Best Firewood for Heating (2024)

Updated: Feb. 27, 2023

If you heat your home or vacation cabin with wood or you're thinking of converting to wood heat, here are our tips for the best firewood for heating.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report about two percent of Americans heat their primary homes with wood, a figure that doesn’t include the thousands of vacation homes and cabins across the country. Not surprisingly, wood consumption for home heating is highest in states where winter temperatures dip the lowest, like northern New England, the Upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.

It can be difficult to predict how much firewood to buy and what kind is best. For homeowners in wooded areas, choosing the best firewood for heating basically means going outside and chopping down some trees. But if your primary or vacation home lacks a fellable forest nearby, or you just want to make sure you’re chopping down the right trees, here’s a look at the best types of firewood for home heating.

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What To Consider When Buying Firewood for Heating

If you’re considering switching to a wood-burning system for your home, or you’ve finally bought that dream vacation cabin in the woods and are wondering how best to heat it, here are some points to consider:

  • Stick with hardwood. Hardwood comes from trees like oak, maple and hickory (more on those below). It’s a more densely formed wood compared to softwood, which comes from conifer trees. When it comes to hardwood vs. softwood, hardwood is usually better for heating. Hardwood burns longer and hotter than softwood and leaves behind more coals, meaning it’s easy to restart your fire in the morning.
  • Only burn dried wood. Whether you’re buying firewood or cutting your own, patience is a virtue. Wood needs to dry out before it’s optimal for burning. How long you should dry firewood depends on several factors, including the type of wood. Consider seasoned vs. kiln-dried wood. Seasoned wood dries naturally, while kiln-dried firewood is “baked” to remove the moisture more quickly. Hardwood takes longer to season (as much as two years) compared to softwood, which can season in a year to 18 months. Kiln-dried firewood lights faster and burns hotter than naturally seasoned wood, but also costs more. There are a lot of reasons to not burn wood that hasn’t dried. It gives off more smoke and water vapors, can damage your chimney and decrease indoor air quality.
  • Burn locally sourced wood. Whenever possible, buy firewood from trees that grow near your home or vacation home. “As firewood is a high-volume/low-margin product, it typically doesn’t go too far anyway,” says Emma Hanson, wood energy coordinator with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. So you’ll usually pay less for local wood. And by avoiding wood from other parts of the country, you also help prevent the spread of invasive wood diseases and insects.

What To Know About Heat Value

Every type of consumable fuel, whether it’s natural gas, heating oil or wood, has a heat value — the measure of heat the substance gives off when it’s burned. The measurements are in Btus (British thermal units). The formula is difficult to calculate with wood because there are so many variables, including density, dryness and the efficiency of the individual fireplace, wood-burning stove or wood boiler.

The basic rule for home heating: The higher the heat value of the wood, the more efficiently it will warm your home. According to fireplace, hearth, and chimney supplier Northline Express, sugar maple, ash, red oak, beech, birch, hickory, pecan and apple are among the hardwoods with the highest heat values.

So what are firewood measurements? Online shops and firewood delivery services often offer bulk orders. Hanson says that most firewood dealers will deliver a cord of mixed hardwoods. “While the amount of Btus per cord does vary by species,” she says, “the typical homeowner is unlikely to notice a significant difference between a cord of beech and a cord of sugar maple.”

The Best Firewood for Heating

Best Firewood for Heating (1)Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images

Here are our top picks for the best hardwood firewood for home heating, with some pros and cons:

  • Apple. This fruitwood has a high heat value, produces little smoke and gives off a sweet smell when burned. But unless you live in apple orchard country, it’s not practical. It’s expensive and highly sought after.
  • Ash. The wood from ash trees is among the most desirable for heating. It gives off low smoke and sparks and has a mild aroma. White ash burns slightly hotter than green. Both trees are prevalent in the Eastern and Southeastern U.S.
  • Beech. Common in the Northeast U.S., beech trees are an attractive hardwood for burning thanks to their extreme density and low moisture content. But there are caveats. Beech takes a long time to season, is difficult to split and prone to rot if not kept dry.
  • Birch. Birch is a good choice when you want a fire to light quickly and heat up fast. It’s readily available across the Northern U.S., but doesn’t grow below the Appalachian Mountain chain. A downside? Because it burns quickly, you’ll consume more of it.
  • Hickory. One of the most popular woods for fireplaces, fire pits, wood-burning stoves and barbecues, dense hickory is quick to light and long to burn, with a high heat value. It also has the classic “smoke” smell associated with outdoor grilling.
  • Sugar maple. Also known as hard maple or rock maple, those same trees that ooze maple syrup also make great wood for heating. They offer a high heat value, pleasant aroma and long burn. Sugar maple trees are found across the U.S., which also makes it an appealing option for home heating.
  • Mulberry. Mulberry trees are common in Eastern and Midwestern U.S. states and down to the South, making them a good hardwood choice for those areas. Mulberry wood splits easily and has a high heat value, so it’s an easy choice if you’re just learning how to split firewood. But because it gives off a lot of sparks, it’s better for a wood stove, boiler or other closed heating devices.
  • Oak. Oak wood, in all its varieties, including white and red, is one of the best woods for heating. It can burn for an extremely long time so it’s ideal for rekindling in the morning. A couple of things to know about oak: It needs to season for at least two years. And because it’s slow-burning, it’s best combined with other faster-burning woods.
  • Osage orange. Many people have a love-hate relationship with Osage orange wood. It’s thorny, difficult to split and throws off showers of sparks when burned. So what’s the appeal? Osage orange wood has the highest heat value of any hardwood — it can burn hot enough to warp a wood stove! Because of the sparks and high heat, it’s best burned in closed, outdoor wood boilers, ideally in a mix of other hardwoods to keep the heat under control.
  • Pecan. A member of the hickory family, pecan shares a lot of the same characteristics — high heat value and slow burn. Pecan seasons faster than many comparable hardwoods and burns with a pleasant, nutty smell. But because of its relatively high cost, it’s best used as a “feature” wood for a sweet-smelling, open fire rather than in closed stoves.
Best Firewood for Heating (2024)


Best Firewood for Heating? ›

When asking which wood burns the hottest the answer is still ash, even if the wood isn't completely dry. Beech: As one of the best fire logs for fireplaces and also topping the best firewood for heat, this is second to ash only because it needs to be seasoned. Hawthorn: Very much like beech.

What firewood gives off the most heat? ›

When asking which wood burns the hottest the answer is still ash, even if the wood isn't completely dry. Beech: As one of the best fire logs for fireplaces and also topping the best firewood for heat, this is second to ash only because it needs to be seasoned. Hawthorn: Very much like beech.

What is the most efficient wood to burn? ›

Most types of hardwood, for instance Ash (generally regarded as the best), Birch, Beech, Oak and Elm can be used. However, avoid burning woods with a high resin content. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the wood, then the greater the heat output and the longer burn time – the time between refills.

Which fire log gives off the most heat? ›

Hardwoods are generally more dense than softwood and therefore burn for longer and produce more heat. Hardwoods are also less resinous than softwoods and are therefore less likely to result in a build up of tar deposits in your flue, reducing its efficiency or increasing the risk of a flue fire.

What is the best firewood to burn overnight? ›

Dense hardwoods burn longer and produce more heat, making an excellent choice for heating purposes. Hardwoods are also less resinous, meaning they're less likely to create a build-up of black residue (known as creosote) in your stove box or chimney. Hardwood firewood provides a steady, lasting burn with minimal smoke.

What wood burns the hottest and longest? ›

For the serious fire lover, you may want to invest in hardwoods like madrone, live oak, ash, hickory, walnut and fruit trees like apple or cherry. Hardwoods are denser woods that burn hotter and longer than softwoods, but you'll need to let them season more than a year.

What is the longest burning firewood? ›

Seasoned hardwoods make the best firewood. Hardwoods like oak, cherry and maple are denser than softwoods like pine or cedar. Due to their density, they burn longer and produce more heat or BTUs.

What wood should not be burned in a fireplace? ›

#1) Softwood

Because of its high resin content, you shouldn't burn softwood in your fireplace. Trees are classified as either softwood or hardwood, depending on their method of reproduction.

What is the best and worst firewood? ›

Softwoods such as Birch can be good, fast-burning types that produce a lot of flame, but go quickly and with less heat value, while seasoned hickory burns slowly and gives off heat, but smells up the house. Oak is the best choice for the hottest, cleanest-burning wood.

What wood burns the hottest and slowest? ›

Hardwood Logs

Hardwood burns the slowest, produces the most intense fires, and produces hot coals that remain hot long after a fire has gone out.

What are the three types of firewood? ›

There are 3 different types of firewood – green, seasoned, or kiln dried – and which type you use makes all the difference with the quality of your fire.

Which wood has the highest BTU? ›

Firewood BTU of Western Hardwood Species
SpeciesMillion BTU's per CordPounds Per Cord Green
Live Oak36.67870
Pacific Madrone30.96520
10 more rows

What is the warmest type of fireplace? ›

So the question is not so much which one emits more heat; it's which one prevents the loss of more heat. In this regard, the gas fireplace clearly comes out on top. However, we cannot deny the greater pleasure people get from the crackling sound and wonderful aromas of a wood fireplace.

Do briquettes burn hotter than wood? ›

Additionally, briquettes burn longer and hotter, delivering a consistent and steady source of heat. This efficiency means fewer interruptions to refuel your fire, making your heating experience more enjoyable and less cumbersome. Woodlets Briquettes and Roastie-Toasties burn 20% hotter than kiln-dried wood.

What wood smokes the least when burned? ›

Hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, ash, and birch are considered the best types of firewood for the fireplace because they ignite quickly, produce little smoke, and have a high heat output, making them ideal for warming homes and creating a cozy atmosphere.

Does ash burn better than oak? ›

If you're looking for a hardwood with a high BTU output and low moisture content, ash may be the better choice. However, if you want a wood that burns more slowly and is widely available, oak may be a better option.


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