The best firewood for fireplace can provide a cleaner, longer burning fire. Learning about the different types of wood can also save you a lot of trouble and issues that can arise if you use the wrong kind of firewood indoors. Not all wood burns the same, so choosing the right type for indoor use will be the key to enjoying a relaxing evening in front of a roaring fire. In this guide, I’ll go over the different types of wood to choose from, their pros and cons, and which kind of wood is the best choice for building a fire.
Softwood and Hardwood
When it comes to firewood, you’ll find you have two options:
Despite the name, hardwoods aren’t always more durable or harder than softwoods. On the other hand, softwoods aren’t always very workable or very soft. The differences between these two types of wood lie in physical structure and their terms of reproduction. It’s not solely based on their appearance or end use.
Hardwoods tend to be denser than softwoods. This means that they can produce more heat and will burn for a longer period of time. Hardwood is also not as sticky as some types of softwoods and will be less likely to cause any tar deposits in a flue.
Most types of hardwood trees grow slowly, which is what makes them denser than softwoods. They tend to burn more slowly, are darker in color, and can produce fires that are more intense and much hotter.
They’re a good choice for lingering, long fires that have plenty of coals and can fuel a wood burning stove, or heat up the whole house. They’re typically considered the best choice for fireplace use.
There are many different types of hardwoods to choose from, but the top three choices for fireplace use are:
This type of wood is one of the most popular choices since it can be found pretty much everywhere. It’s very dense and can burn for a very long time. It’s best used in a mix of different types of logs and it’s the slowest timber to season. It’s a good choice if you want to build a fire that will burn all night long.
Birch is a good option due to its ability to burn quickly, even if it’s unseasoned. There are many different types of birch to choose from, each of which offers different levels of efficiency. The bark of birch trees can make for a great natural fire starter. This type of wood usually works the best when it’s mixed in with wood that’s slow burning, such as oak.
This type of wood will burn well on its own and it can produce a steady flame and offers an excellent heat output.
Wood that falls into this category are known to season more quickly, compared to hardwoods. They’re also lower and lighter in density. Softwood can ignite at a much faster rate and tend to emit a lot of smoke, which is why they’re often a better choice for outdoor use. They work well for campfires, kindling, and outdoor use in general.
There are many popular types of softwood to choose from, but some options are not as plentiful as hardwood.
When chopped up into small pieces, cedar can be burned, even when it’s unseasoned. This wood gives off an enticing aroma and offers a long lasting heat with a small flame and loud crackling sound.
Pine burns quickly and lights easily, however, it will need to be refueled quite often. It makes a great fire starter, however, due to its resin and sap content, it should only be used outdoors.
Larch is the hardest softwood and it’s much harder than some types of hardwood. It also has to be seasoned well and can burn very hot. It’s a great choice to mix with hardwoods and works well for wood burning stoves.
These days, there are several different types of manufactured wood that can be used in your fireplace to keep you warm all winter long.
Wood bricks consist of pieces of wood that are shaped like bricks. They’re made out of sawdust and dried wood chips that have been compressed into a rectangular shape. If you purchase a high-quality product, then a wood brick can burn more efficiently than even some types of hardwood.
Since they usually have a very low moisture content compared to traditional firewood, they will leave less ash behind and will burn cleaner. This means cleaning out your fireplace will be a much easier job.
There are other types of manufactured wood, all of which are essentially made of the same types of material, they’re just compressed into different shapes. This option can be a good one for the person who only occasionally builds a fire, since they can be a little pricey.
Types of Wood You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace
Many people mistakenly believe that they can burn pretty much anything in their fireplace, but that’s not actually the case. There are some types of wood you should never burn indoors, which I’ll cover below.
Wood that’s Not Local
If you happen to find wood for sale several miles away, don’t use it. Using wood that’s traveled too far is the easiest way to introduce diseases or invasive insects. Even a single piece of infected wood can put a whole wood pile at risk.
Freshly Cut Wood
Wood that’s green is freshly cut and comes with a high moisture and sap content that will make it very difficult to light. Once it starts to burn it will smoke a lot and tends to burn inefficiently. Store this type of wood properly, in a well-ventilated area for efficient air circulation. The wood should be covered at the top only. Before burning this wood, make sure it has had a sufficient amount of time to dry out. Always rotate the wood in your burn pile so that you’re burning the old wood first, since older wood will be much drier. For burning, wood must have a moisture content of fifteen to twenty percent. If the moisture content is over twenty percent then the wood will burn poorly and will start to smoke.
Painted or Treated Wood
Wood that’s older and treated is usually preserved with arsenic. So, when you burn the wood you end up releasing arsenic into the air.
If you want to make use of an old painted dresser and decide to chop it up into firewood, then you’ll release the chemicals from the paint once it begins to burn.
Many people are not aware that pallets are often treated with chemicals. They should never be burned, either outdoors or in your fireplace since burning them will release harmful chemicals.
Because of the salt content, the chlorine will transform into carcinogens, which you should never be exposed to. While the salt in driftwood can cause it to produce beautiful flames of different colors, it’s best to avoid burning this potentially dangerous wood in your home.
Fireplace Safety Tips
- When you’re feeding wood into a fire, make sure you use common sense and try to avoid over-fueling your fire.
- For kindling, try to avoid using paper since it will add to the creosote buildup.
- Avoid using lighter fluid or gas to ignite your fire.
- Use the proper type of wood, one that’s free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals
- Have your fireplace cleaned out annually in order to prevent a fire in the home, which can occur due to a buildup of creosote.
- Keep one window cracked when you build a fire, especially if the wood you use produces a lot of smoke
- Make sure that the flue or damper is open before you light a fire and keep them open until the fire has been put out. You can check to see if the damper is open by simply looking up inside of the chimney using a flashlight.
- Always use wood that’s well-aged and dry. Green or wet wood will produce too much soot and smoke. Dry wood will burn more efficiently and evenly.
- Small pieces of wood that have been placed on the grate will produce less smoke and will burn much faster.
- Before building a fire, make sure that you remove any ashes from an old fire. The amount of ashes at the fireplace’s base must be kept at one inch or less since a thick layer of ash can restrict air flow to the wood. This will result in a fire that burns out too quickly or causes too much smoke.
- A fire should never be left unattended in the home, especially if you have small children. Make sure that the fire has been extinguished before you go to bed.
- Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector. Both devices should be tested monthly. The batteries should be changed every twelve months.
The best firewood for fireplace use will burn long and clean. Many people are tempted to burn found wood, pallets, or wood from chopped up pieces of furniture, but as I’ve discussed here, these options can be potentially dangerous. The right type of wood for fireplace use is hardwood, although there are certain types of softwoods that can be mixed in that will also make for a great fire. However, most pros can agree that oak is the way to go, especially if you’re relying on your fireplace to keep your home warm and comfortable during the winter.