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The Best Wood to Burn in Wood Burning Stoves and Burners

Updated on December 3, 2012

The type of wood you use for your wood burning stoves depends largely on what is available at reasonable cost in your neighbourhood.

The most important thing about the wood you use is that it must be well-seasoned.

This is wood that has been cut down and chopped into logs that will fit inside your wood burner, and stored outside under cover for at least a year before being used.

It is good practice to bring some wood into the house to store beside the wood burner, at room temperature, for a few days before use.

If you buy firewood from a supplier, you can check how well seasoned it is by using a wood moisture meter.

Dry wood tends to split across the grain at the cut end when really dry, and the bark comes away easily, so even without a meter you can visually check that your wood is ready to be burned.

a real wood fire
a real wood fire

There are very good reasons for only burning well-seasoned wood.

Freshly-cut wood can contain up to 45% water.

Light a fire with this wood and most of the fire’s energy will go into drying out the moisture, not into producing heat.

Burning wet wood is the cause of creosote build-up in chimneys, which not only damage the chimney lining, but facilitate more call outs to a sweep to clean your chimney.

Wet wood also causes more smoke production and therefore more pollution.

When using well seasoned wood, the chimney heats up quicker (and so reduces condensation with can turn to creosote and block up your chimney), the fire burns better, and emits more heat.

wood burning fire
wood burning fire

There are many different types of wood around. Denser woods burn slower and for longer than light woods.

This is a helpful list which is by no means comprehensive but is offered as a rough guide only

  • Acacia - burns slowly, good heat. Acrid smoke but that is not a problem in a stove.
  • Alder - poor heat output. Burns quickly.
  • Almond - good heat, burns rapidly. Can be sparky. Bright flame.
  • Apple - burns slowly and steadily. Good heat. Pleasant scent.
  • Ash - the best for burning.Provides excellent heat. Can be used when green, but better when seasoned.
  • Beech - good heat but must be well-seasoned.
  • Birch - good heat, bright flame. Burns quickly.
  • Blackthorn - very good heat, burns slowly and steadily.
  • Box Elder
  • Cedar - great heat, bright flame. Tends to spark a lot. Nice scent.
  • Cherry - burns slowly and steadily. Good heat. Scented.
  • Chestnut - poor heat and light. Sparks.
  • Cypress - burns rapidly. Good heat but can be sparky.
  • Douglas Fir - produces little flame or heat.
  • Elder - burns too quickly with little heat and produces black acrid smoke.
  • Elm - has very high natural water content and should be seasoned for 2 years before use. Burns very slowly with good heat output.
  • Eucalyptus - very fast burning with good heat. Needs to be well seasoned as wood is full of oils that can start a chimney fire.
  • Hackberry - medium heat.
  • Hawthorn - very good heat, burns slowly and steadily.
  • Hazel - burns well, but rapidly. Good heat.
  • Hemlock - burns brightly, but with low heat and many sparks.
  • Holly - needs to well seasoned. Burns well. Not a great heat.
  • Honeylocust - like all hardwoods, burns well and slowly.
  • Hornbeam - good heat but must be well-seasoned. Burns slowly.
  • Horse Chestnut - good heat and bright light, but very sparky.
  • Laburnum - best avoided. Acrid smoke.
  • Larch - fairly good heat, but very sparky. Forms a soot on chimneys.
  • Laurel - produces a really bright flame.
  • Lilac - burns well. Good flame and heat. Scented.
  • Lime - burns poorly - low heat an light.
  • Maple - good firewood, burns well, bright flame.
  • Mulberry - excellent wood for burning. Slow-burning. Great heat.
  • Oak - when well seasoned oak is excellent.Slow burning with good heat.
  • Olive - good heat, burns steadily.
  • Pear - sweetly scented. Burns well. Good light and heat.
  • Pine - burns well but rapidly. Spit and sparks a lot. Causes chimney soot.
  • Plane - burns well, but apt to throw sparks when dry.
  • Plum - nicely scented.Burns well.
  • Poplar - burns very slowly with little heat. Used to make matchsticks because of those properties.
  • Red Cedar - burns easily and well but tends to spit and spark a lot.
  • Rowan - excellent firewood.Burns hot and slow.
  • Rhododendron - the thick stems burns well.
  • Spruce - makes poor firewood. Burns too quickly with too many sparks.
  • Sycamore - good heat. Moderate flame. Needs to be well seasoned.
  • Sweet Chestnut - burns well but better in a stove as it spits and sparks a lot.
  • Thorn - great firewood. Burns slowly, little smoke, great heat.
  • Walnut - nice scent. Average burning.
  • Wellingtonia - makes poor firewood.
  • Willow - very good burner.
  • Yew - burns slowly. Fierce heat. Great firewood.

Firewood is not sold by its weight and for very good reasons. Heavier firewood is moisture-laden, and the best firewood you can buy should be dry, which will also make it lighter. Firewood instead is sold by volume.

wood burning stove
wood burning stove


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    • L a d y f a c e profile image

      L a d y f a c e 7 years ago from Canada

      Tell me about it! I set up a duct system with a couple of larger fans, one sucking the cold air in, and one blowing the hot air out and through the house. I only paid $900 cad for 4 cord, and there's only one heater on in the whole house - at 15 (for my son's room. The door is closed a lot so the circulation isn't top notch). My power bill has barely changed from the summer. I have a huge house so 900 for winter heating is a steal compared to the cost of power for it.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I'm with you there - I love the smell of wood burning :) And I love the heat you get from a wood burner knowing there is no big bill to face a couple of months down the line!

    • L a d y f a c e profile image

      L a d y f a c e 7 years ago from Canada

      This is great info. I use a wood stove as the primary heat source for my house. I got 4 cord of wood in the summer, and brought one inside to dry out. I have another in the garage for when the my current wood runs low. I still have one cord outside covered up with a tarp.

      I'm not quite so fancy though, my kindling comes from my crappy axe swings when I'm chopping wood.

      I'm always so afraid of creosote build-up causing a chimney fire. I clean everything out every 6 months. Thanks for the info about raising the temperature quickly. I got a temperature gauge this year too, which makes things sooo much easier.

      I have to say though, my favourite smell in the world is a wood stove burning.

    • profile image

      Fire Logs 7 years ago

      Thanks for the list of hardwoods, great information.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I didn't know about wood having to be well seasoned! That'll explain why my fires were never as hot as my neighbours :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Issy, Thanks for the great information as we have a fireplace and I really didn't know that much about types of wood except to not burn soft wood like pine.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks WildIris. I should have said it was good for kindling even though it burns too quickly to be good for heating.

    • profile image

      WildIris 7 years ago

      Informative Hub. Don't forget to clean the chimney from last year. Douglas Fir burns hot and fast. It has a high sap content. It is good for kindling.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I'm feeling the cold of winter already. Nearly time to start using the wood burners.

    • snakebaby profile image

      Sabrina Yuquan Chen (陈玉泉) 7 years ago from Boston, MA, USA

      This is a complete info, thanks