best firewood to burn

What is the Best Firewood to Burn?

best firewood to burn
The best firewood to burn will depend on what you are trying to accomplish.

I often hear people ask, “what is the best firewood to burn”? There are differences between the way different types of wood burn, especially between dense hardwoods and less dense woods like softwoods.

There are also types of wood that will produce more ash than others or more creosote build-up.

Which type of wood is the best burning wood will depend on what you want to get out of  burning it. Someone who wants wood for a campfire may want something different than someone who wants to heat their home with a wood stove.

The biggest thing that determines how wood burns is its density. More dense woods, like dense hardwoods, burn slower and have more total energy. That is because there is more actual wood fiber to burn than in the same volume of less dense woods. These types of wood produce more glowing coals and give a lot of radiant heat over a long period of time. This makes them very popular for wood stoves and home heating. Examples of these types of wood include oak, hickory, locust, madrone, maple, walnut and many fruit woods.

Less dense woods like softwood and the softer hardwoods have less wood fiber in them than hardwood. Because of this they tend to burn faster and put out less total heat. But they are easier to ignite and tend to burn with fewer coals and more flames. This can make softwood a good choice for kindling and starting fires. It is also good where you would want larger flames like maybe a campfire or a fireplace. Many softwoods are more likely to crackle.

Low density hardwoods include aspen, cottonwood and alder. Softwood include cedar, pine, fir, hemlock and redwood. Learn the difference between hardwood and softwood.

If you ask which is the best burning firewood, someone might say low density woods like softwood burn best because they ignite easier making them easier to burn. Someone else might say hardwood burns best because it puts out more heat in a wood stove. Some people really like oak because some varieties hold a bed of coals for a long time, while others will not burn it because it produces so much ash.

Deciding which is the best firewood to burn will really come down to what you want to get out of it. All wood will burn well if it is dry and will put out heat. So if  you have it burn it. If you are deciding which type of wood to buy, keep in mind you should pay less for softer woods since there is less energy in them. If more heat is what you are looking for, it is usually worth it to pay more for the more dense hardwoods. A great place to start is to look at the different firewood BTU ratings of different wood species. The higher they are on the list, the more heat you will get out of the wood. The lower they are on the list, the less heat they will have but they will tend to be easier to ignite and more likely to burn with larger flames.

14 thoughts on “What is the Best Firewood to Burn?”

  1. While it is correct that all firewood will burn if it is properly dried, remember that certain hardwoods dry much more slowly than others.

    As to heat generated per cord of wood, the BTU rating is what really matters. A cord of “mixed” hardwoods will not generate as many BTUs as a cord of 100% Locust.

  2. most people maske a mistake totaly covering thier wood like a birthday present. it dosent allow any wind or air circulation and can be covered for a year and when its unwrapped its all rotted and then they blame the wood supplier
    for best results cover the top leaving room for air cirrculation but no rain to get in and open 360 degrees all around to dissipate all moisture

  3. Glad to see someone appreciates Locust as a firewood. It is one of the slowest burning, high heat type of firewood; . Here on Long Island we have been blessed with tons of red oak, wild cherry, and Black Locust to burn; after the Sept. hurricane, I wound up with about six to eight cords of all of them for free. The tree guys couldn’t handle all the wood that resulted from downed trees and were giving away all you wanted; you just had to take the huge trunks and process them yourself. Happy days!

  4. If your burning wood in a stove for heat, my experience has been oak is always very good. Ash,cherry,soft maple and hard maple , burn great when dried and they dry relitivly quickly when split and stacked away. ash and cherry can be burned right after cutting it down because of its low moisture content, ash more than cherry. I have burned almost all wood because I dont have alot of money so what I can get for free i get it. The only wood to stay away from in my opinion is willow!!!

  5. Hi,

    I have a question as much as an opinion that no one is talking about. I have read a lot of articles about the best and worst trees to burn and why.

    First, the why and what tree, should not be based on weight. All firewood charts say, heavier the wood (tree) the more heat available. I do not like the rinse-and-repeat what other people have said in the past. And all of it without any type of science to prove their findings.

    Finally, I have found a source to prove my first suspicions. The author of many sources of the facts is David A Tillman. He has written many books and the one I currently has is, “Wood As An Energy Resource”, 1978 Academic Press.

    The short – what type of wood answer is, soft woods. If you had all types of firewood (types of trees) and all the wood had 10% water content, your soft wood would have more energy in it.

    Why? A huge source of heat is from Hydrogen (in the wood) and the Oxygen (in the incoming air from the draft) combines and that reaction creates water. That reaction does make a lot of heat. Also, the carbon dioxide in the heavier woods (any carbon dioxide) will not burn and is inert (has no real value or chance of burning like fuel).

    A good example is hitting a drum, how does it sound? Then, cover the drum with several bath towels. Hit the drum and how does it sound? It will sound quiet and not vibrate as much. That is what carbon dioxide does to fuel, if the concentration is way to high. You will need more incoming draft air to burn really hard wood.

    Why does maple, box elder, cotton wood burn so fast and hot in your stove? Your stove has a poor design that does not take advantage of the hydrogen in soft woods.

    Tillman says soft wood is better for fuel (apple to apples if all wood is at the same moisture content). I have seen many poor stove designs and only one good.


  6. Andrew, I think you are a little confused about carbon dioxide and firewood. Wood does contain carbon, but it does not have any significant amount of carbon dioxide. As the wood burns, the carbon combines with oxygen from the air, creating carbon dioxide. This reaction between carbon and oxygen releases energy the same as when the hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water.

    Conifer softwoods tend to have more energy per weight because softwoods are resinous and the resins have more energy per weight than wood fiber does. But per volume, more dense hardwoods have more energy. Many types of softwoods can produce more intense heat, but for a much shorter time than hardwoods. It’s not a perfect energy to weight ratio, but close enough for firewood.

    If either carbon dioxide or water vapor that are produced as exhaust are not vented out of the combustion chamber, you are right it will slow the burn. But this has nothing to do with what type of wood is being burned. It’s the same with burning coal, or exhaust from your car, or the carbon dioxide and water vapor vented from your lungs. The CO2 is not in the fuel, it’s an exhaust from burning the carbon in the fuel.

  7. The best firewood you can get in the North East is Locust. The Yellow Gold of Firewood. I have been burning wood for 30 years. You have to be careful with locust because you can get it burning so hot that the side of your cast iron stove will glow red!!!!!
    Be careful when opening the door as well. It will shoot little hot sparks out at you and they really burn! Definitely the hottest longest burning wood you can get and it’s pretty plentiful.

  8. There is a lot of contradiction 🙂
    I live in north east WA in Stevens county
    and would like to learn more about what types
    of firewood people would like to buy. I’d like
    to start a firewood supplying business if I can
    figure out what wood to get. Also if anyone knows
    where good resources for attaining lumber I’d like
    to hear about it. I have seen the rigs go buy loaded down with fresh cut trees and wonder if that might be a good place to buy.
    A friend told me that I could buy a permit from the state that allows me to go into the state forest and cut dead trees not sure if this is true or not. Any info on sourcing would be great.

  9. The feds (Forest Service) will sell you a permit for firewood gathering, but not for commercial purposes. I have been told they will sell you a permit for commercial purpose, call the us forest service for info in your area and ask what they allow you to cut and what are the costs. They normally do not allow you to cut fresh or green trees. Don’t know about WA state lands!

  10. Has anyone burned Camphor wood in a fireplace? I would like to try it as it is plentiful. I’m a little leery about odor/allergies.

  11. I have burned Camphor. I only burn it if I already have a hot fire as it does not burn that well if the fire is not already hot with a lot of coals. Difficult to split and the medicine smell is absent during burning.. I start all my fires with fat lighter when it is available.

    David in Ga.

  12. people dont relize that locust tree is the hardes to cut and split,walnut is also very hard but if you have the opertunity to burn locust thats been down for 5 years do to a tornado, i cut a bunch for an omish order,well thy never made it up the mountin now 5-6 years after a tornado went threw, and made a mess i have 130 acers , about half was destroyed by mother nacher, any way im cleaning up and selling a loy of fire wood, i have a lot of good people buying off me they love my wood,some are great tippers,they get excited as soon as they see the woodm im cutting up the locust i cut down 6-7 years ago the bark falls right off the wood and when you split itsbeutiful yellow as hard as granit,no bark on it very seasond and very HARD .lots of people dont like cutting it becuse its hard to cut-hard to split,so the fire wood guy wants to sell you ash, sure good wood,dosnt burn very hotmor long, but easy to cut and split, try SEASON LOCUST IV BEEN TOLD ITS THE BET OUT THRE, IF YOU WOOD GUY WONT CUT IT FOR YOU I WILL ; THANKS JOHNNY D.

  13. Wondering if anybody knows f popple is a soft or hard wood and what It looks like.Trees i have r brown on bottom half and white the rest the of the way up not sure f its even popple or is it birch.i live in northern wi f that helps any info would be great thanks woody

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