When selecting the best wood for fireplace use, it pays to remember that there are many varieties of wood. Each of these has its own qualities, depending on whether they are hard or softwood and the resin and moisture content. The best kinds of firewood are those that burn hot and slow, with a clean flame. These burn steadily and with more heat, without the accumulations of residue left by woods with high resin or sap content.

Best Type of Woods to Burn in Your Fireplace

The best wood to burn in a fireplace is hardwood varieties, such as hickory and ash. Avoid softwoods like cedar or pines. If you wonder ‘does cedar make good firewood?’ or ‘is ash good firewood?’, or perhaps ‘is white oak good for burning?’, then at HandymanTips.org, we have this handy list of best firewood below to guide you!

Hardwood Varieties

Because of lower sap and pitch content, hardwoods (maple, ash, oak, birch, fruit trees, etc.), make the best type of wood for fireplace use. Wood may be great for construction, but according to experts in using it for other purposes such as cooking, hardwood varieties burn hotter and for longer but are more likely to produce residue known as ‘clinkers’ due to non-combustible minerals combining with the ash. Hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods as they take longer to grow.

When using birch, watch out for the ‘phloem’.

This is the thick, brown layer of inner bark that contains moisture which stops the wood from getting completely dry. Although birch is great if you plan to burn, it makes sense to use it alongside another variety of hardwood so that less smoke comes out. Creosote can accumulate in chimneys because of heavy smoke, and this build-up of tar adds to the risk of chimney fires



Softwood Varieties

Although softwoods are cheaper, they are not always the best wood for fires.

It certainly isn’t the best wood for an indoor fireplace or wood-burner use. As noted above, higher sap, resin, and moisture content contribute to creosote build-up in the chimney or flue. According to canadian rubbish, waste & junk professionals Bin There Dump That, you can easily tell whether your logs are softwood from the sticky resin that makes handling them a very messy task. Varieties include spruce, cedar, alder, pine, tamarack, and balsam, though fir is probably the best amongst these.

Heat Energy Comparison

To help consumers in finding the best wood to burn for heat, it is possible to place them in categories depending on the level of heat-energy they produce per ‘cord’ of wood (a cord is a compact, neatly stacked pile of wood 4 ft by 4 ft, and 8 ft long).

Wood Heating and Weight Values:

Species Million Btu/Cord* Value as firewood: Easy to burn? Easy to split?

Cord Weight

(pounds) **

DRY

Cord Weight

(pounds) **

GREEN

Alder, Red 18.3 – 19.6 Fair Fair Yes 2000 – 2600 3200 – 4100
Apple 26.5 Excellent Yes Yes 3713 4826
Ash, Green 23.4 – 25.0 Excellent Yes Yes 3600 4238
Ash, White, 23.4 – 25.0 Excellent Yes Yes 3688 4243
Aspen 17.0 – 18.0 Poor/Fair Yes Yes 1860 – 2400 3020 – 3880
Beech 27.5 – 29.5 Excellent Yes No 3100 – 3900 4890 – 6290
Birch, Black 25.8 – 27.6 Excellent Fair Yes 2840 – 3650 4630 – 5960
Birch, White 20.4 Fair Fair Fair 2978 3723
Birch, Yellow 23.5 Excellent Yes Yes 3488 4290
Box Elder 17.8 Poor/Fair Fair Low 2596 3764
Buckeye, Ohio 13.7 Poor Fair Yes 1953 n/a
Butternut 14.4 Poor Yes Yes 1900 n/a
Catalpa 15.4 Poor No No 2380 n/a

“The best wood to burn in fireplace settings falls in the following category. These have a heat-energy output equal to using 200 – 250 gallons of oil per cord, comments wood & log fireplace fitter Joshua Burrows.

Here are his recommended varieties:

  • American Beech;
  • Sugar Maple;
  • Apple;
  • Yellow Birch;
  • Red or White Oak;
  • Ironwood;
  • White Ash;

The middle category contains varieties with a heat-energy equal to using 150 – 200 gallons of oil per cord.

  • American Elm;
  • Black Cherry;
  • Red/Silver Maple;
  • Douglas Fir;
  • Tamarack (American Larch);
  • White Birch.

The final category contains those with a low heat-energy ratio, matching the output of 100 – 150 gallons of oil.

  • Redwood;
  • Aspen;
  • Hemlock;
  • Red Cedar;
  • Red Alder;
  • Spruce;
  • White/Lodgepole Pine;

What Is the Best Wood to Burn in a Fireplace?

As we learned above, different varieties of wood burn in different ways. Not all woods are suitable for all jobs and while some succumb to standard wood cutting techniques, others would make you sweat. If you’re asking ‘what is the best firewood to burn?’, then you also need to ask ‘what’s the best wood for wood-burning stoves?’ or ‘what’s the best firewood for fireplace use?’.

Best Type of Woods to Burn in Your Fireplace - fireplace

To guide you further, this list goes into more detail, giving a few suggestions as to the best wood for fireplace use so you can make your home comfortable and cozy!

  1. Birch
  2. Oak
  3. Cherry
  4. Sycamore
  5. Ash
  6. Beech

Birch

This wood always performs best when combined with other hardwoods (oak and elm are good choices) as it tends to burn quicker than others. Peeled birch bark is often used as a natural alternative to firelighters. You can use birch without being seasoned, although Easy Recipe Depot does not recommend that due to the problems with the build-up of deposits within the chimney flue. According to the experts, we value birch firewood for the heat it produces.

Oak

Oak is a highly dense wood and should ideally be seasoned for at least 2 years. Its high density results in a very slow burn, so it is wise to mix it with logs that burn faster. An oak tree can be used in situations where you want your fire to last through the night.

Cherry

Another slow-burning wood that produces a high level of heat. Cherry also needs to be very well seasoned. As with birch, the bark can be used as firelighters. When burned it gives off a distinctive, pleasant aroma

Sycamore

A good ‘mid-range’ choice, sycamore is quick to season (about 1 year) and gives a medium heat compared with other hardwoods.

Ash

Ash is considered to be at the top of the list when it comes to firewood. It has a high heat output and burns steadily. It even burns when unseasoned and does not need to be mixed with other varieties.

Beech

Beech makes excellent firewood and it can be used by itself, though the length of seasoning can be a problem – at least 3 years to completely dry out.

Make sure to check our guidelines for:
Splitting Logs and Firewood for Perfect Use of Log Burner.

Stacking the Wood

The way your logs are stored is as important as selecting the right type.

  • Keep them dry at all times.
  • Stack them on a pallet to allow air to circulate – never store them on the ground!
  • Keep them covered but with one side open.
  • Stack the logs level.

Choose wisely!

It might tempt you to use scrap wood to save money. But this can be a bad idea in some cases. Certain woods or wood products contain additives that are a health hazard, cause pollution, or produce creosote.

According to building material experts Progress ABMS, wherever possible, avoid burning:

  • Wood coated with paint or varnish;
  • Driftwood;
  • MDF/particleboard;
  • Hardboard;
  • Lumber (pressure-treated).

Safety Advice

Using any heating appliance safely is a matter of common sense. Try to consider all the hazards, such as not using too much paper when starting a wood-burner (which produces creosote).

Adhere to safety recommendations at all times, such as the clearances around an appliance and the use of fire-resistant bases. Always install a carbon monoxide alarm and ensure that smoke alarms are in working order.