Types Of Firewood – A Simple Guide To Burning The Right Fuel (2024)

Whether you’re buying or burning, knowing a few things about the different types of firewood can maximize efficiency and save you trouble when it comes to your wood stove, fireplace, or fire pit.

Not all firewood gives the same results, so understanding the characteristics of different types is key to choosing the best firewood for your needs.

There are two main types of firewood: hardwood and softwood, choosing the right type of wood in each of these categories will make all the difference with the quality of your fire! But don’t let the names fool you – Hardwoods aren’t always harder or more durable, and softwoods aren’t soft and workable—give or take a few exceptions.

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Actually, the difference lies in their terms of reproduction and physical structure, not by their end-use or appearance.

The short version of the story goes like this, hardwoods are generally denser than softwood, meaning they burn for longer and produce more heat. They are also less sticky than softwoods and are less likely to cause tar deposit buildups in your flue.

To get a better idea of the benefits and features of both hardwoods and softwoods, we’re going to break down each category with more details.

So let’s take a look at which is the best firewood for different types of fireplaces.

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The Best Types of Firewood


Most hardwood trees are slow growing, making them much denser than softwoods. They’re darker in color, burn more slowly, and are best for cooking and producing fires which are hotter and more intense.

What they’re great for: Long, lingering fires with lots of coals, heating your house, and fueling your stove. Hardwood is generally the best wood for your fireplace.

Popular Types of Hardwood For Burning:

The list of different types of hardwood could go on and on forever, so we will focus on just three of the most popular:


A favorite because it can be found almost anywhere, oak is very dense and can burn for a long, long time. It’s the slowest timber to season and is best used in a mix of different types of logs. It’s great if you need to keep a fire going at night. You can expect to pay around $180-600 per cord.


A great option for fires thanks to its ability to burn quickly and well, even unseasoned. There are many species of Birch (like Black, Yellow, and White) with varying degrees of efficiency. Its bark can also be used as a natural fire starter. It works best mixed in with slow-burning woods like Oak and a full cord will be around $200.


A favorite for wood burning because it burns well on its own, produces a steady flame, and has a good heat output. If you’re looking to buy a full cord seasoned and split, you can expect to pay around $360 – $420.


Walnut is a clean-burning hardwood that produces a medium amount of heat. It produces a pleasant smell and is quite easy to split.


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Softwoods typically season much more quickly than hardwoods and are lighter and lower in density. They ignite faster than hardwoods and emit more smoke, making them better for outside use.

What they’re great for: Perfect for kindling, campfires, or anything outdoors.

Popular Types of Softwood for Burning: When it comes to softwood the options may not be as plentiful as hardwoods, but there are some great choices. Especially if you’re looking for a wood with a lower heat output:


Small pieces can be burned unseasoned and generally give off a pleasant smell. Cedar will give you a nice, lasting heat with little flame and a strong crackling sound. You’ll be looking at paying around $220 per cord.


Lights easily and burns fast with a good flame, but will need to be refueled more often. An excellent fire starter, but should only be used outdoors as it has a high sap and resin content. A good option to mix in with other firewood, you’ll find a full cord for $160.


The hardest of all softwoods and actually harder than some hardwoods, larch must be seasoned well and will burn very hot. Perfect to mix in with hardwoods and good for stoves (be sure to close the door or you’ll get a smoke filled room). Popular because it’s pretty low-maintenance. A full cord will likely cost you $160.

Manufactured Firewood

Believe it or not, fuel for your fire doesn’t have to be just plain old firewood. These days, there are a few different types of manufactured fuel that can be used in a fire place to keep you warm in the winter:

Wood Bricks

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These are exactly what they sound like, bricks made of wood. In fact, they are made of kiln-dried woodchips/sawdust (which has many different uses) that has been compressed into a brick-like shape.

If you buy a high-quality wood brick such as Bio Blocks, then they can actually burn more efficiently and produce more heat than cordwood.

Because they generally have a lower moisture amount than your typical firewood, they will also burn cleaner and leave less ash – meaning cleaning your fireplace is much easier.

Wood Pellets/Pellet Fuel

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Wood pellets are very similar to wood bricks, except they are made into little pellets. They are designed to be burnt in special heaters called pellet stoves or even special cooking devices called pellet grills, but they can work in standard wood stoves if needed. They generally burn very quickly though, so I would only recommend using them in a standard wood stove as a last resort.

If, however, you find that it is time to replace your old wood stove, you should seriously consider a pellet stove. They are super efficient and environmentally friendly. You can learn more about pellet stoves in our guide here.

Types of Firewood To Avoid

A common misconception is that you can burn any old thing, but that’s not the case. Whether you’re preparing to use a campfire, a cast-iron stove, or even a stone hearth, there are a few woods you should never burn.

Non-local wood

If you find wood that has been cut and stored more than a few miles away, ditch it. Using firewood that has traveled too far is the number one way to introduce invasive insects or diseases to a new environment. Even one infected log can put an entire forest at risk.

Green wood

Freshly cut wood has a high sap and moisture content and can be hard to light. Once it gets burning it will smoke horribly and burn inefficiently. Ask your seller when the wood was cut if you’re unsure if it’s green.

Treated or painted wood

Older treated woods were often preserved with arsenic, when you burn this wood you are releasing arsenic into the air. This simple test can help you avoid burning inorganic arsenic. Additionally, painted woods release chemicals when burnt.


Due to its salt content the chlorine can transform into carcinogens, which you don’t want to expose yourself to. Although the salt may produce pretty flames, it’s best to keep this out of your fire.

Big wood

Logs more than 5 inches in diameter must be recut before use. Throwing large logs onto a fire is a waste of time, be sure to split your logs for maximum efficiency. A great tool to help you get the job done is a

Identifying what you need from your fire and the available species in your area are essential steps for choosing the best firewood for you. The next time you are shopping around, keep this guide in mind!

Common Firewood Terms (Jargon)

To ensure you aren’t lost when shopping around for firewood, there are three important terms to recognize:

  • Cord: Unit of measurement. When purchasing firewood, you purchase it by the cord. A cord is 8′ long x 4′ high x 4′ deep.
  • Seasoned: Dry wood.
  • Green: Unseasoned wood that is still full of moisture.Types Of Firewood – A Simple Guide To Burning The Right Fuel (6)
Types Of Firewood – A Simple Guide To Burning The Right Fuel (2024)


What type of firewood is best to burn? ›

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

What's the worst wood to burn? ›

The Worst Types of Wood to Burn
  • Chestnut.
  • Douglas Fir.
  • Elder.
  • Elm.
  • Laburnum.
  • Larch.
  • Laurel.
  • Poplar.
Oct 12, 2021

What wood is not good for fireplaces? ›

As far as harmful firewood types, driftwood contains dioxins (from the saltwater), and wood from poisonous trees and vines such as poison sumac and oleander can produce toxic smoke. Brazilian pepper wood is also not good to burn because of the toxic chemicals.

What are the three types of firewood? ›

There are 3 different types of firewood – green, seasoned, or kiln dried – and which type you use makes all the difference with the quality of your fire.

What wood burns the hottest and longest? ›

For the serious fire lover, you may want to invest in hardwoods like madrone, live oak, ash, hickory, walnut and fruit trees like apple or cherry. Hardwoods are denser woods that burn hotter and longer than softwoods, but you'll need to let them season more than a year.

What is the cleanest burning wood? ›

When hardwoods are burned in good conditions for a fire, they produce very little smoke or unhealthy particulate matter. A few examples of the most popular hardwoods for fires are white oak, ash, birch, red oak, hard maple, beech, hickory, pecan, dogwood, apple, and almond.

What is the easiest wood to wood burn? ›

Birch burns easily and can be burnt unseasoned. It also burns very quickly so is often best mixed with a slower burning wood such as Oak or Elm. Birch bark can make an excellent fire-lighter. Another good firewood, burns slowly, good heat output and little smoke.

What kind of wood should not be burned in a wood burning stove? ›

Wet or green wood

Freshly cut or green wood has a high moisture content, which is unsuitable for burning. It can lead to incomplete combustion or the production and build-up of harmful by-products, such as creosote or soot, leading to a chimney fire if left unchecked.

What firewood smokes the least? ›

Hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, ash, and birch are considered the best types of firewood for the fireplace because they ignite quickly, produce little smoke, and have a high heat output, making them ideal for warming homes and creating a cozy atmosphere.

What is the longest burning wood? ›

Mahogany had a time of 34:55, douglas fir 36:18, western cedar 16:56, lodgepole pine 16:30, redwood 29:25, oak 40:03, poplar 24:22, alder 19:13, and juniper with 24:04. Oak turned out to last the longest and lodgepole pine burned out the fastest.

What wood causes the most creosote? ›

Contrary to popular opinion, the hardwood's, like oak and poplar , created MORE creosote than the softwoods, like tamarack and pine. The reason for this, is that if the softwoods are dry, they create a hotter, more intense fire. The draft created by the hotter fire moves the air up the chimney faster!

What is the safest fireplace for your home? ›

Electric inserts are the safest fireplace option for preventing fire spread, burns, and air pollution, especially if little ones are around. “To date, electric fireplaces are the safest option for families with children or pets,” says Jen Stark, who runs the home improvement blog Happy DIY Home.

What firewood has the most Btu? ›

BTU Values of Wood Species
Wood SpeciesPounds / cordMillion BTU's per cord
Osage Orange (Hedge)4,72832.9
Hickory, Shagbark4,32727.7
Eastern Hornbeam4,26727.3
54 more rows

What does it mean when firewood hisses? ›

Firewood that retains too much moisture will steam, sizzle, and hiss as the liquid inside heats up from the fire and escapes as steam. With larger deposits of water or sap, the heat can cause vapors to expand rapidly, sometimes cracking wood and throwing dangerous sparks or debris out of the fire.

Which firewood burns the fastest? ›

Softwoods like pine, cedar, and spruce burn quicker than hardwoods. If you are looking for a log that burns slowly, you will want to use hardwood options, such as oak, maple, or hickory logs.

What is the best and worst firewood? ›

Softwoods such as Birch can be good, fast-burning types that produce a lot of flame, but go quickly and with less heat value, while seasoned hickory burns slowly and gives off heat, but smells up the house. Oak is the best choice for the hottest, cleanest-burning wood.

What are the healthiest logs to burn? ›

Hardwoods. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and cherry, are considered the best types of firewood because they burn hot, long, and clean.

Can you wood burn on any type of wood? ›

If you are burning a smooth grained wood - like basswood, poplar, maple, cherry, etc. - then it won't really matter. But if you are burning a rough grained wood - like pine, oak or ash - then it really DOES matter.

Is ash or oak better for log burners? ›

Ash has long been considered the king of firewood due to its reliability and versatility in any appliance. Known for being a darker, slightly chunkier hardwood, this is the go-to firewood for all-round consistent performance and easy fire lighting.


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