I am sure that I don’t have to explain what is firewood? Since you have landed on this page, let’s assume that you already know what it is. Still, for a little introduction, any wooden materials that are used to burn as fuel are called firewood. Unlike the other uses of woods, firewood is not highly processed. From buying to burning, there are certain things that will be really helpful for you to reduce the costs of buying firewood, to enhance the productivity of your fireplace and so on. Here I am going to talk about what is the best firewood, what will be the worst choice, the types of firewood and many other vital considerations. If you go through this page, be sure that next time you are going to light up your fireplace you are going to see a change and feel better about that.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
It’s not like that the woods hard to the touch are hardwood. Normally the hardwood is reproduced by seeds. Usually, hardwood comes from dicot angiosperm trees. Most of the angiosperms are deciduous, their leaves fall seasonally. Most of the hardwood trees are broad-leaved. Hardwood is heavier than the softwood and takes a long time to season or dry out. The structure of hardwood is more complex than softwood. As the name refers, hardwood is more durable. The durability may vary from species to species.
If you consider the market price, hardwoods are more expensive, since they contain more energy and therefore they burn longer and brighter. Good quality hardwood creates less smoke that is an important consideration while looking for the best firewood. Some ideal hardwoods are almond, alder, red/white oak, beech, maple, pecan, dogwood, apple, mulberry, walnut, eucalyptus, birch, hickory, black/white ash.
On the other hand, softwood comes from gymnosperm trees. Most of the softwood is found in Scandinavia, Russia, China and North America. The hardness of wood actually depends on different variables. Some hardwood can be softer than softwood, like Balsam. Some good softwood is larch, spruce, juniper, southern yellow pine, red cedar, fir, tamarack.
It does not actually matter if you are using hardwood or softwood as long as the wood is perfectly seasoned. But when you are looking for the best firewood, there are certain features of hardwood that give extra advantages to burn better than softwood. Because of the inner structure of hardwood, it does not produce much ash, it burns longer and cleaner. Softwood takes less time to season, and if properly seasoned it can be as good as hardwood. Some species of softwood burn too hot, that may damage your stove.
Now we will know 5 popular trees that produce the best firewood.
This is considered to be the best firewood all over the world if that is properly seasoned. Since it is a type of hardwood, this takes longer to season properly. In a dry area, it should take 2 years for proper seasoning. Once it is done seasoning, the performance is unmatched. Oak is a very common tree, and available in almost everywhere in the work. An interesting fact I feel like to mention here. American and European oaks are used to make barrels where the drinks like wine, beer, scotch, and whiskey are reserved to aging. The Japanese oak is used to build professional musical instruments.
This is a much-known species of tree. But there are over 128 species of maple tree. Most of them are found in Asia and most of them are mere shrubs. Maple tree does not grow long, and they have colorful flowers. They are planted as ornamental trees in landscape design. Maple wood is the best firewood if you are looking for an old-fashioned bonfire. Oh yeah, this is a type of hardwood.
Birch is another type of hardwood. This is closely related to the oak tree. Birchwood is used to make furniture. Extract of the birch tree is used to make shampoos, soaps, and cosmetics. They are also used in the pharmaceutical industry. In many religions, both historical and modern, birch tree has spiritual value. Comparing with oaks and hard maple, birch is softer and it burns quicker.
Pine is a softwood type. This tree is found in relatively cold areas. This evergreen tree is usually long living and tall. Most of the species have scaly barks. For wood pulp and timber, pine is the most commercially used tree. Some species of pine are used for making turpentine. In literature and mountain life, there is a significant role of pine. When thinking of pine, a cabin in the wood, with fire burning, a hot cup of chocolate, maybe in Christmas, these all come to my mind. But pine wood is not great for burning inside since it has a lot of moisture and creates smoke.
Fir is another type of softwood. It belongs to the same family as pine. Fir is evergreen and grows in mountain areas. The leaves are attached to the barks. This is highly used in domestic woodwork like pine. It is easy to split and does not create much smoke. So it can be used as firewood, inside the home. However, this needs to be seasoned properly. Unlike pine, this is one of the best firewood types.
This is probably the most important factors while looking for the best firewood. Regardless that I softwood or hardwood, as long as that is seasoned properly, it can work as best firewood. Seasoning matters because the best-seasoned firewood will burn the brightest for the longest time. Also, you will not like dust inside your home. Properly seasoned firewood does not leave much dust. That one you will feel most comfortable with. But there are different duration for the wood to be seasoned.
The fresh wood has a high content of moisture. The measurement can be up to 45%, while the seasoned wood will have 20-25% moisture. You can purchase moisture meters to measure the moisture of wood. Properly seasoned wood is white inside and they are very easy to cut. You should cut fresh wood in small pieces of around 12-18 inches. You should cut them at least 6 months to 1 year before using that in the fireplace. A properly seasoned wood has dark ends with cracks. If you tap the wood with coins or keys, you will hear a sharp sound. For softwood, because of the internal structure, 1 year should be enough to season properly. But for hardwood, you should give 1-2 years to dry out; it depends on the climate of your region and the species of the tree.
There is something called semi-seasoned firewood. Purchasing semi-seasoned firewood will be cost effective. Usually, they have 35% moisture content. If you purchase it at least 4/5 months before use, this is going to work fine. And one very important fact is proper storage. You should store the firewood under a proper shed. Even the best firewood can be ruined because of bad storage.
Do Keep in Mind
The same thing can be an amazing art or a disaster, depending on you. If you choose the right type of wood, if the quantity is correct, the moisture is correct, the density and the sense is correct, I believe that burning wood is an art. You have to take all the things in consideration. Softwood is not a good type to burn inside home. Because of its internal structure and density, softwood creates smoke; therefore usually softwood cannot be the best firewood. Another issue is it gets burns quickly. You will not like to repeatedly change the woods in the stove getting up from the comfortable couch in winter. If you do not have any other options, burning softwood is not of any harm, but make sure that is seasoned properly. A smoking fire is not a successful fire. Fire needs air to start burning, plentiful air actually. And to start a fire, put the wood in criss-cross stack.
Now going to some real life facts about firewood, what is the cost, how they are measured and so on. The quality and the type of firewood vary from state to state. Each state in America and each country in the world has their own market conditions and own species of trees. Firewood is a commodity like oil, it fluctuates with the market. So here in this section, we will not provide you the price of firewood, rather we will try to enlighten you with some information those are important to purchase the best firewood in any place on this planet earth.
How is Firewood Measured?
In general, is it Kilograms or pounds, or something else? The unit of the measurement of firewood is called ‘cord’. Back in 15th-century wood was sold in bundles and tied with a cord, thus the name has come. A full cord of wood is assumed that the wood is arranged in a way that all the pieces are stacked and fit within a 4ft high×4ft wide×8ft long dimension. The volume is normally equivalent to 128 cubic feet or 3.62 cubic meters. If you consider the air inside the stack, the actual volume of wood will be 90 cubic feet. Some sellers may refer to their lot of wood as either a ‘rack’, ‘truckload’, ‘stove cord’, ‘face cord’ or what not. But none of these has a legal definition. So always you should get the volume of wood.
- A full cord of firewood can be weighed between 2500 lbs (softwood) to 5000 lbs (hardwood)
- A standard piece of firewood is 16 inches
- A small pick-up truck can hold an approximately ¼ cord of wood