Many homeowners don’t realize the difference between burning hardwoods and softwoods, and how each makes a difference in the amount of heat produced. So today I’m going to go over the different types of wood available and explain how you can get the most out of your wood stove or fireplace. Let’s start with the type of wood you burn.

Types of Firewood

There are two basic types of firewood; hardwoods and softwoods.

Hardwoods are very dense; their fibers are much closer together than the fibers of softwood. Because of this, they burn much longer and hotter. They also dry, or season, much more slowly than softwoods because of their density. They produce hot embers that continue to smolder for longer periods of time than softwoods.

Softwoods dry faster than hardwoods because they are about half as dense and air can go between the fibers more easily to evaporate the moisture. They catch fire very quickly and burn quickly as well. Softwoods are great to use for kindling because they create hot flames very quickly. Softwoods burn almost completely, leaving very few ashes and no coals behind. Softwoods provide more of that nice crackle and spark that a lot of homeowners look for in firewood.

  • Hardwoods
  • Oak
  • Walnut
  • Maple
  • Hickory
  • Beech
  • Softwoods
  • Spruce
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Fir
  • Redwood
  • Seasoned Firewood

The seasoning process is extremely important to the efficiency and safety of firewood. This is when the moisture evaporates from deep within the wood and makes it safer to burn. Unseasoned wood has a high moisture content. The more moisture that’s in the wood you burn, the more creosote will be created as the smoke cools, condenses, and sticks to the walls of the flue. Dryer wood creates substantially less creosote and is safer to burn than damp wood.

When to Use Softwood or Hardwood

Pound for pound both types of wood produce the same amount of heat. You will effectively use double the amount of softwood to burn the same length of time as hardwood to achieve the same heat because of the density of hardwood. With that in mind, you should choose softwoods during mild weather when you can build smaller fires and effectively knock the chill out of the air. Burn hardwoods, or a combination of hard and soft during cold weather for a hotter, longer lasting burn.

When you use a combination of hard and soft wood types, and you’re looking to achieve a long lasting burn, use larger pieces of wood. Arrange the wood in the firebox so that air and flames cannot easily penetrate the load, and make sure that a piece of hardwood is on the bottom to produce the coals required for a long burn.

If you have any questions about what types of firewood to use or how to get the most heat out of your fireplace or wood stove, call Lou Curley’s Chimney Service at 610-626-2439. We’ll schedule a consultation so that we can take the time to discuss all of your fireplace or chimney concerns. Make sure to schedule a yearly inspection and cleaning as well. A clean fireplace and chimney will work more safely and efficiently than a dirty one.