The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (2024)

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The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (1)

What is the Best Firewood to Burn in your Woodstove?

Catherine Boeckmann

The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (2)

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Do you use firewood to heat your home? Here is a list of thebest types of firewood to burn—sorted by high, medium, and low heat value—and a few important wood-burningtips.

What Makes for GoodFirewood?

What makes some types of firewood better for burning than others? It comes down to two factors: density and water content. The denser and drier the firewood, the better it will burn and the more heat it can produce in your woodstove, fireplace, or wood furnace.

Hardwood vs.Softwood

Hardwoods generally make for better firewood than softwoods because of their density and comparatively low levels of sap or pitch.


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Kinds of Woods
Fruit trees (Apple, Cherry)
Tamarack (Larch)

Best Firewoods by HeatValue

Not all hardwoods or softwoods are created equal; some burn far better than others or produce more heat. Below are some of the best firewood rated by their heat value, which measures how much heat they putoff.

High HeatValue

1 cord = 200 to250 gallons of fueloil

  • Americanbeech
  • Apple
  • Ironwood
  • Mesquite
  • Redoak
  • Shagbarkhickory
  • Sugarmaple
  • Whiteash
  • Whiteoak
  • Yellowbirch

Medium HeatValue

1 cord = 150 to200 gallons of fueloil

  • Americanelm
  • Blackcherry
  • Douglasfir
  • Redmaple
  • Silvermaple
  • Tamarack
  • Whitebirch

Low HeatValue

1 cord = 100 to150 gallons of fueloil

  • Aspen
  • Cottonwood
  • Hemlock
  • Lodgepolepine
  • Redalder
  • Redwood
  • Sitkaspruce
  • Western redcedar
  • Whitepine

The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (3)


  • How much wood is ina cord?The cord is thestandard measure of volume used for stacked wood. The volume of one cord of wood is 128 cubic feet of stacked wood. Generally, a cord is laid out in stacks measuring 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 8 feet long (4’ x 4’ x 8’). Due to air space between the stacked wood, the volume of solid wood in a cord may be only 70 to 90 cubicfeet.
  • What is a “rick” or “face cord” of wood? Usually, a cord comprises a few stacks of wood. One stack of a cord is called a “rick” or a “face cord. Generally, a rick is 4 feet tall by 8 feet long, and the width of a rick will depend on the length of the individual pieces of firewood. Because of this variability in width, a rick could be equal to 1/4 of a cord, 1/2 a cord, ormore.
  • What is the heat value? Heat value refers to the amount of heat a wood produces when burned. Heat value varies based on the type of wood: A cord of wood with “high heat value” provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil. Other heat values are listedabove.
  • Cutting wood: Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture and must be seasoned (dried) to 20 to 25 percent moisture content before burning. Wood containing more than 25 percent moisture is wet (or green) and should never be burned in a fireplace or woodstove.
  • Splitting wood: Wet wood is easier to split than dry wood. Wood must be split into pieces and stacked out of the rain for at least six months to seasonproperly.
  • Seasoning firewood: If steam bubbles and hisses out of the end grain as the firewood heats up on the fire, the wood is wet or green and needs to be seasoned longer before burning. Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with visible cracks or splits. It is relatively lightweight and makes a sharp, distinctive “clink” when two pieces strike eachother.
  • Burning pine:Limit the amount of pine you burn. It’s a resinoussoftwood.
  • Use the ash: The ash from your woodstove has many uses! Check out these tips for utilizing woodash.
  • Buy local:Only buy firewood from local sources. Buying and moving firewood from elsewhere (especially from state to state) is not only frowned upon,it may also be illegal. Transporting firewood from one place to another increases the chance of spreading invasive pests and diseases.

Do you burn wood? What is your favorite firewood toburn?

Household Tips

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (5)



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Add a Comment

Ultimately, it all really just boils down to what wood type is actually available and either grows in the given area or gets transported in from other areas along with the associated transportation/distance costs involved. It will be what ever you can reasonably afford and is the most sustainable option for your location.

  • Reply

Why isn’t walnut listed?

  • Reply

I burned a lot of black walnut for 13 yrs. in a wood burner with a stainless steel chimney liner because I had a lot that was over groan with 200+ Black Walnut, Cherry and Sycamore Trees. Please let me know if theses listed were very good woods to burn for high heat?

  • Reply

The video was interesting about how a stick of wood could keep you warm. The saying is, it’ll keep you warm three ways. 1) cutting it up, 2) transporting and stacking, 3) burning it. But only in the cooler months. The article mentions burning pine. If green it’s loaded with pitch. Harder to burn and when it does, it’ll accumulate creosote in the chimney, especially if the “smoke” isn’t hot enough. The pitch smoke will accumulate and can cause a chimney fire, I know I’ve had a few. I owned a house built in 1810, no flue liner, just brick, that irregularity will provide places for the creosote to build up. Lived in the house 26 years.

I had 50 acres of woodland in Alton NH much of it was pine, a lot of small standing dead pine, thoroughly dry, no pitch. It was free wood being on my land. I cut it and burned it in the house wood stove, really heated the place. Dead pine burns rapidly and produces high heat with very little ash.

I cut the smaller dead pine and leave the tall ones alone as woodpeckers and other birds find insects / grubs. Besides it harbors more moisture which would need drying. Getting rid of the dead pine opens up the forest to produce better growth for other trees.

It’s also a good wood to burn when making maple syrup in my homemade contraption, high heat and little ash as mentioned.

Burning wood can be interesting , work involvement and pleasureable. If from your property---free.

As an interesting sideline note and history, I’ve been in the south (FL & AL) as a volunteer at a state park (stay free) cutting the southern pine. Those trees have so much pitch in them that when cutting the chips stick to your pant legs. About a half hour after falling, there’s a puddle of pitch on the stump. In the past they made turpentine from the pitch in burning the trees in “tar kilns” Spiral grooves were cut into the bark with a bucket to collect the pitch This is similar to collecting rubber tree sap in Asian countries. Some Tar klins remain around and scars on some trees. For info:

I wouldn’t burn this type of pine for heat.

  • Reply

Thank you Tom for your response.
I appreciate you sharing your knowledge & experience.

I own 10 acres of mixed forest with several stands of pine. Ancient, massive trees (I’ve been collecting globs and globs of pitch) as well as young and struggling.
As I am learning my land & it’s multiple mini and micro ecosystems, I’m seeing so much rot. Brown rot in some places, flushes of Honey mushrooms on another (soft rot?).
Evidence of Asian Jumping worms near the oaks,elms,beech, alder. Very little near the pines.
I digress.

I have been concerned about burning the pine limbs and sticks but your comment really helps.

  • Reply





The Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips (2024)


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