White oak is excellent firewood with high heat production, fast seasoning time, and low smoke generation. It has a high-density wood that makes it burn slowly and forms great cooking coals.
You may have heard of heating your home with oak firewood. White oak firewood, in particular, may have come highly recommended. Oak is a highly versatile wood that can also be used for furniture making, flooring, timber, and more.
Table of Contents
- BTU: 29.1 million BTU/cord
- Weight: 4,200 lbs dry wood
- Smoke: Low
- Smell: Pleasant/slight smell
- Splitting Difficulty: Medium
- Seasoning Time: 12 Months
Oak is a premium hardwood that is a favorite among homeowners. When determining their quality, you’ll see many other hardwoods compared to oak firewood. This is because oak is one of the most popular firewoods in the United States.
White oak firewood, in particular, is more sought after than other oaks, such as red oak. White oak grows the slowest of the oak tree varieties, which leads it to have the densest grain. This allows it to burn the slowest and have a high BTU.
White oak produces 29.1 million BTUs per cord. This is a high output of heat compared to other hardwoods.
Because white oak is so dense, it will burn for a long time and produce high heat.
One of the most favorite characteristics of oak firewood is the production of excellent coals. Oak coals stay hot for a very long time, producing little ash.
Coals help the fire stay longer-lasting, keep the fire warm overnight, and allow for easy start-ups if the fire dies down. You can take the coals of an oak fire and use them in your grill or water smoker instead of buying bagged charcoal.
One cord of oak is similar to:
- 179 gallons of heating oil
- 272 gallons of propane
- 23,963 cubic feet of natural gas
- 7,283 kilowatt-hours of electricity
When properly seasoned, oak produces a low amount of smoke. This makes oak ideal for burning indoors in a fireplace or woodstove.
While you should always use a screen or glass doors when burning inside, firewood that produces fewer sparks is safer. Wood that sparks heavily can create significant fire hazards.
Thankfully, oak firewood produces very few sparks.
Seasoned wood has less than 20 percent moisture content. Firewood with a higher moisture content than 20 percent is harder to light and frustrating to burn. It also produces more smoke and creosotes buildup.
It is recommended to season white oak for 1-2 years. White oak is very dense, so moisture will take quite a while to leave the wood. Some even say three years are needed to properly season white oak in northern areas.
White oak is incredible in that it does not allow moisture back into the wood if it sits on the ground for a bit. So even if you have a felled white oak tree that is a few years old, it may still be able to season well without any rot.
If your oak wood is not seasoned, it will create a lot of smoke and hiss, sizzle, and burn out quickly.
Fresh-cut oak has somewhat of a bad smell, but once seasoned, it has a delightful aroma while burning.
The smell of white oak is described as pleasant, sweet like vanilla, and a mild version of hickory. Many describe the scent of whisky because whisky barrels are made from white oak.
Many favor the smell of white oak as their favorite because it is milder than hickory or pecan but still strong enough to leave the house smelling pleasant.
Oak does have an after smell that can be a bit sour, like vinegar, which is why oak is not used for smoking meats or other food.
Creosote is a dark brown tar deposited from wood smoke that can build up on the insides of your chimney walls. It contains tiny unburned particles of wood and sap found in smoke.
Creosote can be extremely dangerous because of how flammable creosote is and will quickly start a chimney fire. Firewood with higher levels of sap will create more creosote.
Oak trees have very low sap and moisture contents, which means they will burn clean and produce minimum amounts of creosote when appropriately seasoned.
Keep in mind that even though the moisture is low, unseasoned oak will still produce large amounts of smoke, sparking, and creosote buildup.
White oak is the most difficult to split out of the different varieties. The wood tends to be stringy and is moderately hard to split by hand. IT is easier to split oak wood when it is green and freshly felled. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to split. The maul will only make dents if you try to split fully dried oak.
Waiting for freezing temperatures may help to ease splitting white oak. Or, using a hydraulic splitter may be the only way to go, especially if the wood has many knots.
Different Species of Oak
There are over 400 species of oak trees worldwide. They are native to the northern hemisphere and span from Asia to the Americas. Oak trees can live for hundreds of years and grow large and wide.
Identifying an oak tree is relatively easy because of its distinct leaves. Oak leaves are spirally arranged and have pointed or rounded lobes.
Acorns are another distinct characteristic of oak trees. Acorns are produced in the Fall and can be found scattered around the tree’s base. Oak trees are incredible habitats for wildlife because of their sprawling branches and acorns for food. Oak trees will house many animals such as squirrels, deer, chipmunks, crows, wild turkeys, quail, and rabbits.
The bark of oak trees is gray and scaly with large vertical furrows. Oaktree variants often get their name from the color of their bark or wood after being cut.
Take a look at these 17 common oaks found in North America:
- Located in the Eastern half of the United States
- Tolerant of poor soil conditions
- The bark is near black
- Grow to be 50-110 ft tall
- One of the most drought-resistant oaks
- Found from Saskatchewan, Canada, to Montana and Texas
- They are very shrub-like but can grow to be 80 ft tall
Cherry bark Oak
- Grow to be 100 ft tall
- Found from Maryland to Texas and from Illinois to Florida
- Grows shiny dark leaves
- Found in rocky, upland forests
- Prefer dry soil
- Found from Ontario and Louisiana to Georgia and Maine
- Grow to be 65-145 ft tall
- Leaves are narrow blades
- Reach 100 ft tall
- Found in the South
- Found in sandy soil, often with Spanish moss growing on them
- Can live for hundreds of years
- Grow to be 40-80 ft tall and extremely wide from 60-100 ft
Northern Red Oak
- Grow from 70-150 feet tall
- Thrive in Maine and Michigan to Mississippi
- Slow growing
- Reach 80 ft tall
- Live in poorly drained lowlands along the Southern coast
- Pink inner bark
- Grow 60-130 ft tall
- Downward sloping lower branches
- Grow 50-100 ft tall
- Found in the Deep South and from Texas to New Jersey
- Prefer sandy soil
- Shorter tree, growing to 40-50 ft tall
- Drought tolerant
- Grow to be 150 ft tall
- Grow near streams and rivers
- Found from Ontario to Florida to Nebraska and Texas
Southern Red Oak/Spanish Oak
- Found from New Jersey to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas
- Grow to be 70-100 ft tall
- Prefer sandy soil
Swamp Chestnut Oak
- Grow in well-draining floodplains
- Found from Illinois to New Jersey and Florida to Texas
- Leaves are broad, round, and serrated
- Found in the Deep South
- Rapid growing
- Can reach 100 ft tall
- Leaves are shaped like neckties
- Located in the eastern half of North America
- They can be hundreds of years old
- Grow to be 60 to 150 feet tall
- Unusual leaf shape, which looks more like bamboo or willow leaves.
- Found in the Deep South
- Grow to be 140 feet tall
- Found by rivers
White Oak versus Red Oak Firewood
Red oak is the second most popular oak species to use as firewood. White oak is superior in many ways, but both are incredible firewood choices.
White oak burns cleaner, hotter, and longer. White oak is also non-porous, which means it will not seep up water, which red oak will. White oak produces less smoke and has a better smell.
However, with all that said, red oak is still premium firewood performing wonderfully. Red oak also splits much more effortlessly than white oak, making it a favorite for some.
Red oak is also more readily available in some areas of the United States and is, therefore, cheaper and more sustainable to use in those regions.
Comparison to Other Woods
|Ease of Splitting
White oak is not the only variety of oak that is used for firewood. Here, you can see each oak variety is similar in characteristics, and all have an overall excellent quality rating.
|Ease of Splitting
Overall, oak is a great wood to burn compared to other hardwoods. It produces little smoke and minimal sparks, along with a great smell. It has long-lasting coals and creates an incredible amount of heat. Its also readily available throughout most of the United States.
Can you burn white oak firewood in a firepit?
Yes, but many would tell you to save it for your fireplace or woodstove! If you burn white oak in your firepit, be prepared for a long campfire that lasts for hours
Is white oak firewood safe to burn in a fireplace or woodstove?
Yes, white oak is ideal for burning in a fireplace or wood stove.
How much does white oak firewood cost to buy?
Oak firewood, on average, will cost around $180-$600, depending on where you live and the availability of oak. On average, the cost will be about $300-$450. California and Texas have the highest prices for oak firewood because of low availability. You may not be able to choose exclusively white oak firewood. It may be a mix of both red and white, or just read.
Oak firewood is readily available in most of North America and is one of the most favored firewoods for a good reason.
Oak delivers a tremendous amount of heat, burns for a long time, and produces high-quality coals. It smells good while it burns and produces few sparks.
White oak in particular, is premium quality firewood, making the most efficient fires.
Overall, if you have white oak firewood available to you, take advantage of it and enjoy an outstanding, warming fire all winter long.