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Contents: Types | Links | Building a Fire | Reference: Links, Publications | Seasoning & Moisture content | Efficiency | Stoves | Dealers | Measures - Volume - Density - Weight | Pine vs Fir| Terms
Type BTU's * Qual. cost/cord
2004-5
Seasoning time Comments
Hardwoods Usually from broadleaved trees (oak, walnut, ...). Burns hotter, longer and cleaner than softwood, but are harder to start.
Oak, White 29.1 E $280-400 4-8 mos. The king of woods. Rich scent, lasts longest, burns clean. long-burning hardwood typically used in pizza ovens, wood-burning grills and barbecues.
Forest Service Page.
Oak, Black 22.6 E      
Oak, Red 24.6 E      
See Wood Heating values for other varieties
Almond 31 E $220-280 9-12 mos. The best choice for woodstoves. It produces about 20% more heat per cord than Oak, making it a good value, and it burns clean for an easy clean-up.
Requires an easy starting kindling to get it started.
Walnut, Black 22.2 E   5-8 mos. Great for those on a budget. Produces much more heat than typical warehouse or grocery store bundles, making it a good value. It burns clean for an easy clean-up and is typically smaller and easier to carry than some other woods. Walnut is a good quality firewood with several interesting traits. It's clean burning, easy to start, and has a pleasant aroma. Its BTU value is not as high as almond or oak, but it is much better than softwoods such as pine, fir, and cedar. nutty aroma.
Forest Service Page.
Walnut, English 22.5 E $125    
Maple, Sugar 25.5 E      
Maple, Red 22        
Type BTU's * Qual. cost/cord Seasoning time Comments
Elm, American 20 F      
Elm, Red 21.6 G      
Apple 27 E      
Cherry, Black 20.4 G      
Plumb 25       Hard woods that burn clean and produce appealing fragrances. Great for cooking
Mesquite     $400    
Eucalyptus 28       It burns extremely quickly and creates a very hot flame because of its high oil content. It is recommended that eucalyptus be combined with other varieties to dilute its intensity.
Hickory 27 E $100    
Softwood Softwood is a good firewood if you are looking for a fire that is very easy to start. Due to the high pitch content, most softwoods (conifers: pine, fir, cedar, etc.) tend to pop and "crackle". Also, these woods tend to leave more creosote on the fireplace flue than other woods. This is because softwoods burn at a lower temperature than hardwoods. This means that more unburned materials (in the form of smoke) go up the chimney and stick to the sides of it. They can also be used to mix with hardwoods to help keep a fire going if the hardwoods aren't as seasoned as they could be
Type BTU's * Qual. cost/cord Seasoning time Comments
Pine Creosote buildup inside the chimney.
Pine, Eastern White 15.6       Poor Coals
Creosote buildup inside the chimney.
Pine, Pinyon 22 F     The "hardwood" of the softwood family. It lights easily and burns with more flame, but for a softwood gives you a good value as the fire lasts longer than other softwood
Pine, Ponderosa 16.2 F     Fair Coals
Pine, Lodgepole 19 F     Fair Coals
Douglas-Fir 20.7 G      
Fir, White 14.6 F      
Fir, Red 15.1 F      
RedCedar, Eastern 18.2 F      
Incense Cedar 16        
Other firewood ratings:
See Firewood Ratings at C Johnson's Public Service Pages.
Firewood Ratings and Info | Chainsaw Journal

See Wood Heating values for other varieties. E.g. there are 9 varieties of red oak with different heat values.
* BTU's are Millions/Cord. The values for a species vary by source. Examples:
Type U. Nebraska Olson Fogazzo Sepulveda EcoFireEnrgy Engr
Almond 22.3-23.7 23.5 32.9 24
Oak 24-29.1 34.4-36.6 36.5 23-32 21-24 red 26-29
White Oak 29.1   28.2 23 28-31
Walnut 22.2 24.5-26.0 26.0 22.5-23.5 20 24

Pound for pound, all woods create the about the same amount of BTUs. Does this mean that a cord of seasoned pine puts out the same amount of heat as a cord of seasoned hickory? No! The hickory will produce twice the amount of BTU's of the pine because it weights roughly twice as much as the pine.
Softwoods usually have a lot of resin content that has high energy content so their total energy content per pound is usually higher than for hardwoods (often by about 5%), however the fact that they have lower density (less pounds per cord) and burn up faster makes them less attractive.
See Efficiency below


Measures - Volume - Density - Weight
Cord:
STANDARD CORD which is a neatly stacked pile eight feet long by four feet wide by four feet high with a volume of 128 cubic feet. Since wood can't be stacked without air space, only 60-110 cubic feet of the 128 may be solid wood. (Usually it runs between 80-90 cubic feet with more solid wood content in round wood than split.) A FACE CORD is also called a RICK or a PALLET or a SHORT CORD is a stack of logs measuring 8 feet by 4 feet by whatever the length of the logs happens to be (Sometimes defined as 1/2 cord, but may be 1/3 cord if in 16" lengths). A TIER is 1/3 cord

Volume of a pile of split wood:
A cord of wood is 4x4x8 or 128 cu ft, but there is a lot of air. 85 (67-100) cu ft of split wood per cord

Standard fireplace length is 16"
A full sized pickup load is approx. 1/2 cord.
A ford ranger load is approx. 1/4 cord.
The back of a jeep with the seat removed holds about 1/6 cord
A cord of white oak weighs about 2 tons
A cord of pine weighs about 2,500 pounds

Density of common woods range from 28 lb/ft3 for cedar to 64 lb/ft3 for post oak.

Some Common woods
Type   Green    Seasoned
Almond 52 lb/ft3
Maple  45-54      33-40
Oak    61-64      42
Fir    38         30-33
Pine   36-52      24-35
See: Wood Species - Moisture Content and Weight

Building a better fire:

Before lighting a fire, make sure the thermostat is turned down so air heated by the central furnace will not go up the chimney. The easiest and best fire for either a stove or fireplace is achieved with a mixture of softwoods for easy igniting with hardwoods for longer burning and good coaling qualities. A cardinal rule of fireplace management is to keep a thick bed for glowing coals that drop through. The coals yield a steady heat and aid in igniting fresh fuel as it is added. Keep the fire burning by adding small amounts of firewood at regular intervals. A small, hot fire is much better than a large, roaring blaze because it burns more completely and produces less creosote.

To achieve a long-lasting fire that will heat the house overnight or while you are away, rake the coals toward the air inlet and use larger pieces of wood placed compactly in the firebox. Placing the pieces close together prevents the heat and flames from penetrating the load and saves the buried pieces for later in the burn cycle. Fully open the air inlets for 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the load and the moisture content of the fuel. When the outer pieces have a thick layer of charcoal, reduce the airflow in stages to the desired level.

With some of the new highly efficient combustion stoves, you may have to alter this procedure slightly.

Links:

BTU Ratings:
   Heating with wood - characteristics at U. Nebraska
   Firewood Ratings and Info at Rutland Products
   About Firewood at sepulveda.com
   Firewood at Fogazzo wood fired ovens.
   Olson
   About Bruning Wood  at EcoFire.com

Firewood Facts and Fuelwood Characteristics at Oregon Dept. of Agriculture About Bruning Wood and Pollution at EcoFire.com Firewood for Home Heating Wood Fuel for Heating Heating your Home with Wood at UC Davis Home Heating with Wood at CDC's National Ag Safety Database (NASD) Heating with Wood Needs Care and Consideration California Combustables (Firewood FAQs) What kind of wood generates the most heat when burned? FAQs of the Internet BBQ list USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory: Energy from Wood Tech Sheets for Hardwood and Softwoods Lodgepole Pine
Publications:
  • "Energy engineering fundamentals with residential and commercial applications" by Charles B Schuder
  • "Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material, (1974)", Forest Products Laboratory, USDA, FS Ag. Handbook No. 72..
  • Burning Wood and Coal by Susan Mackay, L. Dale Baker, John W. Bartok, Jr., and James P. Lassoie. 1985. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, Riley Robb Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. (607) 256-7654. 90 pp. $4.95.
  • The Wood Burner's Encyclopedia by Jay Shelton and Andrew B. Shapiro. 1976. Vermont Crossroads Press, Box 333, Waitsfield, VT 05673. 155 pp. $6.95.
  • Wood Heat Safety by Jay Shelton. 1979. Garden Way Publishing Co., Charlotte, VT 05445. 165 pp. $8.95.
  • Heat Producing Appliance Clearances. NFPA No. 89M, National Fire Protection Association, 470 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02210.
  • Chimneys, Fireplaces, and Vents. NFPA No. 211, National Fire Protection Association, 470 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02210.
  • Heating With Wood. Larry Gay. Garden Way Publishing, Dept. 90731, Charlotte, VT 05445, 128 pp.
  • Planning and Building Your Fireplace. Margaret and Wilbur F. Eastman, Jr. Garden Way Publishing, Dept. 90731, Charlotte, VT 05445, 128 pp.
  • Woodstove Cookery. Jane Cooper. Garden Way Publishing, Dept. 90731, Charlotte, VT 05445, 204 pp.
  • Woodstove Directory. 1986. Communications Press, P. O. Box 4474, Manchester, NH 03108.
  • When Does It Pay To Burn Wood." 1980. Paul Stegmier and L. T. Hendricks. Wood Burning Quarterly - Home Energy Digest. V.4(2):4953.
Efficiency
Fully dried wood: 8,000 - 9,500 BTU/pound
Air-seasoned (20% moisture content) wood: 5,500 - 8,500 BTU/pound
Green wood (15-55% moisture, see below): 3230 Btu/pound
Green wood gives off much less BTUs than seasoned wood, for it takes a lot of the heat energy to evaporate the moisture out of the green wood.

Energy Efficiency values:
Ew Wood Heater
0.10 Fireplace
0.25 Improved Fireplace
Nonairtight (Franklin) Stove
0.50-.65 Airtight Stove
0.60 Wood Furnace
0.65 Airtight Stove with Catalytic Combustor
Source: Home Heating with Wood at CDC's National Ag Safety Database (NASD), Oregon Dept. of Agriculture and Virginia Tech
Stoves at U. Idaho
See Home Heating Costs for comparisons with Gas, Oil and Electric.

Wood burning stoves and fireplaces
Advanced-combustion high-efficiency wood-burning appliances burn up to a third less wood while generating the same amount of heat, which means savings in labour and costs.

Smoke is the source of creosote, and older uncertified stoves and fireplaces release 40 to 80 grams of smoke per hour; new EPA-certified stoves produce only 2 to 5 grams of smoke per hour.

See: Wood Burning Stoves at U. Idaho

Seasoning
Seasoned wood means the same wood will cost you about $30 a cord more. Do pay attention to the dealer before he drops the wood. Check the measure and check the age. Seasoned wood, if it honestly is, will have cracking on the ends of the logs. It may also be darkened and weathered. Smack two pieces together, a 'thud' sound indicates the wood is green, a 'thunk' indicates dry wood.

Moisture content varies by type:
Type Moisture
RedCedar, Eastern 12%
Douglas-Fir 12%
Elm, American 55%
Oak, White 33%
Pine, Eastern White 24%
Pine, Ponderosa 54%
Sycamore 81%
Walnut, Black 44%
See Firewood Ratings at C Johnson's Public Service Pages.

Seasoning:

Seasoning wood means storing the wood to dry. When wood is freshly cut, it is holding approximately 60% of its water content and wont be usable for a fire until the moisture inside drops to about 20% or lower. Youll need to let the wood dry for 6 months to 1 year for it to be seasoned. Some species may take longer, and your climate plays a role too.

Trees harvested in the fall, winter or spring will contain more water than those cut in the summer.

It takes at least six months of drying (providing wood is cut to length and stored to permit good air circulation) to bring the moisture content down to 30 percent, and a full year to get it to the desired 20 percent moisture. Source U. N. Hampshire

Ovendried wood will have about 12% moisture.

The Heating Value (HV) (Btu/lb.) can be calculated as:
HV =           8600          
1 + % moisture/100

Wood cut to length dries more rapidly. The moisture is most effectively removed through the cut cells at the ends of each piece. Wood greater than eight inches in diameter and four feet in length dries very slowly.

If you live in the northern climes, a good time to split the wood is when the it is frozen in winter. It gives a cleaner cut and takes less force to do the same work.

Hazards
There are many trees and shrubs in this world that contain toxins to humans--toxins that can survive the burning process. So, be careful what you use for BBQ or smoking meats.

In general, working with pine wood may cause dermatitis, allergic bronchial asthma or rhinitis in some individuals. See Lodgepole Pine at US Forest Svc.

Prices for smoking hardwoods will vary with your location. Prices are as of early 1998 include delivery and splitting. Where there is lots of hardwood, like in parts of the south, hickory can cost you as little as $75 a cord. In Carlsbad NM, you can buy a cord of pecan for $110. In the hill country of Texas, you can get a cord of oak for $80. In Southern California, where hardwoods are scarce, a cord of oak or mesquite costs $400, a cord of almond about $280. In Virginia, a mixed cord of hickory and oak runs $135. In central Illinois, a cord of mostly oak with some hickory and maple mixed in runs $90-100. In western Connecticut, a cord of oak with a little hickory and maple thrown in will cost you about $90. In Southern Oregon, a cord of oak runs $120, pear wood about $150.


Best Firewood:
All wood burns, but not all woods burn the same. Some burn hotter, slower, and cleaner than others. Some smoke a lot, and some have a lot of sap or resin that clogs your chimney quickly. The best types of firewood for a wood stove or fireplace burn hot and relatively steadily, producing more heat and, typically, burning more completely. These woods tend to be hardwoods, such as hickory or ash, rather than softwoods, such as pine and cedar.
See The Best Firewood for Your Wood Stove or Fireplace | TheSpruce for more.

Pine and/or Fir:
You can find good and bad for both:

Don't burn pine: Best Logs for a Wood Burning Stove | Choosing Firewood

Pine is OK: "Never burn pine in the woodstove!" is a myth | Hearth.com Forums Home

Fir is best: The Best Firewood for Your Wood Stove or Fireplace

Conifers, pine, fir, Cedar, ... are all bad: Best and Worst Firewood for Wood Stove or Fireplace - PICKHVAC

Firewood: What Type Should You Use? | Bob Vila
Pine
Widely available and highly sustainable in northern climates, pine seasons faster than hardwood varieties, is easy to split, and easy to start. The cons are that it burns very quickly and does not produce the heat of hardwoods. Also, burning pine is usually characterized by exploding sap pockets that cause sparking, which it turn can cause creosote buildup in your chimney. Many people like to use a softwood like pine to get a fire started before switching over hardwoods once the fire is hot.

Fir
Probably the best conifer for firewood, Douglas Fir has a medium heating value and does not produce too much ash. Older trees are easy to split and easy to start. Fir does produce a moderate amount of sparking.

Douglas fir is commonly mixed with Lodgepole and Ponderosa or Yellow Pine and the combination makes a great firewood choice.

Firewood Ratings and Info
Species Relative
Heat
Easy to
Burn
Easy to
Split
Heavy
Smoke
?
Throw
Sparks
?
General
Rating
Aroma Weight of
Seasoned
Cord-lbs
Heat
Producd
per Cord
M Btu
Douglas Fir High Yes Yes Yes No Good . . 20.7
Western White Pine Low Med/Exc Yes Med No/Mod Fair Good 2,236 14.3
Sugar Pine Low Med/Exc Yes Med No/Mod Fair Good . .
Ponderosa Pine Low Med/Exc Yes Med No/Mod Fair Good 2,380 15.2


Where to buy

2009 prices:
Bushwhackers Firewood - (530) 412-3663 Kings Beach/Truckee 
     Cord:  Almond $340,  $25 delivery
 1/2 cord:  Almond $195,  $25 delivery
     Cord: Hard - Soft mix $300 $25 delivery
2008 prices:
Muschetto's Firewood - (916) 725-9663 7108 Antelope Rd
  1/2 Cord: Almond $209, Prem Oak $220, White Oak $219, Walnut $149
Bushwhackers Firewood - (530) 546-8307 Kings Beach/Truckee 
     Cord:  Almond $360, walnut $315,  $35 delivery
 1/2 cord:  Almond $205, walnut $185,  $35 delivery
North Shore Firewood - Truckee (530) 546-5876
      Cord: Almond or Oak $400 + $40 delivery
  1/2 Cord: Almond or Oak $280 $40 delivery
2004-5 prices:
Muschetto's Firewood - (916) 725-9663 7108 Antelope Rd
   Almond $240, Prem Oak $290, White Oak $280,
Bushwhackers Firewood - (530) 546-8307 Kings Beach/Truckee 
   Almond $300, fir-pine $175, Mixed $250 $20 delivery
North Shore Firewood - Truckee (530) 546-5876
      Cord:  Almond $325, pine-fir $265, mixed $300 $30 delivery

Terms:
  • Creosote - A variety of products that include wood creosote, coal tar pitch, ... or the resin of the creosote bush (chaparral),
    A black tar-like byproduct of burning wood. It will condense on the inside of the flue or chimney and can cause chimney fires.
    This happens if the flue is cold enough for the condensation process to take place. There are many reasons such as:
    Burning the fire too cool;
    Using fuel whose moisture content is too high;
    Cooling or slowing down the flue gases too much with the damper;
    Etc.
  • Seasoning - Storing the wood to dry. When wood is freshly cut, it is holding approximately 60% of its water content and wont be usable for a fire until the moisture inside drops to about 20% or lower. Youll need to let the wood dry for 6 months to 1 year for it to be seasoned. Some species may take longer, and your climate plays a role too.

See Also:
Wood Heating values for other varieties. E.g. there are 9 varieties of red oak with different heat values.
Home Heating Costs
Chimney Fires at: EndTimesReport and Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)
U. of Missouri
< Firewood Types - What Type Should You Use? - Bob Vila
Firewood Types - What Is the Best Firewood?
The Best Firewood for Your Wood Stove or Fireplace | TheSpruce


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last updated 2 May 2022