Newer homes come with gas fireplaces. That’s because they are cheaper to build, easier to install and don’t require firewood. All you have to do is turn on a switch. But if you live in an older home with a built-in fireplace, you can only use real wood. Nothing compares to the atmosphere traditional fireplaces bring to any room.
So when it comes to building a wood fire, what type of firewood should you use? Each wood species has its own set of burning characteristics, and there are a lot of choices out there. Here are some of the most popular and available firewood types.
Pine is widely available and extremely sustainable in northern climates. Pine seasons faster than hardwood varieties, is easy to split, and easy to start. The downside of pine is that burns very quickly and doesn’t produce the heat of hardwoods. Also, burning pine will cause the sap pockets to explode which causes sparking; this is a safety issue because the sparking will cause creosote buildup in your chimney. Many people like to use softwood like pine to get a fire started before switching over hardwoods once the fire is hot.
Fir, particularly Douglas Fir has a medium heating value and does not produce too much ash. Older trees are easy to split and easy to start. Fire does produce a moderate amount of sparking.
Oak is abundant in the United States and is considered one of the best species for firewood. When properly dried, it can produce a very slow-burning and hot fire. Oak needs to be seasoned and aged in a dry area for at least one year to ensure proper burning.
Hard Maple is available in the Northern US and Canada. It is extremely dense and heavy, which allows it to burn very slowly, even in comparison to other hardwoods like oak and hickory.
Birch gives off a lot of heat, but it burns fairly quickly. While it’s easier to find and cheaper than other hardwoods, it burns rather quickly. Birch is best mixed and used in combination with other types.
What to look for and how to store your firewood
Most any wood that has been seasoned properly will burn well. However, even the best firewood will not burn well if it has not been seasoned. If the moisture level in wood is too high, energy is consumed evaporating water instead of throwing heat out. Wood that has been seasoned properly will appear grayish in color on the outside and weigh less than a new piece of wood of the same species. If you split it in half, it should be white on the inside.
Whatever firewood you choose to burn, make sure to store your wood in a well-ventilated outdoor area that is protected from the elements. Indoor temperatures can encourage any bugs in the wood to become active. Bring in only as much firewood as you plan to use in your fire.