Best Firewood to Burn

If you have some experience with burning firewood, you already know that every wood burns differently. Wood density and moisture level are the two key factors that influence the efficiency, hotness, and longevity of burning wood. 

The finest woods burn efficiently and completely to leave your fireplace and stove clean and mess-free. There’s another kind that just doesn’t burn, fills your place with smoke, and causes great havoc. 

To avoid such disasters, you must pick the best wood to burn in your fireplace. Here, we will talk about some of the best tree species that provide top-quality firewood so that you can ensure efficiency as well as safety. Let’s not waste much time and dive right in. 

Hardwood vs Softwood: Which Firewood Burns Better? 

We can divide the firewood largely into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Both types have their unique burning properties, which make them suitable for different usage. 

Let’s have a look at some of the most popular hardwood and softwood firewood to find out which type is more suitable for your needs. 

Hardwood Firewood 

As hardwood comes from slow-growing deciduous trees, this type of wood is comparatively denser. The density of the wood decides the energy output of the firewood. 

Denser hardwood has higher energy contents which produce greater heat and less flame. Moreover, they will provide a steadier and longer burn time. Hardwood has the lowest sap and pitch, which makes it easier to burn with the least amount of energy loss. 

However, you might have a hard time lighting up the hardwood properly. Due to the high density of the hardwood, it takes more time to be seasoned. Hardwood is also pretty expensive, especially in the western areas of the US. It’s also difficult to clean up the stony coal bed left by the hardwood. 

Despite its drawbacks, hardwood is the first choice of most people to burn in their wood stoves and fireplaces. Here are some popular types of hardwood with the highest heat value:

Oak 

Since there are plenty of oak trees all around the United States, this is the most popular firewood among the natives. Oakwood has a density of 37-56 lbs./ft.3, which is high enough to keep your place warm for the whole night. This hardwood is known for its slow burns and clean residues. 

Each cord of oakwood produces 24-28 million BTUs – making the burns hotter than most other types of firewood. One drawback of the wood is that it takes almost 2 years to be completely dried. Apart from that, oak is the ideal firewood to burn. 

Hickory 

Hickory is another high-quality firewood that has an impressive heat production of 28.5 million BTUs for each cord. It is also one of the brightest and longest burning woods that usually burns for more than four hours. 

The wood leaves thick hot coal to fill your room with warmth till the morning. With its 37-58 lbs./ft.3 dense logs, the wood will burn clean and create the least amount of smoke. 

Birch 

This native hardwood has two excellent features that make it many people’s first choice. Despite being a hardwood, it takes a surprisingly short time to be completely dried out. Also, some types of birch wood can be used without seasoning. 

The wood produces 20.8 million BTUs per cord, which is enough even for the coldest nights. Moreover, birch is considered the best smelling firewood by many people. It has a subtle and sweet aroma that will elevate your mood instantly. 

Softwood Firewood 

Typically, softwood is lighter and less dense than hardwood. Because of the low density, it takes only 6 to 12 months to season softwood. Moreover, softwood is cheaper to buy and easier to kindle. It burns quickly and produces a hotter flame. 

Softwood is perfect as scrap for lighting up the fire, and so you can mix them with your hardwood stack to have better control over the fire you’re burning. During the spring or fall, softwood can be valuable as it produces less intense heat. 

Remember that the excessive use of softwood can build up creosote inside your chimney and cause a fire. 

Here are some of the most popular softwood firewood:

Cedar 

As every cord of cedarwood produces 12-13 million BTUs heat, the wood is most suitable for the initial days of winter. Cedarwood creates less flame and more heat that lasts longer than other softwood. 

It also has a pleasant smell that fills up your living spaces or campsites. Keep in mind that cedar is one of the most expensive softwoods. 

Larch 

Larch is considered the hardest softwood, and it has many of the properties of most hardwoods. As the wood is denser, it provides a long-lasting burn time. It creates hotter flames with less smoke. The wood also has an impressive 21.8 million BTUs heat production for each cord. 

Pine 

Pinewoods come from a wide variety of pine trees, each of which has its unique burning properties. Most pinewoods produce 15-21 million BTUs per cord. You can light up this softwood quickly and use it to fuel a campsite fire. Pinewood is easily attainable and comes at very affordable prices. 

Which Firewood Burns the Hottest? 

The heat production is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. The higher the BTU value, the more heat the wood will produce. 

Hickory and Oak are among the hottest firewood with high BTU values. Both the woods produce the highest heat and burn the longest. Forestry experts of Utah State University have ranked the most common firewood according to their BTUs value. Here are the wood density and heat values of some selected firewood:

Type of Wood Density (lbs/ft3) Heat Production (million BTUs/cord) 
Hickory 37-58 28 
Oak 37-56 28 
Birch 42 21
Cherry 43-56 20 
Ash 40-53 24 
Maple 39-47 20 
Cedar 23 12
Larch 31-35 22

Conclusion 

Well, now you know which is the best firewood to burn this winter. High-quality firewood is a must for ensuring optimal heat and safety. Woods with high density and heat values are most suitable for both indoor and outdoor usage. 

Between the two main types, hardwood will provide you with the longest burning sessions and the highest heat, whereas softwood will instantly light up and burn with hotter flames. Try to stack both hardwood and softwood to fill those chilly nights with warmth and comfort. 


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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performs logging services for the forestry industry. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help.