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Not all firewood produces the same results, even if it’s properly seasoned.  You may be looking for firewood that crackles nicely, wood that burns efficiently while not putting off excessive heat, or firewood that provides the most heat per log.  The secret to choosing the right firewood is in knowing about the different types of wood and what their characteristics are.

Too much moisture in firewood of any kind decreases burning efficiency.  The smoke that comes off of green or unseasoned wood is energy that’s going up the chimney instead of being translated into heat for your home.  Not only is wood smoke a sign of inefficient fuel, it’s also unhealthy.  The smoke consists of tiny particles which are breathed in and can evade natural defense mechanisms in the body.   Smoke also creates a more dangerous situation with your chimney, since excessive smoke is the number one cause of the buildup of creosote, which causes chimney fires.

Whatever type of firewood you use, it’s first and foremost important that it be seasoned.  It usually takes between six months and a year for the process of drying out the wood.


crackling fire

Different varieties of wood are perfect for different purposes.

A Crackling Fire

If you enjoy a fire that’s full of crackle and pop, you can’t go wrong with fir.  It’s softwood that dries quickly, splits nicely, and makes for large, beautiful, crackling fires.  Perhaps best of all is that fir fires have a wonderfully fresh aroma which helps create a great holiday ambiance.  Make sure you have a good protective screen or glass doors because the crackling and popping throws more sparks than other types of firewood.

Pine is softwood that can be counted on to provide a nice, crackling fire.  The pine scent can be a little overwhelming indoors, however; and burning pine can cause oily soot deposits in your chimney.

A Hot Fire

Trees are either hardwoods or softwoods.  Hardwoods have the highest BTU (British Thermal Units) content, which means that they give off more heat.  Hardwoods are dense.  A load of hardwood weighs much more than the same sized load of softwood and provides twice the heat.

Hardwood logs burn more slowly and are best for cooking and producing fires which are hotter and more intense.  However, it’s much more difficult to get a fire started using hardwood.  It’s best to use softwood kindling to get your fire started and then add the hardwood.

Some hardwoods that are great for burning because they are easy to burn, provide high heat and produce minimal smoke are:


There are many different varieties of hardwoods that will produce a steady, high-heat fire.


A Quick Burning Fire

Softwoods ignite quickly and are great starter wood.  They burn quickly and cleanly, since they don’t produce a lot of embers which continue to smolder after the fire has died down.  At least one study has shown that seasoned softwoods cause less creosote in the chimney than hardwoods.  While there isn’t as much heat output with softwoods, it’s actually more desirable in some climates to have less heat intensity.

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