Best Wood For Firewood: Hardwood or Softwood

Burning Wood

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Best Wood For Firewood:  Hardwood or Softwood

I get a lot of questions about the best type of wood to burn.  There are many studies that have been done to determine the answer to this question.  So I did a little research and basically averaged out all the ratings and metrics that have been created, to make it easier for you to decide.  Of course, I will point out the types of woods I like to burn here in New England, and as always, I ask the advice of my dad, Carl, who is a wanna-be mountain man and has been burning wood for heat for as long as I can remember!

Burning Wood

You may be surprised to learn that all wood, regardless of species, is about the same.  The difference in species is mainly in their density.  Because of this not all firewood is created equally for burning.  Also, there are some other characteristics that influence firewood choice – like spark output, smoke output, burn-ability, and split-ability.  Thankfully there are many wood types that are perfectly suited for fireplace or wood stove burning, and it really comes down to your own preference. (Take a look at the graphs below this post and decide for yourself)

Generally speaking, hardwoods make better firewood than softwoods. Hardwoods have the highest BTU ( British Thermal Units).  So what does this mean?  Hardwoods deliver a great amount of steady heat and are long-burning.  Different types of wood will be available in different parts of the country, so find the best wood accessible to you.  My personal favorites here New England include Oak, Ash, Beech, Hard Maple, Dogwood, Hickory, Cherry, and Apple.  Apple has an amazing Fragrant, but obviously, you would be lucky to come across a much of it, unless you live close to Apple farms.

However, don’t totally discount softwoods.  They serve as fire starters since they ignite and burn quickly; leaving a bed embers for the hardwoods. Softwoods are also useful to burn in the Spring and Fall when you don’t want as much heat output in your home.  New England softwoods include those like Pine, White Spruce, Cedars, and Douglas Fir.  I like to use Pine for my kindling.  It contains natural sap that makes it a great fire starter.  Much better than any non-environmentally friendly chemicals and starters out there!  Pine also grows in abundance.

I find that a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods will create the easiest and best fire.  After you have your fire started with kindling, start adding in your hardwoods- small amounts at regular intervals.  Efficient combustion results from burning small loads of woods with sufficient air space.  I also like to throw a few pieces of aromatic pieces (like cedar, fir, apple) in with my other firewood.

It is important to ask your supplier what types of wood they have and where their source comes from.  Makes sure the supply doesn’t include endangered species and that it is not transported past state lines.  No matter the type of wood chosen remember to only burn seasoned wood.  Keep in mind that you get what you pay for-and that hardwoods are generally more expensive than softwoods.

Would love to hear about your favorite species.

Best overall Rankings

Best Firewood

 

Best Heat output (BTUs/ A Cord Of Wood)

Best Firewood

Highest Dry Weight / A Cord Of Wood – Indicative of Density and Heat Output

Firewood Weight

 

Best Fragrance

Best Fragrance

Splitability (is that a word?) – If You Split Your Own Wood

Firewood Splitability

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1 review

  1. Jon, November 18, 2014 11:42 am - Best Wood For Firewood: Hardwood or Softwood

    Where did you get your data?

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