Contrary to the name, soft maple is actually considered a hardwood. There are more than 120 species of North American soft maple, but silver maple, red maple and boxelder maple are the most common. It is commonly known that hard maple makes a good firewood, but because soft maple is much lighter and less dense, many people are wary about throwing soft maple logs into their fireplace or fire pit.
Species of Soft Maple
Three of the most common soft maple species are silver, red, and boxelder. These species grow in abundance across North America, on both the East and West coasts. All three species grow relatively tall and are larger in the north. Color variation is diverse in soft maple wood. Hard maple and soft maple are very similar, but soft maple is about 25 percent lighter regarding density. Once cut and seasoned, soft maple is a stable wood.
Characteristics when Burned
Soft maple is regarded as an average wood for burning. While soft maple wood does not compare to ash, oak or hickory, it is still an acceptable wood for burning, whether in a fire pit or indoors in a fireplace. Relative heat level is medium, and the wood is generally easy to burn. Smoke production is low, and sparks are rare. A negative aspect of soft maple is that it is rather difficult to split. The maximum British thermal units (BTU) for soft maple are 18.7 per cord.
Because soft maple is not nearly as strong as other woods, including hard maple, it is recommended that the wood be saved for days and nights when not much heat is needed. If you're trying to build a slow-burning fire, soft maple is not the ideal wood. Soft maple typically requires numerous trips to the fire. As a result, soft maple should be saved for kindling or small fires when the amount of heat needed is low. Save the more dense woods for colder days and nights.
Burning Green Soft Maple
If you've purchased wood that was said to be "seasoned," yet you find it to be green in color, beware before burning. Burning green wood can cause creosote buildup in a fireplace, so it is necessary to have the fireplace checked to avoid preventable fires and other dangerous situations. Before purchasing firewood, check the ends for cracks. Cracks on the ends of the logs are a good indicator of properly seasoned firewood.
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