The Best Firewood For A Wood Stove Or Fireplace

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What's the best firewood for a wood stove or fireplace?  Isn't this a question everyone wants to know the answer too?

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that all wood will eventually burn.  

However, depending on the species of tree, some woods burn hotter, longer and cleaner than other types of firewood.

Some trees may smoke or spark a lot and have a tendency to burn "dirty" which is why they're not as popular.

In a perfect world, you want to burn dry firewood that burns hot and steady while creating a nice bed of coals without a lot of leftover soot or creosote that can line the interior of your chimney.

These clean, long burning fires are perfect for heating your home with a wood stove or fireplace.  

So how do you know which types of wood to burn?  

Let's take a closer look to see how you can utilize the best firewood in your area to effectively heat your home with wood.

Seasoned Wood vs Green Firewood

Before we talk about a specific species of firewood, it's important to know that any species you choose should be seasoned.

Seasoned firewood has been cut, split and stacked for about one year and has a moisture content of 20 percent or less.

Wet, unseasoned firewood will smoke, smolder and sizzle. 

If you throw a log in the fire and you can hear it's not seasoned.

Why should you only burn seasoned firewood? Easy.....It's safer and it burns better. 

Wet firewood burns slow and at a very low temperature.

It smolders and smokes, causing creosote to form on the interior of your chimney. 

Over time the creosote could buildup causing a dangerous chimney fire.

Seasoned firewood burns hotter.

BTUs are wasted on wet firewood because the heat from the fire is used to evaporate the moisture in the wood.

Have you ever tried to burn a piece of wet wood, or even worse tried to start a fire with wood that's wet?

It's frustrating to say the least.

How To Season Firewood

In order to make your firewood the best it can be, you'll want to follow a few simple rules.

Time is your friend.  

Depending on the species, firewood on average takes about a year to season.  Hardwoods take longer than softwoods because they're more dense, with some trees like oak which take about 2-3 years to properly season.

Firewood needs to be elevated off the ground, split and exposed to the sun and wind in order to properly dry.  

Using a firewood shed like this is ideal, but you can also use a tarp to cover the top 1/3 portion of the stack which allows the wood to breathe while still repelling rain and snow.

Think of it this way, have you ever taken a shower and thrown a wet towel on the bathroom floor only to find out the next day it's still wet?  

Now, take that same towel and hang it up.

It's completely dry the next day because it was allowed to breathe, air out and evaporate the moisture inside.

Drying out firewood is basically the same thing.

Which Firewood Types Create The Most Heat?

Since hardwoods like oak, cherry, maple, beech and ash are dense and slow growing, they will create more BTUs than most softwoods.

However, there are a lot of great softwood choices that actually perform better than some hardwoods, so it really just depends on the wood.  

Softwoods work great for starting a fire because they're usually lightweight, they dry out faster and they typically have more sap which helps them quickly ignite.

Cedar firewood for example, which is a softwood, is one of the best species of wood to use for kindling.  

It lights extremely easy, plus it burns hot and fast.....which is perfect for starting a fire.

To learn more and discover the best firewood choice for you, check out this firewood BTU chart that details the BTUs generated by a variety of popular firewood choices.

Types Of Firewood To Avoid

We already mentioned how you should avoid burning wet firewood, but what about other types of wood like building supplies or cardboard?

Although cardboard isn't exactly a species of wood, it is commonly used to start a fire in a wood stove or fireplace.  

Small amounts of cardboard are fine, but burning large amounts can quickly overheat your stove, so just stick to cardboard as a fire starter.

You should never burn treated lumber or scraps of plywood since glues and chemicals are used to create them.  

The same goes with painted or varnished woods.  

These are definitely types of wood you should avoid using in your wood stove, campfire or fireplace.

Best Firewood - What's My Favorite?

What's my favorite firewood type?

What do I think is the best firewood to burn?

Other than being seasoned, the firewood should be abundant and easy to access.

The most desirable firewood in the world is not any good to me if I don't have access to it or it's too expensive to buy.

A good firewood should be plentiful in the area you live.

Not everyone has access to acres of oak trees....maybe you live in an area where birch or cherry dominate the landscape.

Comparing hardwoods to softwoods, a hardwood would definitely be my choice but I live in the northeastern United States where hardwoods are common.

However, what if you live in a region where softwoods are the prominent species and you have access to douglas fir or lodgepole pine?

I would expect your opinion of the best firewood would be different than mine!

For me, the answer would have to be either sugar maple or beech. Both trees are abundant on our property so they are easy to access and they're free!

As luck would have it, both sugar maple and beech are excellent for firewood.

Each has a high BTU rating and are known for generating a lot of warmth and hot coals.

My third favorite firewood would probably be ash.  

Ash cuts and spits extremely well making it a favorite choice for many people.

In fact, ash could easily be my number one best firewood choice, but we just don't have a lot growing on our property so they're not readily available.

Burning Beech Firewood

I really like burning beech firewood because of the density and smooth bark.

The smooth bark is great because it doesn't create the mess like other firewood types do.

I also find that it splits relatively easy...for the most part.

Every once in a while I run across a beech tree that has very twisted grain.

These twisted pieces can be really hard to split with a splitting axe or maul, so I recommend using a hydraulic splitter if you have one.

This year for our fireplace I cut, split and stacked nothing but beech to burn.

We had a huge beech blow down on our property so I used this opportunity to fill up the wood rack. I'm never disappointed when we burn beech.

Burning Maple Firewood - Best Firewood?

Sugar maple is the predominate tree in our area.....northern Michigan.

It seems as though almost everyone makes their own maple syrup, or knows someone who does.

Sugar maple trees are also valuable for lumber.

It's not uncommon for a local logger or forester to stop by and ask about possibly logging a mature stand of sugar maple trees.

Trees that have imperfections or are short and have a lot of limbs may not be the best choice for lumber, but they can make great maple firewood.

We select cut only the lesser grade trees on our property for firewood. 

It just doesn't make sense to cut down a huge veneer grade sugar maple for firewood when there a several more lesser grade trees that would burn just as well.

So there you have two favorite trees for firewood. So what's your favorite firewood species?  

The great thing about the "best firewood" is that there is no single correct answer!!

What Do You Think Is The Best Firewood?

Do you have an opinion about the best firewood type? Share it! We would love to hear your thoughts and your story!

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Burning Oak 
Living in the Appalachian foothills, oak (white or red) is readily available and burns long and hot. But here's where oak beats sugar maple, white …

Kansas Firewood 
I love Ash! The wood not only burns good but it also has a very pleasant smell while it's burning, almost nostalgic. My family owned a tree service …

Eagle Lake Sawing 
If you have boxelder firewood and throw it away think again. Try this....cut and split some green boxelder and ash that is green. Let both season …

Washington Firewood 
My first choice is always going to be a hardwood if I can find it. You almost never see quality firewood in the mountains so I take what I can get. …

Firewood Choices In The Northeast 
Boy I wish I had beech or sugar maple to burn, but I cringed when you said you burned nothing but beech for a full year. At least it was all blow down. …

Arborist Out Of Fishers Indiana 
Hello my name is Ryan. I am a 16 year high risk fell specialist and the private exterior design artist for the Western Golf Association. We have …

Almond Oak And Eucalyptus Firewood 
Here in central California, we have many choices of good to superb trees to burn. The top three (IMHO) 1)almond, 2)oak and 3)eucalyptus, in that order. …

Maple And Poplar Firewood 
Great site -- First time reader Like you, I'm fascinated with firewood. My local area has a mixture of hardwoods. Maple is my best bet, second …

Black Locust Firewood Recommendation 
I have to go with black locust. The bark is thick and can be messy, but who cares, we wouldn't be heating with wood if we were worried about the mess. …

Ash Firewood Recommendation 
My choice of firewood would be Ash because of the straight gain making it easy to split. It's a hardwood with good BTU's. It is an excellent burning and …

Best Firewood In New Zealand 
Pine, cedar, walnut, macrocarpa and anything else I can get for free or at a low cost. All of the above are either on our block or one of the neighbours …

Burning Sumac or White Pine Not rated yet
I live in upstate New York. Winters are long and cold, firewood is plentiful. The area I live in is somewhat rural, with quite a bit of state and county …

Apricot Firewood Not rated yet
Apricot firewood is some of the best I've burned! Probably right up there with oak! It's very dense, burns hot, and the wood even smells nice. Most …

My Favorite NW United States Firewood Not rated yet
Here is my 2 cents worth... 1) Oregon White Oak - 21m btu/cord 2) Oregon Ash- 19m btu/cord 3) Douglas Fir - 17m btu/cord 4) Big Leaf Maple - 17m …

Tamarack Firewood Not rated yet
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Colorado Firewood Not rated yet
As the author of this website mentioned, availability is certainly a factor. On the Front Range of Colorado, tree companies are always cutting down …

Pennsylvania Firewood Not rated yet
Having access to many breeds of hardwood here in northern Pennsylvania and some mediums and having burned wood for heat for over 50 years, I have a system. …

Firewood Memories Not rated yet
In my opinion the best firewood is oak - if it's seasoned. The reason is that as a kid growing up in Wisconsin I moved and stacked TONS of oak firewood …

Bitternut Hickory Firewood Not rated yet
Here in suburban Maryland, you would have to say that the best all-purpose firewood is red oak, both because it is a very good wood--all its characteristics …

Lodgepole Pine Firewood Not rated yet
At our home in Wyoming we burn all standing dead lodgepole pine, either beetle killed or wildfire victims. It has a good straight grain for splitting, …

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About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.