a stick,or other post and push it in the ground where you would like the center of the woodpile to be.    

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Place  a post where you want to center of the pile

You next step is to tie a string to the post at ground level.   Using a tape measure, mark the string or tie a knot in it as 4ft long from the post.   You will use this string as a guide to layout your base.

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Here is an example of using a tree instead of a post

Now that you have your 4 foot string tied to your pole,  you are going to lay logs around the perimeter of the woodpile, using the string to make sure none of the log lays outside of the 4ft string.   I like to hold the string at the ends of the logs so make sure it is lined up properly.   Keep lining them up around the perimeter, using your string as a guide to give you a perfect circle.   

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Position you log so that the outer edge is lined up with the mark on your string.  In this case , a knot is used as the mark

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Shown here using a Cordwood Cover.   Position your logs around the perimeter of the circle.   It's the same if you use a string

Once you have our perimeter ring of logs laid on the ground, it's good to throw down some bark and small pieces of wood on the ground to keep your wood off the dirt by raising it slightly.   If you choose to use a Cordwood Cover, it comes with a mesh base that serves the same purpose and in addition keeps worms and bugs away from your firewood.  

If you don't feel like measuring a string and manually laying out the circle as mentioned, we sell a product called a Cordwood Cover that includes a 8 foot mesh circular  base which you can just lay on the ground and start stacking.    The base also includes integral straps with buckles on them which will allow you to strap down a cover when your finished.   

Once you have your perimeter circle of logs laid on the ground, now you want to add wood around the perimeter that points toward the center of your woodpile.  

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Place logs around the perimeter pointing toward the center of the circle

There are a few important tips that will make building the woodpile much easier:

Tip #1:   If the log has a narrow end, place that end toward the center.  If we use a pizza analogy, the pointy part is near the center and the wider end (i.e. crust) is on the outside of the circle.

Tip#2:  Save the strange shapped logs for later in the center.   That's one the many advantages of a holz hausen.   Rather than fussing to find a place for a knotty or odd shaped log like in traditional woodpiles, you can throw it into the center of the woodpile.   This is great when you have short cutoff chunks, kindling scraps etc.   

Tip #3:   Make sure to keep the outside of your cylinder vertical or slightly leaning inward.  YOu don't want yout diameter to get wider as the pile grows in height.  Not only is this unstable, but it will look strange when you are done.   Some people make the diameter smaller as they build higher to give it more of a "beehive" look.  You can do this by placing the logs slighlty inboard of the row below. it.   This takes a little practive to get right but can make a really nice looking pile.

Keep working your way around the woodpile ad you build the perimeter higher.   Your basically building something that looks like a large 8 foot wooden donut.   As mentioned in Tip #2, once you get the side to a decent heigh (e.g. 1-2 ft), you can throw odd shaped logs, kindling etc on the inside of the "donut".   Keep filling the inside with a mixture of the odd shaped pieces as well as normal shaped logs.

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Throw odd shaped logs, short logs and kindling scraps inside

Holz Hausen Advantage:   You don't have to stack the inside of a holz hausen.   This saves time over a traditional woodpile because your not individually stacking every single log.   This can save a lot of time, but still give you a elegant and nice looking woodpile when you done. 

Tip #4:   You may find that the logs start to outward.  If you notice this is happening, you should put a log on the perimeter in the same orientation of your first circle to prop up the log so it tips inward.  This will build a strong and stable woodpile.

Keep building your woodpile unit you get to your desired height.   Keep in mind that you don't want the pile to be so high that it would become unsafe or hard to reach the logs when it was time to use them.  A common height is around 4-5 feet high.    Take a step back from your hold hausen pile to make sure it's level all around the perimeter.   Fill any low spots with logs as needed.  

Step 4:  The "Roof" 

Once you get your woodpile to your desired height, you need to build your "roof".    First start by throwing logs in the middle to raise the center of the woodpile higher.  You will put your logs on this to give you roof for shedding water.    Once you have the center higher like a dome, you should place your "shingles" on top.   Start by placing the logs with the bark up toward the sky.  With each new row, start them inside of the previous row so you work yourself toward the center of the pile.   When your finished you should have a nice roof to protect your woodpile from the rain and elements.   

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Stack the roof by placing each row inside of the previous row to make a shingle roof

Once of disadvantage with this type of roof is that it's not perfectly waterproof.   In addition, you end up burning your roof the first time you take wood off your pile!   Once your roof is gone, I would recommend covering it with some type of tarp to keep the rain, snow and leave out of your pile.   You can read a little more about it here.    Cordwood covers solves this problem by giving you a form fitted cover which includes vents at the peak that allow condensation and humidity to leave your woodpile while keeping rain out.  The cover comes with integrated buckle straps that secure the straps to the mesh base template mentioned above.   No longer do you need to worry about your roof, as you remove wood from the woodpile to burn it, tug on the adjustable straps once in a while to tighten the cover on your nicley build wood stack!   

Advantages of a holz hausen woodpile

  • They look awesome!
  • The technique uses natural stack effect to dry the wood.   Air rises in the pile as it warms up during the day which removes humidity from the woodpile as it dries out. 
  • They are fun to build
  • There is a place to put those odd shaped logs that are hard to stack.  Jus throw them in the middle.
  • The stack is the rack:  You don't need a woodshed or wood rack that tips over, rusts and falls apart
  • They can hold A LOT of wood. depending on the size you choose. 
  • With the addition of a Cordood Cover, you don't need to mess around with trying to figure out how to tie down tarps on your woodpile or throw logs on top of the ugly blue tarp to keep the wind from blowing it off like it always does no matter how hard you try to tie it down.  
  • Did I mention that look really cool!

Hope this article helps you get out there and build your very own holz hausen woodpile.  

Happy Stacking!

 

How it's done....

There is a quick one minutes video showing how to build the woodpile.    It is a quick and easy way to build a nice looking woodpile.   Is so easy that even the kids can help out.   At the end, it shows how it Includes an integrated snap buckle tie downs strap system and peak vents to assure stack flow air drying. Round woodpile does not require purchasing a rack. Integrated straps fasten the cover securely to the base and holds down the cover in heavy winds. To remove firewood, release a strap buckle, lift the cover, and remove the wood. When finished, snap the strap buckle together and you’re done.

This is the solution to finding a way to stack your wood without worrying how to hold up the ends of the pile. Why mess with finding ways to hold down tarps that never fit right. The eight-foot cover holds over two cords of wood when stacked to five feet high. There is no need to purchase a rack or build a shed to store your firewood. Made from high quality UV and Mold resistant 600 Denier Polyester fabric with a waterproof backing.
 

The Dangers of Wood Ashes

It's that time of year again when we have to clean out the wood stove or fireplace.  If your like me, you wait till the ashes are so deep that they are almost coming out of the wood stove when you open the door.   I also find that my stove burns a little better with a layer of ashes on the bottom of the stove chamber.    Regardless, at some point you'll need to clean it out.  

What I wanted to point out is that you wouldn't believe how long embers will last in an unused fireplace or wood stove.    What happens is you can have un-burned fuel (charcoal) still glowing inside a pile of ashes long after the fire is over.   You won't see it because it's buried in the ash.    What's even more amazing is that these embers can still be glowing and hot in a stove or fireplace that hasn't been active in over five days! 

This mean that you must be very careful when removing ashes from your firebox or fireplace.  Here are a few stories with tragic results which were a result of careless handling of ashes. 

In 2011, a family in Connecticut was celebrating Christmas eve when one of the people in the house removed the ashes from the fireplace, placed them in a paper bag and put them in the mudroom.   Tragically, the ashes started a fire in the mudroom that quickly enveloped the house.   The fire ended up killing all of their young children and also their grandparents on Christmas eve. 

Another story came to me from a friend who is a fireman.   He told me about a woman who cleaned out her ashes and placed them in a metal container.   She then took the metal container and placed it on the back porch.   The porch had about 18" of snow on it at the time and she placed the ash container on top of the snow.   Hours later, a smoke detector in the house went off.   She didn't smell or see smoke and figured it was a false alarm.   It wasn't until may hours later that the firehouse got a call from the same house.  As it turned out, the ash bucket had hot embers in it.   The bucket melted through the 18" of snow on the deck and came to rest on the wooden deck.   The smoke detector went off the first time because the deck was smoldering from the hot ash container on the wooden deck.      Unfortunately, the owner ignored the alarm not knowing the ashes were starting her deck on fire, even through it had 18" of snow on it.   Over time, the bottom of the deck ignited and the fire slowly worked its way toward the house.   By the time the owner realized there was a problem, the fire worked it's way through the ledger under the deck and entered the basement.    When the firemen arrived after getting the call, the ceiling of the whole basement was engulfed.   All of this happened from ashes placed in a metal container and left on 18" of snow outside!   If you didn't know any better, you'd think this was a safe way to dispose of ashes.  Who would think ashes placed in a metal container on top of snow outside your house would end up engulfing the house in a fire a few hours later. 

I mention these tragic stories so that you think twice about how to safely remove ashes from your fireplace.    If your not careful, you could make a mistake that could have a tragic consequence.   

To learn about how to safely dispose of ashes in your fireplace, check out a few articles:  here and here and here

What can we learn from these stories?   

  1. You should always assume the ashes have embers in them which are capable of starting a fire.
  2. Make sure you place the ashes in a metal container with no holes in it (rust holes etc).    
  3. DO NOT place the ashes anywhere in your house.   Place them outside away from anything connected to your house.   
  4. Do not place them near anything combustible.   Make sure there are no leaves near the container that could easily ignite and start a fire.

Top Ten Advantages of a Holz Hausen Woodpile

 

1.  They look awesome

Not everyone has a woodpile that people ask about.  They have a neat look to them and grab people's attention.  

2.  They are easy to build

They are simple to build.  The kit makes it even easier by quickly laying the template base on the ground where you want to build the pile.   No need to spend time working with a string and to layout your circle.   The template assures that the cover will fit when you are finished.

3.  Its fun

If you burn wood, you know that it is hard to get the kids to help stack.    The kids will enjoy building something that looks cool.    The little ones can even help by throwing logs on the inside and not worry about having to place it in the correct location.    Hand them a log and have them toss it in the middle!

4.  Less stacking of wood

The inside of the pile is not stacked.   You throw both odd shaped and regular shaped logs in the inside of the pile.   You'll find that you'll do less actual stacking with this type of woodpile.    Here is a post with more details about the time savings.   They go up very fast.

5.  They are very efficient at drying wood

The shape of the woodpile allows for natural convective currents to flow through the woodpile and exit at the peak.   The cover includes four vents to make sure the natural drying properties of a Holz Hausen are maintained while the cover is in place. 

6.  You don't need to purchase a rack!

A typical 8 foot long log rack (96" long x 24" wide x 42" high) costs about $50.  A rack of this size only holds about 1/2 a cord of wood.    If you wanted to hold two cords of wood, you'd need to spend $200 for just the racks necessary to hold wood,   In addition, you'd need to purchase tarps or rack covers to keep the wood dry. 

7.  Holds a lot of wood

An 8ft Cordwood Cover kit stacked five feet high holds two cords.  A typical 8 foot long, four feet high single stack pile of wood is only about 1/2 cord of firewood. 

8.  You have a place to put the odd shaped logs that are hard to stack in a traditional pile

The inside of the woodpile doesn't need to be stacked so you can throw in odd shaped logs if you have them.    You can also throw in short logs and kindling so they are available when you need them as you use your wood.

9.  Stability

If you build the stack properly, these woodpiles will not fall over like a traditional rectangular woodpile.   If your building a traditional rectangular woodpile, you will have to figure out a way to support the ends of the woodpile. With this style of wood stack, you don't have to worry about supporting the ends because there are none!

10.  Your friends will want to know how you did it

First Impressions: Farm to Table Restaurant and Cordwood Covers

An excellent local restaurant in town that specializes in farm to table cuisine uses a wood fired oven so they have a need to store split firewood for easy access.   In this case, the woodpile was placed adjacent to a door that accessed the kitchen.    It so happens the area that the woodpile was placed was next to the parking lot where customers parked.    After parking, the customer would walk past the woodpile on the way to the front door of the restaurant.    The restaurant burned approximately a cord a wood per week.  As a result, there was a lot of turn over of wood and efforts to keep the pile from being unsightly proved difficult.   Below is a picture of a typical pile after being "cleaned up".  Most of the time, it looked worse then this. 

As you can see, the pile was unsightly and didn't match the image and experience the restaurant worked hard to achieve.     Also notice the wood skids below the pile that were used to elevate the wood off of the pavement.   There was also no good way to fasten the tarps to the woodpile so a gust of wind would blow the tarp off the woodpile and expose the firewood to rain and snow.  

In an effort to "clean up" the unsightly pile, a holz hausen was constructed with the help of a Cordwood Cover kit.  The woodpile that resulted contained approximately 2.2 cords of firewood.    It was placed close to the access to the kitchen reducing the amount of walking to the pile when gathering firewood for the day.   Firewood could be quickly accessed using the buckle straps and refastened to secure the cover in place against the wind.  

Customers now walked past a woodpile that aligned with the image and decor of the restaurant.  Their first impression of the restaurant was no longer an unsightly pile of wood with a ugly tarp strewn over a half stacked pile of wood.   t was a wood pile that both the employees and the owner could be proud us.    First impressions matter!

Stacking a holz housen versus a standard woodpile

Let's compare the amount of wood that's actually stacked in a holz hausen versus a traditional woodpile.    Let's assume that you have two cords of split wood that you need to stack.   One cord of split firewood is 128 cubic feet. Assuming we are stacking two cords, that would be 256 cubic feet.  For argument sake, let's assume that a typical split log is 16" long.

Traditional woodpile

A traditional woodpile that stores one cord of wood would be 4ft deep x 8ft long and 4ft high.  You can learn more about it here.   To store two cords, the wood pile would need to be twice as long - 4ft x 16ft x 4ft high.     A 4ft wide pile, would be three rows of 16" long logs.   Since every piece that goes into the woodpile is stacked, 256 cubic feet of wood is individually stacked. 

Holz Hausen

Assuming we build a holz hausen at 8ft in diameter, a pile that is 4.5ft high with a 25 degree "roof" would contain two cords. 

When building a holz hausen, you only need to stack the outer perimeter of the woodpile. Since the holz hausen is 8ft wide, the inner diameter of the pile that is not stacked would be 5ft in diameter (8ft - 2 x 1.5ft = 5ft).   A 5ft diameter cylinder which is 4.5ft high is 88 cubic feet.  As mentioned above, two cords of wood contains 256 cubic feet.   If 88 cubic feet of the two cords is not stacked, this means that only 168 cubic feet are actually stacked.   The remaining 88 cubic feet is thrown on the inside of the stack and not placed in the woodpile.   

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To summarized the comparison of stacking two cords of firewood:

Traditional woodpile - 4ft deep x 16ft long x 4ft high = 256 cubic feet of stacked wood.

Holz Hausen - 8ft diameter x 4.5ft high with 25 degree "roof" = 168 cubic feet stacked wood

In summary, holz hausen woodpiles are easier and quicker to build because there is 34% less stacked wood when compared to a traditional woodpile.   Although you still need to handle the 88 cubic feet of wood, the advantage is that you can throw it inside the woodpile without walking over to place it on the stack.  This saves time because you can stand in your truck and throw it in, dump it in using your tractor, or stand next to your wheel burrow and toss it in.  This is also helpful when you have kindling scraps from splitting that you can toss inside the pile.   During the winter when your grabbing firewood to bring inside, you can grab a few pieces of kindling that you tossed in as well when you built it. 

 

Why your holz hausen needs a cover

If you read about Holz hausens on the internet or watch youtube videos on how to make them, they will describe how to add wood on the top to serve as shingles to shed off the rain.    This usually works pretty good if you do it right.   You need to make sure you layer them just like real shingles which is not easy to do.   This can be hard to do with real shingles so imagine how much harder it is to do with different sizes pieces of wood that don't sit flat.    Also, they talk about placing the wood on the top bark side up to further shed water.   This is also a great idea but for me by the time I'm putting the final touches on the top with my "shingles", a lot of times I don't have any wood with bark on it left.    Sure, you can leave the bark covered splits aside for the roof but it's hard to know how much you'll need.  If you don't estimate enough, you'll be short and the roof will look like a mix of wood and bark.   It's not a big deal but it is something to think about.   

The bigger issue is when you start to use the wood in the winter.    The first logs you remove are your roof!   At this point, all of your hard work if now exposed to winter snow and rain!  Who wants to collect wood for the fireplace that's coated in snow and ice!      If it's earlier in the season before the snow, you end up with leaves inside the pile that invites pest and makes a mess.  

Our cover eliminates this problem.  It had vents at the peak that maintain the normal convective drying that is one of the advantages of a holz hausen.       When its time to grab some wood for the wood stove or fireplace, just unbuckle one or two straps and lift the cover up.    When your done, snap the buckles together and your done.   No need to figure out how to tie the tarp down every time you touch it or throw logs on top of the tarp that later gets buried in the snow.  

 

 

 

How Cordwood Covers started

Over the years, I have experimented stacking wood in different ways. I have never had any special wood sheds or barns so I needed to keep our wood dry using tarps.  Over time, we started to enjoy building round wood piles called holz hausens.    We liked them because they solved some of the challenges we found with other methods.     On top of all that, they just looked cool.    

The only problem I’ve had with the round woodpiles was a way to keep the rain and snow off of them.   If you read about them, people often use flat logs on top to make a sort of shingle pattern roof to shed the rain and snow.     This sort of worked but was nowhere as good as a tarp.  Even worse, the minute you remove wood to start burning, your “roof” is gone.   Without the "shingles", rain soaks the firewood, in the fall leaves fell onto the pile and snow would build up on my wood.     I tried to use a tarp but it just didn’t work.   Besides ruining the cool look of the pile and making it look terrible,  the square shape would not sit over the pile properly.  The tarp would build up rain and snow in its folds because of its inability to form to the shape of the pile.   It was also difficult to tie down and remove when I needed wood.  

This is how Cordwood Covers was born.  I had some custom covers made for my piles which not only protected the woodpile from the elements, it was easy to use and still maintained the distinctive look of the round woodpile.   Later designs were updated to include a base mesh template and tie down straps to become the product that we sell today.  

I wanted to build something that would help people solve a problem.   I realized that not everyone has room or the money to build a woodshed.    The cover kit was a way to make it easier for people to build nice looking woodpiles that wouldn't be eye sores in their yard.   To this day, people always ask about the woodpiles when they stop by the house because they look so interesting.