Anyone who regularly uses a wood burning stove or fireplace knows that not all wood produces the same results. Certain wood produces more heat, other crackles nicely or produces less creosote build-up in your fireplace. So if you’re asking what is the best wood for a wood burning stove or fireplace, the answer is going to be different for everyone. To help you make this decision, here’s a guide on different types of firewood.
Hardwood or Softwood
You’ve probably heard of the term hardwood, but most likely in reference to floors. But what is the difference between hardwood and softwood firewood?
Hardwood is a more dense type of wood. It burns hotter and longer, so you’ll need lesser amounts to keep your house warm. However, it’s more expensive in comparison to softwood. And since it’s so dense, it’s harder to split the logs.
Hardwood trees: maple, oak, birch, ash, and fruit trees.
Softwood, on the other hand, is easy to split and is good for starting the fire. The negative, though, is that it creates creosote build-up. It’s also highly flammable and burns out very quickly. So it isn’t the best option for heating a home.
Softwood trees: pine, alder, balsam, and spruce.
Seasoned vs Unseasoned
When choosing firewood for warming up your home, your first pick should be seasoned wood. It produces the best results for the ideal fire with better burning and more heat. Seasoned means that it has gone through a process of drying, which can take between 6 months up to a year. Preferably over a year.
Freshly chopped wood has up to 50% of water content. Burning such wood will only result in a lot of smoke, which is a strong pollutant. Also, green wood doesn’t light easily and it’s difficult to keep it burning.
You can tell the difference between the two just with a simple inspection. Seasoned wood will look white and dry on the inside. It will also usually have darkened ends with visible splits. Seasoned wood is also relatively lightweight and it’s less aromatic than green wood.
Freshly cut wood, on the other hand, will look like it just came out of the lumber mill and will generally have the same color of the exposed surface.
What To Look For When Buying Firewood?
There’re three main heating values that you should look for when choosing the best firewood for your wood burning stove or fireplace. They’re the following:
- Density. The denser the firewood, the more heat per volume it can produce.
- BTUs. This value shows the amount of heat you can get per unit of wood.
- Coaling quality. If the firewood forms coals after burning, the fire will burn longer.
Top 3 Hardwoods
This tree gives the nicest burning firewood. It might take longer to dry it in comparison to other types of firewood. Usually, at least a year. But once it’s properly dried, it will burn slowly and produce an ample amount of heat. The only downside is that it’s difficult to ignite oak, so you might have to find some other type of wood to use as kindling to start the fire.
Another great choice is birch firewood. When seasoned, it will burn well and provide medium to high heat. It also readily ignites and when burning looks really nice in the fireplace. But keep in mind that it can come at a cost, as it burns very quickly.
Maple is another hardwood, so it is also more dense and durable. This equates to better and hotter burning. Due to its density and heaviness, it also burns very slowly, even slower than other good hardwoods, such as oak and hickory. However, the blaze might not be as hot.