Burning wood logs in a fireplace is an age-old tradition that has been passed down for generations. But, it’s not just about the beauty that a burning fire can bring to your home. There are practical benefits as well. Fireplaces make your home cozy and comfortable, and they give you a sense of security and warmth. But what type of wood should you use? What’s the best wood for fireplaces?
Many people believe that the best wood for fireplaces is oak because it burns well and produces a good amount of heat. Other choices include cedar, hickory, beech, birch, ash, elm, walnut, and pine. All these types of woods have their own unique benefits for your home’s fireplace as well as specific uses within them as needed. So how do you decide what type of wood is right for you? Read on to learn more.
The Best Wood for Fireplaces: How to Choose?
It is true that all wood burns, but not all woods burn the same way. Certain woods burn hotter, slower, and cleaner than others. Occasionally, you may have a chimney clog due to a lot of smoke or sap, or resin. Firewood that burns hot and relatively steadily, producing more heat and burning more completely, is the best for a wood stove or fireplace. The type of wood you have should be carefully chosen and matched with your needs.
Many homeowners are choosing hardwoods as their main source of firewood because they burn efficiently, produce less smoke, and are a more environmentally friendly source of heat. Softwood comes from evergreen trees, while hardwood comes from dedicious ones – those who drop their leaves in the fall. While hardwoods tend to cost more than softwoods (generally by a few dollars per cord), they last longer because they don’t split as easily, and they offer more heat per pound of firewood, which means you get more heat for your money. Apart from that, hardwoods like oak, ash, and beech are more difficult to ignite, but they last a long time. Softwoods like fir, pine, and cedar make more smoke, and therefore more creosote.
What is creosote and why does it matter?
Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood that accumulates in your chimney until you remove it. Near the top of a chimney, smoke mixes with cold air and water, solidifying and adhering to the chimney lining.
Creosote cannot be completely avoided when burning wood, but you can significantly reduce its amount and stage when burning dry wood since creosote is the byproduct of incomplete combustion. Less moisture in the wood means a hotter firebox, which allows the wood to burn more efficiently.
The Best Hardwood Firewood Choices
Hardwood logs come from sturdy, slow-growing trees such as oak, birch, and ash, that shed their leaves during the cold winters and deliver a variety of strong and thick firewood. Hardwood is generally considered to be the stronger choice when it comes to picking out firewood. This is mostly because hardwood is denser than softwood, which enables it to burn strongly for a long period of time. These logs do not create a lot of smoke and sparks, and the coals that remain can generate a great amount of heat while they last. However, the density of hardwood can make it difficult to start fires easily. The logs can also take longer to be properly seasoned before they can be burned.
In the case of birch, beware of the thick, brown inner bark of birch trees when burning them for firewood. The bark of trees retains a lot of moisture, preventing the wood from drying evenly. Therefore, birch should be mixed with other hardwoods for a cleaner burn and less smoke. When smoke accumulates in a chimney, creosote forms, which is mostly made up of tar and is the main cause of chimney fires.
Some of the most popular types of hardwood firewood can be found in the image below.
The Best Softwood Firewood Choices
Softwood logs come from evergreen trees that tend to grow faster. Softwood logs are perfect for starting fires quickly and easily. Additionally, softwood is the cheapest type of wood. The resinous nature of these logs allows them to be dried and seasoned in very little time, making them available at low prices. They are also lighter and easier to work with than hardwood.
However using softwood can present a few difficulties – the amount of moisture in them can cause inconsistent flames and create unwanted smoke and sparks. To avoid this, it is important to make sure that your softwood is well-dried before burning it, especially when using a firewood stove. They can also be messy to handle, as they cause creosote to build up more quickly in your chimney.
Check out the image below for some of the most popular types of softwood firewood.
Which firewood has the highest BTU value?
The British thermal unit (Btu or BTU) is a traditional unit of heat; it is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
BTU output is the way we gauge the heat value of the firewood we burn, and even if we cannot determine a numerical value for the heat in our home, we certainly can tell the difference between hot burning firewood and the “not-so-much” firewood we put in our wood-stoves.
The type of tree that is burned will make a significant difference. Some types of wood naturally release greater amounts of heat, energy, than others, such as oak or ironwood.
Knowing that, let’s have a look at the table below and the commonly available firewoods along with their BTUs.
Moisture content as a crucial factor
The BTU chart of firewood can be very useful since it compares different types of firewood. Yet each of these firewoods’ BTU output is affected by external factors, and one, in particular, is moisture content. You will not get maximum BTU heat from your firewood if it is not fully dry.
You are likely to buy a mix of different hardwood species when you purchase firewood from another party. The relative moisture content of the wood you buy is more important and something you can control. Compared to fresh-cut (or green) wood, dry wood has a higher heat value. You can determine if the wood is dry by looking at the ends of the pieces. Wood that has been seasoned outside will be somewhat discolored. The smell should not be sappy, and the wood should be hard and solid. Wood that has decayed has a lower heat value and, when dried, feels light and burns quickly.
Kinds of Wood to Avoid Completely
When you heat your home with wood, salvaged firewood or other scraps can be very cost-effective. However, health and safety issues may require you to avoid some wood products and materials. Some of these emit hazardous fumes indoors, as well as smoke from chimneys that can harm the environment. In some cases, they will damage your stove metals or cause a buildup of creosote inside your chimney. Therefore, we listed some of the most important wood-burning safety tips below.
For your safety you should always avoid burning:
- Painted or varnished wood, trim, or other wood by-products
- Pressure-treated lumber
- Plywood, particleboard, and MDF
- Hardboard or other compressed paper products
- Certain woods, especially aromatic cedar, should be avoided if you suffer from allergies.
Conclusion: What’s the Best Wood for Home Heating in Adelaide?
Winters in Adelaide Hills can be harsh, with temperatures going way below zero degrees. Knowing your firewood is, therefore, essential. We’ve said that hardwoods are generally much denser and produce more heat than softwoods. The coaling qualities of hardwoods make them ideal for overnight fires when you want to leave enough coals in the firebox the next morning to light a fire without difficulty.
On the other hand, softwoods tend to light a lot easier than dense hardwoods, but they don’t burn as long as them. It isn’t true that all hardwoods are superior to all softwoods because some hardwoods are softer or lighter in weight than high-quality softwoods. Sometimes a mix of fast-burning and slow-burning firewood might be the best way to go. If your local supplies offer a mixed gum option, you should definitely consider it, since you can use the blue gum firewood to get your house warm quickly, before switching to a longer burning red gum option overnight.
However, as a general rule of thumb, when choosing the best wood for home heating, you should go for:
- Dry and seasoned firewood
- Locally available firewood
- Firewood that doesn’t endanger your health
- Firewood untreated with chemicals
- Firewood that has a high BTU
So, if you’re going to buy firewood from someone else why not get the best firewood available in your region? Littlehampton Landscape & Firewood can help you with that, making sure you get the best possible quality and expertise for the given price.
Call us today for a free quote on all of your firewood needs or simply check out our webshop and get beautifully seasoned firewood delivered straight to your door!