The Different Types of Firewood: A Detailed Guide

Are you trying to learn about the different types of firewood? If yes, you should check out our detailed guide by clicking right here.

When it comes to new home builds, fireplaces have fallen out of favor. Nowadays, only around 41% of recently constructed homes include a fireplace in their designs. So if you’ve moved into an older home that already has a fireplace installed, you’re in luck.

Nothing beats the romantic charm and soothing crackle of roaring fire in wintertime, and no camping trip is complete without a fire to light up the night. Are you making the most of your fireplace, or are you a little unsure about how to get started?

Doing some research on the most suitable types of firewood before you light up can help you become a master in the art of making the most of your home’s fireplace.

Winter may be the last thing on your mind right now, but when the chill does roll around, you’ll be better equipped to fight off the cold with this firewood guide.

The Basics of Building the Best Fires

Knowing which type of firewood suits your needs is the first step towards enjoying winter warmth in the best way possible. You don’t want your fire fizzling out on you long before it’s done its job.

Not all firewood’s created equal so, choose wisely before you waste money on unsuitable logs. The two main firewood types are hardwood and softwood. There’s a lot of variety in how hard and durable or soft and workable wood is.

Hardwood vs Softwood

We usually hear the term hardwood in relation to floors but that’s not all it’s good for. Hardwood trees are slow-growing with a dense structure. This means fires made from this wood burn longer and hotter than softwoods.

Softwood trees are quick growing varieties with a softer texture. It’s cheaper to buy this type of wood but it doesn’t burn as long as hardwood firewood. It’s much easier to start a fire made from softwood.

Seasoned and Unseasoned Wood

Freshly cut firewood bears the label ‘unseasoned’ wood or ‘greenwood’. It contains a lot of moisture and may leave residues on your fireplace which can cause chimney fires. That said, unseasoned wood will do fine for outside fires.

Usually, greenwood is easier to come by and cheaper than seasoned wood.

Seasoned wood is a superior choice when you’re building a fire in your fireplace. This type of wood remains outside in the elements to dry out and has a grey or dusty appearance. According to, less than 20% moisture is ideal for firewood.

Kiln-dried firewood is the best option when it comes to seasoned firewood. It’s ready quicker and doesn’t collect any mold or insects in the process.

Types of Wood to Avoid

Apart from greenwood, it’s wise to steer clear of painted and treated wood. These will give off noxious fumes when you burn them. Also, avoid driftwood and don’t throw big logs onto a fire. As far as possible, it’s best to source your firewood locally, too.

Apart from these basics, there are over 50 different types of firewood to choose from when deciding on the best type of firewood for warming your house or adding ambiance to your room.

The Most Popular Types of Firewood

There are over 60,000 species of trees on Earth, but not all of them are ever used to create fires for cooking and warmth. These are some of the top contenders for your hearth, as well as a few you should avoid.


Oak is the most commonly used firewood in the United States. It’s an abundant hardwood species but must undergo seasoning for at least 2 years before use.

If it’s not dried out for long enough, oak won’t burn as intensely or as long as you’d like. Properly seasoned oak wood has a wonderful fragrance, produces few sparks, creates very little smoke, and it’s easy to split.

Most homeowners agree that oak is the best type of firewood for wood-burning stoves.


Maple is another abundant species in the USA and widely favored for its slow-burning high-heat qualities. it’s another top choice for wood-burning stoves since it rarely causes sparks, it makes great coals, and gives off a pleasant smell.

There are five types of maple trees used in fire-making. These are:

  • Silver Maple
  • Boxelder
  • Bigleaf Maple
  • Black Maple
  • Red Maple

Of these, silver maple is most abundant, but they’re all equally efficient when it comes to warming up your home.


You’ll find ash in abundance if you live in the eastern and central states. Thanks to the ravages of the emerald ash borer, there’s a good supply of affected trees available for sustainable harvesting too.

As burns with a steady constant glow and is easy to split. Once it gets going, it gives off good heat, creates few sparks, and has hardly any smell.

One of the best benefits of ash is its low moisture content. That means you don’t need to season it for as long as other types of wood.


Cherry wood gives off a lovely aroma and is a good choice in firewood overall. It creates good coals, very few sparks, and little smoke. This tree is a common and beautiful specimen and highly desirable in furniture making too.

It doesn’t burn with an intensely hot flame but it’s good to go within a year after harvest, so if your winters aren’t too harsh and you’re seasoning your own wood, cherry could be a good bet for you.


Of all the species of birch, yellow birch and the black birch are the top options for fire-making. These woods have dense fibers that create hot long-burning fires. Black birch has a pleasant sweet smell, while yellow birch gives off a fresh wintergreen aroma.

Of the two, yellow birch requires the longest seasoning time, but you shouldn’t buy birch wood that hasn’t undergone at least two years. Avoid white birch when you’re building a fire, it doesn’t season well.

The bark from white birch trees does make an excellent fire starter though since it lights in any weather.


Elm is one of the die-hards of the tree world and has been around for over 20 million years. It started out in Asia, but soon spread across the northern hemisphere. There are over 30 species of elm still around today.

This hardiness works against it when it comes to fire-making though. It’s hard to split and has a high moisture content, which means it must undergo a lengthy period of seasoning. As firewood, most homeowners rate elm as just ‘okay’.


The term ironwood refers to several species of hardwood trees like American Hophornbeam, Blue Beech, Musclewood, and Eastern Hophornbeam.

All these trees have similar characteristics, like dense wood and small stature. This means you’re likely to get manageable sized logs and a lot of heat when you opt for ironwood. Despite these positive characteristics, you’ll get the best results when you mix ironwood logs with other types of wood like oak or maple.


Pinewood is a cheap and abundant wood that burns quickly, so it’s best used as kindling. It’s a softwood, so it burns fast and gives off a lot of dangerous residues.

That said, pine is at its best used in an outdoor fireplace or wood furnace. Of the 115 species of pine, red pine is the best choice for short-term fires like bonfires. Use it with caution though, it gives off a lot of sparks.


You probably know cedarwood for its lovely smell. This makes it a top choice for building a cooking fire since the woodsmoke aromas give meat and fish a delicious flavor. Salmon cooked on a cedar plank is a classic fireside taste.

This softwood splits easily and doesn’t take long to dry out but it’s totally unsuitable for indoor use. It’s a user-friendly wood since it splits easily and ignites quickly.

Always store cedar logs off the ground to avoid moisture seeping into this porous wood.


Poplar wood delivers low rewards for a lot of effort. It burns fast, creates a lot of sparks, and has a bitter smell. There are five main types of poplar, namely.

  • Balsam poplar
  • Black poplar
  • Eastern poplar
  • Lombardy poplar
  • White poplar

All of these are soft and flexible and burn quick and hot. If you have no other option, poplar will do for a quick gathering around the campfire, but overall there are far better choices when it comes to firewood.


Walnut is a surprisingly good choice when it comes to firewood. You can split it easily, it creates good coals, lets of few sparks, and smells okay.

This type of wood is relatively scarce since it’s very slow-growing and highly desirable in the furniture industry. Of all the types of walnut, black wood is the only type that’s occasionally used for firewood, so if you can get your hands on some, try it out.

The wood has a medium-density and burns easily with very little smoke. It’s far superior to softwoods like pine or fir.


Hickory-smoked meats are delicious and you’ll get almost the same effect when you opt for hickory wood for your cooking fire. This very dense, straight-grained, heavy wood is a great choice for firewood.

It burns for a very long time and produces a lot of heat. Unfortunately, it’s these qualities that also make hickory a touch candidate when it comes to stocking your woodpile. You’ll need a good manual or hydraulic splitter to get through this wood.


Eucalyptus wood is comparable to oak when it comes to fire-making.

It’s very difficult to split this type of wood due to its hard, dense characteristics. Once you’ve got it going though, you can look forward to hot intense flames. In fact, the heat generated by this wood means it’s not the best choice for wood-burning stoves.

If you’ve got a pile of eucalyptus wood to burn, rather invite some friends around for a bonfire and enjoy its blazing warmth all night long.


The alder tree is a type of birch tree and is commonly found along the west coast of North America. It’s one of the most often used woods for creating charcoal and is also popular in the meat smoking industry.

Alder grows very fast, making it one of the most sustainable choices when it comes to hardwoods. It burns fast and creates a hot fire with excellent coals. For best results, you can mix alder with other more dense hardwoods like maple, beech, or oak.

It’s a popular choice both indoors and out thanks to its sweet, pleasant smell.


When buying chestnut firewood it’s important to steer clear of the English and Chinese varieties. American chestnut is best for making fires.

Chestnut wood is easy to split and light and gives off a delightful fragrance while it’s burning. Unfortunately, American chestnut trees are rare nowadays, so you’d be lucky to come across this type of firewood for home use.

Make Informed Choices

To sum up, the best types of firewood for you depend on whether you’re using it indoors or out, how long it’s seasoned for, and how cold your winters are.

For safety’s sake, beware of unseasoned wood as it can be a fire hazard, and never leave a fire unattended.

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