It is a common question for people who are interested in burning firewood. Which firewood is the best to burn? Or is there really much difference in types of firewood, or will it all burn just fine?
All wood will burn fine and put out heat but there are differences in the way different types of wood will burn. The most important factor is whether the wood is dry or not. Given enough heat and time green or wet wood will burn. But in order to burn the fire will have to evaporate the water out of it. Not only is it very difficult to get wet wood to burn, it also consumes a lot of energy in evaporating the water. Instead of that energy being used to heat your home, much of it will be wasted in the form of steam that will go out your chimney. Wet wood also produces much more smoke and creosote.
The other major difference is between dense hardwoods and less dense softwoods. Not all hardwoods are more dense than softwoods but many species are. Dense hardwoods have more solid wood in them so they also have more total potential heat in them and they burn longer. Softwoods are usually less dense so they have less potential heat and burn faster.
Softwoods do have an advantage of being easier to ignite, which makes them good for starting fires. They also tend to produce a more intense flame than hardwoods. This can make them good for open fireplaces or campfires because of the larger flames.
For a wood stove, hardwoods are usually the most popular. They will put out a good steady heat for a long time, but you will usually pay more for hardwood. Softwood can work well in a wood stove too, you will just have to use more of it to get the same amount of heat. But if it costs less, that is not always a bad thing.
I prefer to have both for a wood stove. Softwood for starting fires and getting quick heat when I want to warm things up quickly, and hardwood for maintaining a steady heat. This way I get the best of both.
Compare the differences between firewood btu ratings of different species of firewood.
Learn about storing firewood the right way to keep help it dry faster and stay dry.
Photo. Matthias Böckel