What The Holzhaufen!?!?

If you don’t know, don’t worry. Until the other day I didn’t know what a holzhaufen was either. As it turns out, in German, holzhaufen means “woodpile.” But the term holzhaufen has been taken a little bit further and has been associated with a certain method of piling wood. From what I have found, a holzhaufen in its modern definition is a cylinder shape stack of split wood with a pyramid on the top (see picture below). I thought this was too cool to not share because it not only seems to offer an alternative to the traditional wood stack but it dries quickly with a built-in visual indicator of when your firewood is ready to burn.

Picture Credit: Farmshow.com

So how the heck do you build one of these things?

The rough guidelines to construct a holzhaufen include:

1. Wood must be cut in lengths between 12 inches and  24 inches.

2. Wood must be split. Split wood not only dries faster, but also interlocks which is a requirement for sturdy holzhaufen construction. (Have some kindling size pieces available for filling in the gaps when needed.)

3. Build your holzhaufen on a level piece of ground. (Dry ground is recommended.)

4. Decide how high your stack will be (anywhere from 4 to 10 feet high) and drive a stake in the ground to the height, centered in the location of your holzhaufen. FYI – Don’t build the stack higher than you can reach to the top!

5. Determine the diameter of your stack (4 feet to 6 feet across) and start stacking your wood aligned with the outer perimeter. This will leave a space in the center around the stake. As the stack grows around the outer perimeter, fill the empty space in with wood stacked vertically to fill in the gaps. (It does not have to be a real tight fit.) The key is to allow air to move up the stack like a chimney to allow the wood to dry quickly and effectively.

6. While stacking the wood keep an eye on how level the stack is. The idea is to maintain a slight inward lean after about the first third of the stack is built. This can be accomplished by setting the thinner end of the split wood on the inside of the stack. To avoid the stack getting out of balance, “cheater boards” (thinner pieces of split wood) can be placed perpendicular to the other boards on the inside or outside of the stack as needed to keep the stack from falling. (This can be seen in the picture below.)

7. Once you get to the top foot or two of your holzhaufen start the pyramid effect toward the center. When you do this, ensure that the wood used is placed bark side up to offer the highest level of protection to the wood stack below from the elements.

8. Now that you have a completed holzhaufen, sit back and wait for your wood to season. Once the stack has settled about 20 to 25 percent it should be good and ready for the fire. A simple way to know when the wood is ready would be to make an indicator mark at about the 25% point on the center pole when you are building your holzhaufen.

Advantages of the holzhaufen:

  • One holzhaufen can contain as much as two and a half cords.
  • Includes a visual indicator of approximately how dry the wood is.
  • A 6 foot diameter and 10 foot high holzhaufen can be constructed in just one hour.
  • Drying time is shortened compared to other stacking methods due to the chimney effect of the holzhaufen.
  • The small footprint of the holzhaufen compared to other wood stacking methods results in less wood rot and bug infestation because of less wood being in contact with the ground.

*Fancy Homesteader Trick – If you would like to offer even more protection to your holzhaufen from the elements, you can place a patio table umbrella down the middle of the stack to keep it dry. A few words of warning with this method…it might be a good idea to find a way to anchor the umbrella if you do this, you may end up with a smaller holzhaufen this way, and it is also unlikely that you will any longer be able to sit outside and enjoy lemonade under your patio table umbrella when there is a huge stack of wood underneath it!

Sources: Farmshow.com, Mother Earth News, The Morning Call

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