Written by Gene Caballero on October 19, 2016
Over 350,000 years ago fire was first discovered by humans. Today, with just a flick of the wrist, fire can be created instantly; in fact, more and more homes have resorted to gas fireplaces, making wood burning hearth-sides a thing of the past. Let’s face it—gas fireplaces are cheaper to build, easier to use, and way more convenient. But for the nostalgic or “old school” individual, there is nothing like the crackling, popping, and smoky smell of a real wood-burning fire.
So when it’s time to roast marshmallows, sip hot chocolate, and cuddle by the fire, what is the best firewood to use?
Wood is categorized in two types: hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees which lose their leaves annually. Softwoods are conifers which usually remain evergreen. Here are the facts regarding the different types of wood that will help crown one an overall victor.
Maple—Maple wood is very dense and heavy, making it very difficult to split and ignite. This moderately priced wood does burn very hot and consistently, producing very little smoke. This wood is perfect for bonfires, fireplaces, and wood burning stoves.
Oak—Oak wood is very abundant, moderately price, and considered one of the best species for firewood. If it has been dried properly, it can produce a very slow-burning hot fire. It can be, however, a little more difficult to ignite if it hasn’t been properly dried but is very rewarding due to its low smoke, sustainable, maintenance-free fire. While it’s primarily used as an indoor wood, it can also be used as a great outdoor wood.
Cherry—Cherry wood is one of the most popular woods to burn in fireplaces due to its pleasant, non-smoky aroma. It is very east to split, tends to burn at a medium heat, and does not produce much smoke. However, it tends to spark a little more than the average hardwood and can cost a little more than the average wood.
Birch—Birch wood could be one of the cheapest woods to purchase. Because of its thin paper-like bark, it works great as a fire starter; however, it also burns very quickly while producing very little smoke. It’s best used in a firewood supply with other slow burning hardwoods to maximize its high burning heat. Like most of the others, this wood can be used both indoor and outdoor.
Pine—Pine wood is readily available and abundant making it very inexpensive. This wood seasons faster than all the hardwood varieties and is easy to split and start. It tends to burn fairly quick but does not produce the heat of hardwoods. Due to the sap pockets exploding on this wood while burning, loud pops and sparkling are common, so this type of wood is best used as an outside wood.
Elm—Elm wood is abundant, inexpensively priced, but very hard to split by hand. It has a medium heating temperature and does not produce too much ash or smoke making it a viable option for the fireplace although has been known to have a strong unique aroma.
Chestnut— Chestnut wood is moderately priced, very easy to split, but does not burn as hot as its counterparts. It tends spark more than the other woods and produces heavy smoke. This wood can be used indoors but is mainly more for the outdoor fireplace.
So what is the best indoor wood to keep warm this winter based on all the facts? Oak is the overall winner. It burns hotter, slower, has less smoke, and is available anywhere in North America. This wood can be used both indoors and outdoors and is very cheap to purchase.
Whether your fire is indoors or outdoors, make sure to keep these tips in mind for efficient heating options and even optimal marshmallow roasting. One final recommendation: Cutting your own firewood can be great exercise. Like Henry Ford said, “Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”
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