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Burning Firewood Guide – Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

Nothing fills the house with smells and warmth like the crackling of a burning fire. Wood-burning fireplaces can creative a peaceful, inviting ambiance as well as an alternative way to heat your home.

Choosing the type of firewood to use can be a daunting task, so here is a quick guide to selecting the best firewood to use to get the best burning firewood experience. Arm yourself with some key information to help you be on your way to picking the right kind of firewood for you.

1. Always pick a seasoned firewood

Freshly chopped or unseasoned (green) wood has up to 50% water content and burning this will only result in a room full of smoke. Seasoned wood on the other hand have been cut, split and properly dried out for over a year allowing the moisture in the wood to evaporate.

2. What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Wood Type Type of Trees Positive Negative
Hardwood maple, oak, ash, birch, fruit trees burns hotter and longer, uses less firewood more expensive, harder to split
Softwood pine, balsam, spruce, alder, poplar easy to ignite, easy to split creosote build-up (cause chimney fires), highly flammable, burns out quickly

3. How does wood burn?

In the first stage, wood is heated to the point where moisture within the wood cells is driven off and the cells are drying out. As the wood is losing moisture, it is chemically changing into charcoal – which is famous for its volatile gases and liquids. Stopping the process at this point is where the charcoal industry packages their products.

The second stage is where actual flames burn off the volatile gases and volatile liquids to the point where charcoal has lost most of these volatile fuels. Much of the energy of wood fuel is lost during this stage.

Finally, the third stage occurs when the charcoal burns and can be seen when the embers glow. This is called “coaling”. At this point, heat is radiated from the burning bed of coals. Different species of wood burn and expend energy differently throughout these three stages.

4. What do I look for when buying firewood?

The burning properties and the heating potential of wood depend upon its species and density of that wood. Here are three heating values to consider when buying firewood – density, heat content and coaling quality.

  • Density – Denser wood contains more heat per volume
  • BTU – The higher the value, the more heat you get per unit of wood
  • Coaling – Wood that forms coals allow a fire to burn longer
Tree Species Density (lbs/cu.ft) Million BTUs/cord Coaling Characteristics
White Birch (Hardwood) 42 20.8 good Birch gives off good heat but tends to be consumed pretty quickly. The flavor is good, similar to maple which compliments pork and poultry nicely.
Beechwood (Hardwood) 32 to 56 24 to 27 excellent This has some great heat and flame but tends to give off a fair amount of sparks. Use a fireplace screen or door.
Pine (Softwood) 22 to 31 15 poor This burns well when well- seasoned but has a tendency to crackle and pop because it is resinous and a softwood. Good for kindling since it lights easily but too much can leave a strong piney smell which is nice outdoors but can be overwhelming indoors or with food. Can also leave an oily soot in your chimney and your food.
Spruce (Softwood) 25 to 44 15.5 poor Burns too quickly, produces low heat, can be smokey and with too many sparks. It is good to start fires with, but substitute with a hardwood.
Poplar (Softwood) 22 to 31 16 fair Not recommended – even when very well seasoned it burns poorly and produces an unpleasant black smoke.

Remember, part of having a memorable fireplace experience is having the right type of fire wood – choose a quality hardwood that have been proper aged

A Fun Way to Remember your Firewood

Here’s a fun rhyme to help you to remember:

These hardwoods burn well and slowly,
Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly.
Softwoods flare up quick and fine,
Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine.
Elm and willow you’ll regret,
Chestnut green and sycamore wet.

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

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