While most types of wood can be used in a fireplace, some woods burn better than others. And when it comes to home heating, you should be picky about the type of wood you buy, or your money essentially could go up in smoke. Learn a few basics about fireplace wood, and you can make smart decisions about the type of wood that best meets your needs.
Fireplace wood should be seasoned beforehand. Unseasoned wood is hard to ignite, burns poorly, produces little heat and is a bit smoky. To be considered seasoned and fireplace-ready, wood must have been allowed to dry for six months to a year. It's a good idea to buy firewood up to a year in advance to ensure that it's had time to properly dry. Seasoned wood will be lighter than green, or fresh, wood; the bark will be loose and the wood color will be dull.
Hardwood versus Softwood
Hardwoods are the best types to use for heating. They are dense, put out lots of heat and burn a long time. The downsides: Hardwood is expensive and harder to ignite. Softwood costs less than hardwood, but it doesn't put out as much heat and burns faster. Because it is easy to light and fast to start, softwood is a good choice for a quick, short fire.
The best woods for home heating include hard maple, red and white oak, ash, birch, hickory, pecan, maple, dogwood, almond and apple. All of these put out high heat.
Woods that are considered good choices for home heating include cherry, soft maple and walnut. These put out medium heat.
Woods that get a fair rating for home heating include yellow poplar, elm, sycamore, cottonwood, basswood and aspen. These woods tend to be a bit smoky and put out low to medium heat.
Homeowners who want fast-starting, shorter fires should consider yellow pine, spruce and fir wood. These woods are very easy to burn but tend to be fairly smoky.