The Holz Hausen firewood stack is a method used in Europe that is becoming popular in the United States.
In Germany, they might refer to it as a Holzmiete. In the United States it is also known as a round house, a beehive stack, or “stacking in the round.”
The Holz Hausen is reportedly better than the traditional stack for the following reasons:
- Better drying. The firewood dries faster than in a traditional stack
- More secure. The Holz Hausen stack is structurally more secure and stable
- Space saving. For a given stacking space, one can fit more wood with the Holz Hausen
- Looks great. It looks a lot better
In this article, we will build a Holz Hausen firewood stack and then analyze these claims. But before that, let’s analyze the traditional firewood stack.
Traditional Firewood Stack
The traditional firewood stack that I’ve used for over a decade is a double row structure, about four feet wide, by eight feet long, by four feet tall. All of the logs are placed in the same direction except for the ends which are crisscrossed.
The crisscrossed ends help to keep the stack from falling down at the sides.
Traditional Firewood Stack (source: www.ohio-nature.com)
This stack above is pretty much what my stacks have looked like over the years, except that I recommend slanting the crisscrossed ends inward towards the stack. Otherwise, the end columns can wobble and sometimes topple over, leaving the structure of the stack very weak.
Angle the end columns inward, sort of like in this bad drawing:
Most people recommend covering the traditional firewood stack with a tarp or piece of plywood. The flat top of the stack makes this easy to do.
I recommend placing a cover on the top only and not down around the sides.
Some people try to gift wrap their firewood stack with a tarp to keep out all of the snow and rain, but this does not allow moisture to escape.
The goal is to dry the firewood, and wrapping it up tight will not do this (unless the wood is already fully dried. In that case, you probably would want to gift wrap it)
Pros and Cons of the Traditional Firewood Stack
Pros: Easy to build and does a good job of drying the wood
The traditional firewood stack is easy to make and it accommodates different sizes and shapes of wood. Basically you can just throw a log onto the stack, line it up, and keep going.
The ends take a little more care to build as mentioned, but nevertheless, this type of stack can be built in about 20 minutes.
The traditional firewood stack dries the wood just fine if one follows the oft quoted rule of thumb when stacking, to position the logs loose enough that a mouse can run through but tight enough so the cat cannot follow. Doing this allows airflow to get in and dry the wood.
Cons: Falls down and can look sloppy
The traditional stacking method tends to look a little junky if you do not put extra time into it, and as you unstack the wood to burn it, it tends to look even worse and usually falls down somewhere along the way.
How to Build a Holz Hausen Firewood Stack
In addition to the below step by step instructions, we created this short video as an overview
First, figure out where to build the Holz Hausen. Like any stacking method, it is better to build it up off of the bare ground if you can.
We constructed ours on a brick patio which should prevent it from settling, and keep moisture from wicking up the stack.
Next, decide the diameter of the Holz Hausen. The ideal diameter seems to be about 8 feet, but if you do not have that much wood or space, it can be smaller.
Ours is going to be 7 feet, so we measured out a tape to 3.5 feet for the radius.
Lock the tape measure at that length and spin it in a circle to give you an idea of the amount of space you will need.
Then, clear away all of the debris and move any firewood back a few feet. Allow plenty of room all the way around because you will be doing a lot of walking around it.
The first step in construction is to make the Ring Base. Line a ring of logs, end to end all the way around the perimeter.
To do this, I placed the base of my tape measure at the center point and locked it out at 3.5 feet. I then put the first log at the end of the tape and slowly rotated the tape in a circle while placing each additional log. Do that all the way around.
Once the ring is complete, spin the tape a few more times around and make minor adjustments to get the circle as perfect as possible.
It is important that the ring base be a true circle to get the best structural integrity.
Once satisfied with the base, It is time to build it up.
Place something in the center of the ring to serve as a guide (I used a glove). Stand on the outside of the ring and stack the first log on top of the ring base, pointing toward the center.
One edge of the log should hang about 2 inches over the outside of the base, and the other edge should point directly at the center of the pile, in this case, the glove.
Since the outside edge of the log is propped up on the base, it should be sloping downward toward the center of the structure.
Continue all the way around the ring adding logs until the first row of the wall is completed.
Continue building the wall by placing a second row on top of the first.
Remember, to get the best structural integrity, the logs should always be sloping towards the center so that the pressure to collapse is inward. To help do this, always place the fatter part of the log toward the outside.
Eventually, we will fill the center with logs, and the whole structure will be stable.
Continue to build up the wall, and when it is about 2 feet high, fill the center with wood.
This is the easy part–just toss them in, being careful not to damage the wall.
For the center, I used all of the smaller, unsplit round logs and also the oddly shaped pieces that were not good for stacking. I like that this stack has a place to toss all of the funky pieces that I never used to know what to do with.
Once the center is filled, go back to building up the wall.
When it is a couple of feet higher, fill in the center again and work in this manner until the height of the structure is where you want it.
As the structure gets higher, the perimeter should get slightly smaller and smaller since you are building an inward sloping circular wall.
It will start to resemble a beehive shape which is why some refer to it as a beehive stack.
If you kept building higher and higher, eventually the structure would close itself completely, but you probably do not want to build it that high, unless you want to get out a ladder, so when you get to the point that the structure is tall enough, fill up the middle up, and the Holz Hausen is almost completed.
Build a roof?
The next step is to decide how you want to cap the Holz Hausen.
The traditional method involves placing logs in a thatched roof style so that rainwater channels off and away from the center of the pile.
A tarp could also be used, or wide flat boards. There are many options at this final stage.
Look at this amazing image from www.holzmiete.de.
I was considering attempting something of this nature, so I built up the middle higher than the walls as shown.
My plan was to fashion some sort of a thatch top, or possibly use some pallet boards…but then we got our first snow in Ohio, and I decided to call it completed!
The final step is to run inside and shout “Holz Hausen!” “Holz Hausen!” to your wife in a bad German accent.
Tips on Building the Holz Hausen
One thing I learned while building the Holz Hausen is that is was best to load up a bundle of logs and deliver them to spots around the perimeter of the structure. I’d spend some time delivering a bunch of logs to the stack site, and then take a break and concentrate on stacking until the logs were depleted; then fill up the middle, and repeat.
Another suggestion is to pay more attention to the logs and positioning at the beginning of the build. Try to use logs that are pretty uniform in size at first. Later on, as the structure takes shape, you do not have to worry as much about the placement of each log, and you can work a lot faster.
Analysis of the claims that the Holz Hausen is the best method for stacking firewood
- Claim: I have read that the Holz Hausen is easier and faster to build
My Findings: A thousand times no! Look at the instructions–they are crazy, enough said.
- Claim: The firewood dries faster than in a traditional stack.
My Findings: I’ll have to report back later, but my gut tells me that this method dries firewood just as well as the traditional method, and no better. (update: It did a terrific job at drying the wood)
- Claim: Structurally more secure and stable
My Findings: Definitely! This stack is much more stable and safe for children and animals than any firewood stack I have ever built. I feel like I could hit it with my car, and it might not fall over. For this reason alone, it will probably become my preferred method going forward.
Update: It really was very secure the entire time as I burned through it during the winter. It never got any weaker
- Claim: You can fit more wood into a given space
My Findings: Yes, I believe this is true. Even though the round shape in my square patio is not efficient, you can stack as high as you want to, with no loss of structural integrity. The stack in these photos represents four standard pickup loads of unsplit wood (that I split later). If I would have stacked that same amount of wood the traditional way, I believe it would have taken up a lot more space.
- Claim: It looks a lot better
My Findings: You Betcha! My wood stack is my trophy for all of the time spent cutting, loading, hauling, hand splitting with a maul, etc.
As Henry Ford said, “Chop your own wood, and it will heat you twice.” Mine has heated me about five times already!
Conclusion: The Holz Housen is Awesome! (but it may take you all day to build one…)