What Are the Different Types of Firewood That Exist Today?
Chestnut, Alder, Eucalyptus, Hickory, Walnut, Poplar, Cedar, Pine, Ironwood, Cherry, Elm, Birch, Ash, Maple, and Oak are Different Types of Firewood.
According to the 2018 census, almost 2% of American households still use firewood as their main source of heat. In some countries, the percentage is much higher.
The steady hum of an HVAC system simply can’t compare with the charm and ambiance of a wood fireplace, and a gas cooker is a poor substitute for a roaring campfire out in the wild.
Whatever your reasons for enjoying firepower above other types of heating, it’s vital to source the best firewood before you light up. Unsuitable wood and poor fire-making procedures can create health and safety risks.
Here’s your guide to the different types of firewood and how to use them to best effect.
How To Build Better Fires
Every great fire starts with a good chimney. The best chimney rises at least two feet from the roof, is free of birds and debris, and allows free airflow through the damper.
Always check your chimney inside and out before lighting a fire. Otherwise, you risk flooding your house with dangerous smoke.
Firewood is your next biggest concern when it comes to fire-making. You don’t want your fire fizzling out too early, or taking forever to get going.
Using inferior logs is a waste of money, and knowing which wood to use can save you a lot of disappointment and cash over the winter season.
There are two main types of firewood available, namely hardwood and softwood. Despite these names, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to the softness and hardness of these wood types.
Comparing Hardwood and Softwood
Hardwood floors are a delight for every homeowner. That’s because this type of wood has a dense, durable structure, as well as aesthetic appeal.
These slow-growing trees produce logs that burn a lot longer and hotter than softwood does.
Softwood trees grow quickly, resulting in an abundant supply and low prices. It’s easy to start a fire using this affordable firewood, but it won’t burn as long as hardwood does.
Seasoned vs Unseasoned Wood
The terms, ‘unseasoned’ or ‘green’ refer to freshly cut firewood. This wood is still full of moisture, and it can deposit residues in your fireplace, creating a fire risk.
It’s okay to use greenwood for outside fires.
Seasoned wood stays outside for up to three years to dry out and manufacturers sell it to the public only once most of the moisture has evaporated.
Kiln-drying helps speed up the wood seasoning process by baking the logs in a very hot oven, called a kiln. Using kiln drying, manufacturers can get logs, like these kiln dried birch logs, down to a moisture content of 20% in about 10 hours.
You’ll never find any insects or mold on kiln-dried wood, so it’s considered a superior choice in firewood. It has a gray color, with darkened ends, and visible splits and cracks.
When you strike two pieces of seasoned firewood together, you’ll hear a distinctive ‘clink’.
Avoid These Types of Wood
Apart from greenwood, driftwood, painted and treated wood are a no-no when it comes to making a fire. They will give off noxious fumes when you burn them.
It’s always best to buy local firewood from a reputable supplier for home use. Transporting heavy loads of wood over long distances creates unnecessary carbon emissions.
In some cases, it’s illegal to move firewood from one state to another, since invasive pests and diseases can spread this way.
There are many different types of firewood to choose from, you don’t need to take chances when it comes to finding the ideal wood for your fire-making needs.
Popular Types of Firewood
Not all the Earth’s 60,000 species of trees work well for firewood. These are some of the most commonly used trees when it comes to making fires for cooking or warmth.
In the USA, oak tops the list of popular firewood. It’s a hardwood species that grows abundantly on the continent, but it must season for as long as two years before use.
When it’s prepared correctly, oak wood emits a wonderful fragrance, creates very little smoke, and produces hardly any sparks. It’s also easy to split oak wood, which makes it ideal for wood-burning stoves.
Improperly seasoned oak wood won’t burn as hot or long as you’d like.
Another top choice for wood-burning stoves, maple burns slowly at high heat. It creates incredible coals, rarely causes sparks, and smells pleasant while it’s burning.
There are five species of this abundant tree used in fire-making, namely:
- Bigleaf Maple
- Black Maple
- Red Maple
- Silver Maple
These all work equally well when it comes to making a fire, and silver maple is the most abundant of them all.
Ash thrives in the central and eastern states, and there’s a good supply of it available for sustainable harvesting. That’s because the emerald ash borer has decimated trees across the country.
It’s easy to split ash wood and although it takes a while to get going, it burns with a constant, steady glow, and emits good heat. Ash doesn’t smell like much at all while it’s burning.
Ash is naturally low in moisture, so it undergoes only a short seasoning process before it’s ready to use.
There are eleven species of birch, but yellow and black birchwoods are best for fire-making. The dense fibers of these woods create long-burning, hot fires with a pleasant aroma.
Yellow birch emits a fresh wintergreen fragrance, while black birch smells sweet.
Birchwood must undergo at least two years of seasoning before it’s ready, so it’s a popular choice for kiln-drying.
Don’t use white birch for fire making, it doesn’t season well, although you can use the bark to help you get your fire started since it lights in any weather conditions.
Elm trees have been around for over 20 million years. They originated in Asia but soon made their way across the Northern Hemisphere. Today, there are still over 30 species of elm trees on Earth.
Elm is a hardy species, and this durability makes it hard to split. It also has very high moisture content and a long seasoning time.
Most homeowners rate elm as an average type of firewood.
Cherry trees are common, versatile trees popular in gardens and for making furniture. The wood exudes a wonderful aroma when you burn it, creates few sparks or smoke, and produces excellent coals.
Although cherry wood doesn’t burn with intense heat, it’s a quick-seasoning wood and is usually ready within a year of harvesting.
If you can get your hands on some cheap unseasoned cherry wood, you can place it on racks and let it season in time for next winter.
Ironwood doesn’t come from a single type of tree. The term refers to wood from a few species of hardwood trees like Musclewood, Blue Beach, American Hophornbeam, and Eastern Hophornbeam.
These species are all short in stature with very dense wood, so it’s easy to find manageable size logs when you buy this firewood. Due to the extremely hard nature of ironwood, it’s best to burn it along with better firewood species like maple or oak.
This cheap, abundant softwood burns very quickly and is best suited to use as kindling. It’s a resinous wood and known for giving off dangerous residues at times.
Pine shines when used in an outdoor fireplace or a wood furnace. It can sometimes give off a lot of sparks, so use it with caution.
Cedar is best known for its enigmatic, pleasant smell. That makes it a good choice if you’re cooking meat or fish over an open fire.
The wood smoke infuses your food with a delicious flavor, and salmon cooked on a cedar plank is a classic fireside meal.
Cedar is a softwood and splits easily. It doesn’t take long to dry out, but you shouldn’t use it indoors, since it burns out quickly.
You must store cedar logs off the ground since they can absorb moisture from the soil.
It takes a great deal of effort to make a fire from poplar wood. It burns very fast, has a bitter smell, and creates plenty of sparks. There are five common types of poplar:
- Black poplar
- Balsam poplar
- Lombardy poplar
- Eastern poplar
- White poplar
All of these species have a soft, flexible texture and burn hot and fast. Poplar is fine for a quick fireside gathering or an early night while out camping, but you’ll find much better firewood options available.
Walnut trees are good for more than nuts. They’re a good choice when it comes to firewood too.
These logs split easily, create few sparks, and result in good coals. It burns with an inoffensive aroma.
It’s popular in the furniture industry and grows very slowly.
So, you might experience difficulty getting your hands on this type of wood. The black wood species of walnut is most commonly used for firewood, and it’s worth trying it out if you can find any for sale.
Blackwood is a medium-density wood, that burns easily, creating minimal smoke. In the realm of softwoods, it’s far superior to fir or pine trees.
Like cedar, hickory infuses food with a delicious flavor and is a popular choice for smoking meats. You’ll get almost the same effect when you cook meat over an open fire made with hickory firewood.
Hickory is a straight-grained, dense, and heavy wood that burns for a long time at high heat. These same qualities mean that it’s challenging to split hickory wood. You’ll need a good manual splitter or hydraulic splitter to stock your woodpile with hickory logs.
When it comes to fire-making, eucalyptus wood is comparable to oak. It’s another hard, dense wood, and you’ll have quite a workout splitting it.
You can expect rewards in the form of intense, hot flames that last a long time. Due to the high heat generated by this type of wood, it’s not a good choice for wood-burning stoves.
It’s best for hosting an all-night bonfire, so if you’ve got a pile of this wood to burn, invite some friends around and settle in for some campfire stories.
This fast-growing type of birch tree is commonly used for creating charcoal. It’s also a good choice for firewood since it burns fast and creates a very hot fire with a sweet, pleasant smell.
Alder works best in combination with other dense hardwoods like maple, beech, or oak for fire-making.
It’s fast-growing species, making it a sustainable choice for eco-friendly homeowners, and it works well both indoors and out.
American chestnut is the best choice when it comes to chestnut firewood. You can split this type of chestnut wood easily, it’s lightweight, and it has an excellent fragrance when alight.
Unfortunately, American chestnut trees are rare these days, so it’s difficult to come across this type of wood for home use.
English, Chinese, and Horse chestnut trees aren’t suitable for fire-making.
Some people claim that Chinese chestnut smells like rotting meat when it burns, and English chestnut doesn’t burn well.
Horse chestnut isn’t a true chestnut tree, it’s a hardwood species. This wood seldom seasons well and reminds people of the smell of horse manure when it burns.
Make Better Lifestyle Decisions
In short, you should choose your types of firewood based on how long it’s seasoned for as well as your needs. These factors include how long you want to stay warm and whether you’re making a fire indoors or out.
Avoid unseasoned wood as it holds a fire risk, never leave a fire unattended, and always keep a lookout for wayward sparks.
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