There are few things in life more comforting on a chilly night than a roaring fire with aromatic wood. To make sure your fires burn brightly, pay attention to the type of wood you use.
Best Burning Woods for Your Fires
By Teresa O’Connor
Keep in mind these tips about the woods that burn best:
Seasoned Wood:The secret to a good fire, say the experts, is wood that has been seasoned for more than a year. In the case of oak, you’ll want to season the wood at least two years, sometimes longer. Much of the wood for sale now is actually green, and needs another year to season. Often this year’s wood is really intended for next year’s fires.
Seasoned wood burns better than green wood, because it produces more heat and less creosote build-up in the fireplace. Green or unseasoned wood, on the other hand, is hard to light and difficult to keep burning. If your wood smolders and burns poorly with little heat, it’s probably green wood. That’s because unseasoned wood has a lot of liquid inside. In fact, one fresh-cut cord of oak is said to have enough water to fill as much as six 55-gallon drums, according to mastersweep.com.
You can tell if a wood is seasoned by looking at it. On the outside, seasoned wood probably looks gray and dusty from sitting around for a while. But on the inside, it’s often dry and white, usually lighter than on the outside. New wood, on the other hand, looks like it came fresh from the lumber mill with the same color throughout the wood.
If you can’t get your hands on seasoned wood, then look for ash or fir. These woods will burn better than many while still rather green; although they all will burn best when seasoned.
Hardwood versus Softwood: For the serious fire lover, you may want to invest in hardwoods like madrone, live oak, ash, hickory, walnut and fruit trees like apple or cherry.
Hardwoods are denser woods that burn hotter and longer than softwoods, but you’ll need to let them season more than a year. (Ash is an exception, and can be burnt a bit earlier although the wood burns best when seasoned.) You’ll find that hardwood is more expensive to purchase than softwood like pine and fir. But the hardwood burns longer so you’ll need less wood.
If you just burn a fire every once in a while, try a seasoned softwood like fir. You’ll like how easy it is to get started and the smell is wonderful. But these softwoods won’t keep burning as long as hardwoods, and you’ll need to keep feeding the fire.
My friend, Dave Emberton, is a professional carpenter and furniture maker, who really knows his woods. He kindly allowed me to photograph his amazing hardwood collection. And from the looks of his woodpile, Dave should be all set for roaring fires for many years to come. When cutting wood for kindling or small logs, especially for campfires, my husband likes the convenience of the easy-to-carry Fiskars® X7 Hatchet, and how well it cuts without much effort. The hatchet comes with a sheath to protect the blade.
- Apple: Great for cooking, this wood burns slow when dry and has a fragrant scent.
- Ash: One of the best woods for a steady fire and good heat. Although ash will burn when green, it burns better when seasoned.
- Birch: This wood smells great, and has good heat but burns quickly. It will also burn unseasoned, but can cause gum deposits in chimneys over time. So, don’t use the green wood too often.
- Black thorn: Considered one of the best of the firewoods, because it burns well and doesn’t smoke much.
- Cherry: Season this wood well and you’ll have a slow burning wood that smells wonderful.
- Hawthorn: This wood will burn slowly and hot for your wintery fires.
- Maple: Found in different regions of the nation, this hardwood is a popular one.
- Oak: When very well seasoned, oak burns slowly and steadily for a long time.
- Pine: This softwood burns well and smells festive. Try it for kindling or for outdoor fires.
- Sycamore: You’ll be rewarded with a good flame and moderate heat if you season this wood well.
- Walnut: The hardwood burns long and hot with limited smoke. This one works well in wood-burning stoves.
- Yew: A pleasant smell comes from this slow-burning wood that gives off plenty of heat.