When it’s cold outside, there is nothing quite like the cozy feeling of warming yourself up by the fire. Having a fireplace in your living space gives you the opportunity to bring the outdoors in—along with the nostalgic sounds and smells from gathering around the campfire as a kid—and to warm up a small area quickly. What’s the first thing you need to start a fire? Fuel, which for most fireplaces means wood.
What is the Best Wood to Burn in Fireplaces?
Many of us have a pile of firewood next to the exterior of our homes from a recent tree-trimming project. Have you ever thought about what kind of wood is best to burn in a fireplace? Does it matter? What happens if you get the wrong kind of wood?
Identifying Types of Firewood
While it’s true that most wood will burn in a fireplace, choosing the right wood is important, not only to your enjoyment of your fire but the health of your fireplace and your environment. The best kind of wood to burn is one of the hard woods, such as oak, hard maple and birch because they release more heat and produce less creosote deposits.
Oak is considered the best wood to burn in a fireplace, by far. Why? This type of wood produces a slow-burning fire that lasts longer and burns more evenly and hotter. In addition, oak is plentiful and found in almost any area of the country. There is one caveat, however: to burn well, oak needs to be seasoned well, which means it needs to be dried for at least a year after cutting, so the sap dries. Oak can also be a little harder to ignite, but you’ll be richly rewarded by the perfect fire once it gets going.
Hard maple is found mainly in the northern United States and Canada. Like oak, it’s heavy and burns slowly, once seasoned properly. Different types of maple that can be used for firewood include red maple, sugar or hard maple, black maple, Norway maple and silver maple.
Birch gives off a beautiful flame, but unlike oak or maple, it burns quickly, so you’ll need to have more on hand than either oak or maple.
Because hard woods burn more slowly and completely, you’ll have less to clean up once the fire is out and less chance of buildup in your chimney.
What About Softer Wood?
Softer woods, like pine and fir trees, season more quickly than hard woods, are easier to split and is easier to start, but also burn faster and leave more ash residue. The fact that softer woods season more quickly isn’t necessarily a good thing; there are more chances of residual sap pockets, causing more sizzle and snap than well-seasoned hard woods. Fir trees do result in less ash, and season well, with fewer leftover sap pockets.
What’s the Best Wood for Texas Fireplaces?
For the most part, in Texas, fireplaces are not used as the sole heat source for a home, when heating is needed, so using wood that takes a long time to burn isn’t always necessary. For Texas fireplaces, it’s best to have a good mixture of all types of wood, both hard and soft, so your fire burns evenly and throws off just the right amount of heat.
More Firewood Tips
Here are a few tips to make sure you are ready for your next fire:
- Make sure you’re buying seasoned wood or have time to season it yourself. Seasoned wood produces more heat for your fires, burns more cleanly and is easier to start. Seasoned wood takes on a grayish color and is relatively lightweight. Heavy wood can indicate that there’s still sap, which will burn quickly and not produce as much heat.
- Do not burn painted or treated scraps from construction projects, as burning this type of wood can release harmful chemicals into your home.
- Store your wood in a well-ventilated area outside, up off the ground, protected from the elements using a plastic tarp or covering.
- Only bring in as much wood as you’re going to use at one time. Because wood attracts bugs, like termites, bringing more than you need to the house will encourage the bugs to stick around inside.
And remember—regardless of the type of wood you’re using, schedule to have your chimney cleaned before September, to make sure it’s clean, in good repair and ready to go before the first fire of the season.
Capitol Chimney Can Help With Your Fireplace
When it comes to cleaning, repairing or advising you about how to get the most out of your fireplace, Capitol Chimney is here to help. Our cleaning services include a special quality check inspection. We go the extra mile to keep your home tidy and clean, whether we are doing a cleaning or a repair. Contact us so that you can enjoy your fireplace for years to come.