Firewood Ratings

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Firewood ratings can be determined by a variety of different characteristics, all of which determine how the firewood will react to being burned.  

Creating a fire is not as simple as it seems.

It's important to understand the different qualities of wood and how they will affect your fire.

When deciding what type of firewood to burn this year, there are a few factors you should consider in addition to heating value.

These include the ease of starting the fire, the sparks and smoke that the wood will give off when burned, and more.

When we think about firewood, most people want to know how many BTUs a specific species of wood will produce. 

This number measures the amount of energy used to increase temperature.

Some firewood will give off more heat, and others will give off less.

Depending on whether your fire is in an indoor fireplace or an outdoor bonfire, you may want different varieties of wood with different heat levels.

However, this isn't the only important factor when choosing wood. 

Other firewood ratings, such as ease of splitting, ease of starting, smoke and spark quantity, and coaling qualities are equally important when deciding which firewood is best for you.

Here's why:

Ease Of Splitting - Firewood Ratings

Unless you purchase pre-cut wood, which is often more expensive due to the convenience of it, you will need to split your firewood down to a manageable size.

This isn't always as easy as it seems though.

Some species of wood are much tougher to split than others, especially hardwoods with interlocking grain.

If you want a species that you can split with ease, go for a straight grained wood with a limited number of knots.

A few of the easiest species to split are ash, birch, hickory and maple, but there are many more.

Ease Of Starting - Firewood Ratings

Firewood is useless if it can't create a fire.

When you're building a new fire, be sure to choose wood that is easy to start.

Generally, softwoods are the best choice for starting a fire, and they also make great kindling and fire starters.

Some examples of these softwoods include cedar, pine hemlock and spruce.

Most people choose these softwoods because they are lightweight woods that contain natural resins that burn easily.

If you happen to have a hardwood that is difficult to light, having some spare softwood kindling will help you get the fire going.

Amount Of Smoke A Fire Creates

At some point in your life, you may have been sitting around a bonfire that gives off too much smoke.

No matter where you move around the fire, it always seems to get in your eyes or lungs.

Those with asthma or other breathing conditions should be particularly cautious.

Additionally, if you have neighbors close by, the amount of smoke a type of wood produces could be a concern.

Luckily, there are several species of wood that give off much less smoke than other species when burned which you can see in our firewood ratings chart later in this article.

Apple, locust and willow are examples of some of the best woods for reduced smoke when properly seasoned.


Just because softwoods are great for starting a fire, it is not the best choice if you’re looking for firewood that doesn’t throw out too many sparks.

A lot of softwoods have pockets of sap and moisture that will heat up and pop, causing a spark to fly.

These pockets of sap are the same reason why soft woods are so good for starting fires, but these woods have a downside.

These sparks can be troublesome and dangerous, especially if you’re lighting a fire in your indoor fireplace or in an environment with dry grass and shrubbery.

Even if you’re enjoying your fire in ideal conditions, a stray spark can sting pretty badly.

Try to find wood like elm, locust, or cherry to avoid excess sparks.

Coaling Qualities

A hotbed of existing coals will make restarting a fire a lot easier. 

While softwoods make excellent kindling and are easy to start, they are not the best at creating coals to help you restart your fire.

Hardwoods such as apple, cherry, hickory, locust, maple, and oak generally have the best coaling qualities.

With softwood fire starters and hardwood logs, you will be able to start your fire easily and have coals to keep the fire going all night long.

Firewood Ratings - Common Species

There are more than 50 different species of wood, all with different combinations of the qualities listed above.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a fire, one wood may be perfect for you.

The chart below shows the different firewood ratings for a variety of popular firewood choices.

When you’re selecting the fuel for your next fire, choose a type of firewood that has the best characteristics for your specific needs.

Firewood Ratings - Overall

Overall, firewood ratings depend on a lot of different factors. 

Those listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the various qualities of firewood.

Since everyone has different needs and expectations, choose a specific firewood species that works best for you and your situation, whether you’re inside staying warm and cozy or outside roasting marshmallows with your friends.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to pick one individual firewood type

Mixing several different types of firewood together is often the best way!

For example, if you want to easily light your fire, have a limited number of sparks and smoke, and plenty of coals for a long-lasting fire, you can use cedar as a starter with cherry or red oak to create coals.

Cherry and oak give off very few sparks, and each of these species is easy to split.

Alternatively, if you don’t want the fire to last too long, you could use willow or white pine.

If you’re looking for a workout while you’re splitting wood, beech, elm, and spruce will put up a good fight against your axe.

Whatever your situation is, there is a perfect combination of wood to build your perfect fire.

Be sure to check the different qualities of whatever wood you’re purchasing or harvesting.

This is the best way to find the perfect wood for your needs.


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.