Best Trees for Firewood Guide
One big mistake that most people make is selecting the wrong firewood for their stove or open fire. The thing is there are a lot of trees to choose from and also lots of things to consider before you are just about ready to put your feet up and enjoy the warm cozy glow of a logwood fire.
For this reason, we are going to give you the guidance you need to be able to select the best trees to provide you with the best firewood. We understand that it can be frustrating when the warm glowing fire you hoped for ends up spitting and crackling or worse still takes an age to get going and then ends up being a damp Smokey squib.
The fact is that choosing the right tree and creating the right kind of firewood is essential and an important thing to ponder before you sit in front of your stove fire this coming winter.
It is also important to be as efficient as possible whenever you can be as this will make your life easier and more pleasant. The last thing you want is to be trudging in and out to a dark shed to but a few logs on the fire in the cold and dark reaches of a winter’s night. Instead a little planning will ensure you have ample wood supply at hand to quickly and easily replenish the warm glowing heat.
There are some of the people that would argue that it doesn’t matter what type of firewood you put in your stove fire as long as it is seasoned the right way. In our own opinion, we think it matters. Not all trees/wood burns the same way. Some of them are Smokey, while others produce strong smells and others can produce some unpleasant sound and sparking.
Where are You Burning Your Firewood?
This is one factor that should be considered. If you are going to be burning the wood outside then you don’t have to narrow your options down quite as much. It doesn’t really matter what type of wood you are using within reason because there’s enough space for sparking and better air circulation to help even dampish wood to burn eventually and for this reason smoke and smell is not really a top consideration.
On the other hand, if you are burning your wood in an indoor fireplace or a wood stove, you need to ensure that the type of wood you select produces minimal smell and smoke and gives you optimum heat output.
You may end up selecting a dense wood such as oak and maple. In a lot of cases, most people will select a softwood because they are easy to start, burn reasonably well and are less expensive if you decide to purchase your firewood.
You should avoid some resinous wood such as spruce because they create creosote which can either clog the chimney or cause a chimney fire. The other thing to avoid is painted or stained and even manufactured wood such as particleboard because they can release toxic gases which can be dangerous for indoor burning and not good for the environment. Examples of wood to avoid would be MDF and Plywood as well as other bonded wood.
Types of Wood
There are two broad categories of wood, softwood and hardwood. In simple terms, hard wood comes from flowering trees while softwoods come from conifers. They can both be used for structural, decoration purposes or for firewood although hardwood is better suited to structural and load bearing systems over softwood which is not as strong.
Hardwood comes from trees such as oak, walnut and maple. These are the trees that lose their leaves annually. They also grow much slower and for this reason they have denser fibers. The other thing to note is that hardwood is in shorter supply and for that reason more expensive. Hardwoods have several advantages that make them appealing as alternative construction materials and also decorative materials. Hardwood requires low maintenance and they also burn for a longer time due to their dense nature.
Softwood on the other hand comes from trees which are evergreen but especially those that don’t flower often or at all. Some of them includes trees such as pine, spruce, fir and juniper among many more. These trees are also very easy to cut down and to split and that’s why most of the people look upon them especially when they are looking for cheaper firewood alternatives.
When you are making the decision regarding the type of wood to select for your fire, there are several factors that you must first of all take into consideration. Some of these factors include:
How Often Do You Use Firewood?
If you usually end up buying your firewood in advance to be used at certain points in the year, then you may want to go with a softwood like fir. Most of the softwoods dry quickly and for this reason they are the best for those people who don’t often use firewood.
These trees are also easy to split and light weight for handling. However, just bear in mind that fir and most other softwoods don’t burn for long. What this means is you may find yourself putting more on the fire if you want reliable source of heat for any considerably length.
It is a wise decision to go for hardwoods if you are intent on using firewood as the main source of energy and heat. Some of the hardwoods such as oak burn for a longer period of time. What this means is that you don’t have to load the fireplace quite as often. However, you must be ready to dig a little deeper into your pockets if you intend on buying the firewood.
The wisest decision to make here is to perhaps have a mix of both soft and hardwood. You can have some softwood split very small for kindling in order to get your fire started and then use hardwood to put on top to ensure that there is fire burning throughout the night. You will actually have an easier time starting the fire and ensuring that you have a source of warmth for the entire night using this method.
The Drier the Better
When you are looking for the best trees for firewood, you should go for the drier trees. The rule of thumb here is essentially the drier the better. Trees have tubes that move water from the roots to other parts. The fact is that most of them absorb a lot of water while others don’t. Even after cutting them, most of the trees will retain this water for a long time. What this means is that you should always go for drier trees or those tree species that don’t take up and retain a lot of water.
Always go for Seasoned Firewood
If you choose to use green firewood, then you should be ready to deal with some smoky rooms. Most of them have more than 50% water content and for this reason they can produce a lot of smoke. Go for seasoned firewood because they are already dry and will burn well without producing a lot of smoke or harmful gases.
Ok so now you know what to look out for in terms of selecting dry seasoned firewood ideally with a mix of soft and hardwood. Now we will help you select the right tree species to get the best results.
Which Trees to Burn?
You can go for any of the trees listed below as your firewood source. Some of them are easy to burn while others are hard to burn but they can stay burning for a longer time.
Ash– Ash produces a steady flame just as you imagined. It is very easy to burn even when it is green. You don’t need to keep on adding more wood to the fireplace/stove because it burns steadily on its own.
Oak– Oak is slow to burn and for this reason, it stays burning for a longer time. However, it is one of the hardest woods to season with about 2.5 cm a year. It should be seasoned for two years. However, you can mix oak wood with some softwood products to make your fire start a little easier.
Cherry– This is another good source of firewood that burns slowly but produces enough heat to keep you and your house warm. The tree also gives out a lovely aroma that almost everyone loves. However, if you are asthmatic or allergic, then you should probably consider avoiding this wood.
Sycamore– When this wood is seasoned, it burns well to produce much needed heat. The other thing worth knowing is that it is the fastest wood to season so is ideal for people seasoning their own wood to use as firewood.
Ok so ideally you should aim to use the woods listed above to ensure you get good consistent results with minimum hassle and surprises. There are a few woods to avoid however and you will find these listed in the next paragraph.
Woods to Avoid?
There are some of the woods that you should avoid completely for various reasons. Besides the fact that firewood can help you save a lot when it comes to heating your home especially in cold seasons, it can make your situation worse if you don’t take precautions. There are some woods that you should avoid completely because they either produce toxic gases or excess smoke. Many of them will produce a lot of fumes indoors which can be annoying. Some of these trees also pose a threat to your chimney because they can cause chimney fires to develop in certain situations. The woods you should avoid include;
Avoid pressure-treated lumber
Avoid varnished wood or painted wood because they can release dangerous gases.
Avoid Egg cartons- They are treated with some chemicals that can be dangerous especially when burned indoors.
Avoid compressed paper products such as hardboards.
Avoid engineered sheet goods including particle boards and plywood.
Avoid using Driftwood.
Some of the above products can make your situation worse especially when you are sensitive to allergies, and you should be cautions with the type of wood you burn especially if you suffer from allergies. Avoid aromatic cedar and other trees of that kind.
How to Create the Perfect Fire?
Making sure that you have a good fireplace that doesn’t make you uncomfortable is not an easy task. There are several things that you have to do besides having the perfect wood. If you are burning indoors, then you must first of all ensure that your wood is dry enough and is not likely to give you a hard time when it comes to getting it lighting. Wet wood may give you a hard time. It will in many cases produce more smoke and you can end up with a room smelling of smoke instead of feeling warm and cozy.
The wood you select should be fully seasoned. You need to ensure that it is seasoned the right way before you get the logs indoors and onto the fire. The other thing to remember is that you don’t have to use just one species. In fact you can mix softwood and hardwood. Different woods burn at different rates and for this reason; it is a wise decision to use different species in your fire.
Ensure that you have a basket full of wood next to you. Having to stand up and go travelling to get more wood can be a difficult and frustrating not to mention a dangerous task especially on those cold and wet nights. If you don’t want to have a hard time keeping your fire burning then have a basket full of kindling and firewood near to you.
The first thing to do to create the perfect fire is to start with a good layer of loosely rolled up newspaper or seasoned wood shavings and later add a handful of small pieces of softwood. This is to ensure that you don’t have a hard time starting your fire.
As we have already stated, most softwoods burn more easily and are easier to light. You are also not supposed to lay all the pieces in one direction, so alternate the direction of the wood.
At the top of the softwood, you can finish with logs and especially hardwood because they burn slowly but for a long time. You can just start with smaller logs and at the outer most top end start adding slightly bigger logs. Now you are set and for this reason, you can light the paper and sit down to watch the fire start, but don’t just walk away at this point and hope to come back to a roaring fire. You need to follow the stages and stay with the fire in case you need to adjust things to get it lighting at its optimum level.
How to Buy Firewood?
If you don’t live in an area where you can get firewood directly from your garden or from a local farmer/neighbor or timber/fuel yard, then you are likely to buy it from a store. However, when you are looking for a place to find firewood there are some of the factors that you should bear in mind.
Dry/well Ventilated Store- Make sure that you are buying wood from a dry and a well ventilated store. It doesn’t matter whether you are buying them from an outdoor store or from an indoor store, you just have to ensure that you are getting firewood in the right condition.
Look for Older Firewood– When you are selecting the best firewood to take home, then you have to look for dark to gray colored woods because they are older and drier. They are more likely to burn well and will also not emit a lot of smoke or spit out sparks.
They Sound Hollow– When you are getting firewood, you have to look for the ones that sound hollow. To test this, you can bang a few logs together and pay a close attention to the sound. If they sound hollow, then that is a good sign.
The Wood Should Also Be Light- to signify that they have little or no water content. You should also dig deeper into the pile to get older logs. You don’t have to take the top layer because those are probably the newest logs.
The Bottom Line
The best wood for your indoor fire is not just dry but also dense. However, this depends on how often you rely on firewood and how long you want the fire to last. The burning properties and the heating properties of the specific wood should also be taken into consideration. For you to have a memorable fire experience, you should ensure that you have taken all the above points into considerations ideally selecting the woods we mentioned in the previous which trees to burn section.
If the idea of cutting and seasoning your own wood doesn’t sound appealing then you can always buy in some wood for the following season. Our advice is to prepare and order well in advance and make sure you have somewhere dry to keep your wood supply dry and secure. If you are unsure of where to source firewood locally a good starting point is to look at the local classified listing in a local paper or even ask in a local hardware store or use google to find a supplier nearby.
We hope you find this article useful and hopefully it will broaden you knowledge of how to go about selecting the best woods for your fire and avoid any pitfalls too.
Checkout our other blog posts and articles if you have spotted some trees you want to cut down and use for firewood. Rechargeable Chainsaws offer you a hassle free method to cut down and prune back all types of wood and branches with no mess, no fumes and solid reliability. They really are well worth considering over standard gas/fuel powered chainsaws. They provide instant power and are so quiet in comparison.
Thanks Folks and Happy Cutting!