Firewood Ratings

Firewood ratings can be determined by a variety of different characteristics.  When deciding what type of firewood to burn this year, there are a few factors you should consider in addition to heating value.

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

However, other firewood ratings like ease of splitting, ease of starting, smoke, sparks and coaling qualities are equally important.  Here's why......

Ease of Splitting - Straight grained wood with a limited number of knots will split pretty easy.  Some woods, especially hardwoods with interlocking grain will be difficult to split.

Ease of Starting - When building a new fire, choose a wood that is easy to start. Generally, softwoods create good kindling and fire starters because they are lightweight woods that contain natural resins that burn easily.

Amount of Smoke - If you have neighbors close by, the amount of smoke a wood produces could be a concern. 

Sparks - A lot of softwoods have pockets of sap and moisture that will heat up and pop causing a spark to fly.  These sparks can be troublesome and dangerous.

Coaling Qualities - A hot bed of existing coals will make restarting a fire a lot easier.  Hardwoods generally have the best coaling qualities.

Firewood Ratings - Common Species

This chart shows the different firewood ratings for a variety of popular firewood choices.  Choose a firewood that has acceptable characteristics for your specific needs.

Species               Easy To      Ease of       Heavy     Sparks       Coaling

                             Split           Starting     Smoke                       Qualities


Apple                                yes                   poor                  no                  few                  excellent


Ash                                   yes                     fair                   no                  few                     good


Beech                               no                      poor                  no                 few                      good


Birch (white)                 yes                     good                  no             moderate               good


Cherry                            yes                     poor                   no                 few                   excellent


Cedar                             yes                    excellent             yes               many                   poor


Elm                                 no                       fair               medium         very few               good


Hemlock                        yes                     good               medium          many                  poor


Hickory                         yes                      fair                    no              moderate            excellent    


Locusts (black)             no                      poor                   no               very few             excellent


Maple (suger)              yes                     poor                   no                   few                  excellent


Oak (red)                     yes                     poor                    no                   few                  excellent


Pine (white)                yes                   excellent          medium         moderate             poor


Spruce (Norway)         no                     good                  yes                moderate             poor


Willow                          yes                     fair                    no                     few                    poor


* Chart information from Burning Wood 1977 by the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service

Firewood Ratings - Overall

Overall firewood ratings depend on a lot of different factors.  Since everyone has different needs and expectations, choose a specific firewood species that works best for you and your situation.

Don't forget, you don't have to pick one individual firewood type.  Mixing several different types of firewood together is often the best way!

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