Cottonwood Firewood

Cottonwood firewood is a low density hardwood with a low BTU rating. Cottonwood can be tough to split when green and sometimes takes longer to dry than a lot of other tree species. When it is dry it burns fast and produces fast heat but doesn’t last long and leaves a lot of ash.

It’s common to hear people say they have had bad experiences with cottonwood firewood and that it makes lousy firewood and they will never burn cottonwood again. Some would rather leave it to rot or haul it to a landfill than use it for firewood. Much of this is just personal preference so take it lightly.

Cottonwood is definitely not the best firewood to heat your home but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless as firewood. You probably wouldn’t want to pay much for it but if you can get it really cheap or free it will make heat and you might as well use it. In some areas cottonwood is all they have available and they make the best of it.

Some say cottonwood firewood is hard to burn and all it does is smolder and make smoke. When people say that it’s probably because it wasn’t dry. Cottonwood can hold a lot of water but once it is dry it can split easy and it is easy to burn. This makes cottonwood good for starting fires and getting quick heat. It also makes decent campfire wood.

Cottonwood Firewood BTU Rating

Post your experiences with cottonwood firewood below.

11 thoughts on “Cottonwood”

  1. I love cottonwood! I feel that it burns and produces more heat than alot of pine in my area. Let it dry, split it the right size, pack your stove full, your good to go. The other plus is you can get it for free or close to it.But I’m not a wood snob.

  2. Recently pulled some cottonwood out of the local landfill. It was dry and all I had to do was cut it to size. Yes, it is light in weight compared to other harder woods, but it burned just fine and made some great fires in our fireplace. Best of all it was free. Just make sure it’s seasoned (dry) and cottonwood works fine as firewood.

  3. I heat the house with a wood stove. We have a cord of cottonwood and a cord of spruce/hemlock that we’re working through. The dry cottonwood splits well for kindling. I start with that and one cottonwood log to build the fire in the morning and then feed the harder woods in the rest of the day once the fire is going.

  4. I’ve been told that cottonwood has a bad smell when burned. I was told it smells like cat pee when burned wet/semi-dry and still has a bad odor when dry…. Thanks!

  5. my neighor cut down two huge cottonwoods and offered me the wood (as it saved him the cost of disposal which would have been substantial) I was inbetween jobs and the the wood was free (my favorite F word) so I agreed and got several dump truck loads in my pasture of huge rounds. I discovered the rounds were a piece of cake to split green if you split them along the growth rings and spent 2 months for a couple hours a day chopping and got over 25 cords. After they dried for 6 months I found that although they burned fast and hot and did produce a lot of ash it wasn’t excessive compared to the maple and pine I’ve been burning. Also it starts real easy, and I can get up in the middle of the night when the fires burned down to small coals and toss a couple pieces in and shut the stove door and they will re-light themselves. The smoke isn’t any worse than any of the other wood I’ve burned and besides it goes up the chimney and not in the house. We haven’t run the furnace at all this winter and keep the house a toasty 70’s degrees.

  6. This is the first year I will be burning a lot of cottonwood. We have so much of it on our farm. I will glean the information from the others who replied for furnace preparation I was not impressed with splitting the green cottonwood, but the dry and dead looks like it will burn nice in my outdoor furnace. Thanks for all the tips! New Cornwall Farm, New Sweden, Minnesota

  7. Those who complain about cottonwood either haven’t burned it or they’ve used it green. A cottonwood that died of its own accord and was left standing until it’s dried out is a very fine firewood. If cut green or if knocked down by a storm while green and allowed to dry while lying down it gets kind of “punky”. It doesn’t have the nice hardwood smoke smell that apple or ash does but I prefer it to ash as it gives a nice hot heat. I only use ash for the middle of the night when I don’t want to have to get up to put wood on the fire in the middle of the night but otherwise I burn cottonwood exclusively and it’s COLD here in the winter. I try to find a grove that died standing. It cuts OK and splits just fine. Too, in this neck of the prairie it’s much easier to find than other woods. It’s much nicer than our second option which is Chinese Elm. Now that’s a nasty wood.

  8. I’m currently burning cottonwood in a wood stove that I’ve collected from my local wood landfill. It’s great firewood for shoulder season here in Idaho, makes decent heat. The burn time is about 4 hrs while leaving some nice coals behind. It does leave quite abit of ash, but once you get a nice amount of it you can have coals lasts up to 6 hrs or more. This is my first time burning cottonwood and I must say that it certainly has its place, but I’d make sure to have a variety of other woods also. Overall, If I have room in my yard to store a minimal amount of cottonwood I would definately have it on hand (if seasoned and free) so that I would not have to use up my harderwoods.

  9. I’ve heard all of these horror stories about burning Cottonwood on other sites, but I really don’t know why. It’s not Oak or Locust, but it’s not a bad wood if its seasoned. It doesn’t fill your firebox up with ashes within 2 days, If it’s seasoned properly it doesn’t smell like cat pee and it doesn’t burn up in 4 seconds. I’ve burned quite a lot of it this year for the first time, and if you get a good draft going in your stove turn the damper down and it will go for 45 min to an hour. I wanted a break from the torture of hand splitting locust and hickory, so as an experiment I cut a live cottonwood down in August, debarked it, split it small.. burned it in October and it burned great. After a few hours I got my house from 61 to 77 degrees with it. I admit it burns much better mixing it with better wood than burning it straight, but it’s not the worst wood in the world as some say.

  10. I too have burned Cottenwood. It is at the bottom of my list of woods to burn , but it will indeed burn if properly dried. Thus, the caveat… It is in my experience very difficult to dry as it seems to wick moisture right out of the air. So that being said, I save it for hard times.

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