Choosing the Right Firewood for Your Wood Stove

I can never picture any cold day or winter without my burning wood stove. It keeps us warm and cozy, and it is way cheaper than using a gas or electric unit. I’m sure you can agree how handy a wood stove is. But wood stoves just don’t deliver the best results miraculously. They need burning wood, and not just burning wood, the right kind as determined by the stove’s design.

When it comes to choosing the best wood for a wood stove, several factors and considerations come into play. Below we will offer you an informational guide on how to choose the right firewood for a wood stove.

Why Does the Wood you Choose Matter?

The wood you use for the stove is crucial to cater to different aspects, not just for warmth. It can have other implications for the stove and the people around.

The stove’s efficiency– Depending on the type of wood you are using, your stove’s efficiency can be significantly affected. Efficiency means how well it burns. Wood from softwoods or oily/resinous woods does not burn efficiently like hardwoods.

Aesthetics- the wood you choose can affect the appearance of your stove. Woods that may create black smoke, such as those from resinous species, can cloud your stove’s glass making it more difficult to clean.

The stove’s longevity and reliability– if you choose resinous and softwoods for your stove, its reliability may be negatively affected. Such woods give off chemicals that can be potentially harsh on the stove’s internal features. For example, the combustion fan of the catalyst and the catalytic combustor may be affected with time. On the other hand, hardwoods result in significantly more minor wear and tear.

Safety requirements– The wood you use for your wood stove can be a potential safety hazard. The primary cause of chimney fires is the build-up of creosote which is highly produced by resinous woods. Creosote is the black and tar-like matter that accumulates on chimneys. If it combusts, it can result in a chimney fire.

Types of Usable Firewood

The main types of firewood you can use for a wood stove are hardwoods and softwoods. Ideally, hardwoods are the best to use. But there are cases they may not be available, and that’s when you can go for softwoods.

The reason why hardwoods are the most preferred choice is due to their ability to burn longer and create more heat. They have a denser cell structure than softwoods. On the other hand, softwoods burn within substantially less time because of their less dense cell structure, so they don’t last long.

If you choose to use softwoods, beware that your wood stove is more likely to burn more wood than it would burn when using hardwoods to produce an almost equal level of heat output. Hardwoods are typically more economical, especially if you buy your wood.

The woods you use for your wood stove are not created equally. We have curated a woods list and categorized them according to how effective they are with that in mind.

The best Wood For Wood Stoves

Oak – it is our top recommendation because of its ability to burn slowly and longer. It may take relatively longer to season thoroughly than other woods, but nothing beats the fire it gives. Oak is widely available in North America.

Ash – It is easy to split and still gives your wood stove a steady and good fire. You can find Ash wood widely available in Eastern and Central America.

Maple – It burns in a similar manner as Ash. Give it time to season, and you will be happy with its efficiency.

Other top woods we recommend under this category are Beech, Hawthorn, Rowan, Cherry, Thorn, Yew, and Mulberry.

Good Woods

These woods are efficient but not like the ones above.

Cedar – it produces a unique scent and can burn for a relatively long time, but it is still resinous and sparkles.

Birch – it can burn when green and has a strong flame and a relatively good heat output. The best varieties are Yellow and Black birch.

Cherry – it is easy to split, but it needs proper seasoning to give a good burn.

Apple – it burns slowly with a good amount of heat.

Other options in this category would be; Hornbeam, Hazle, and Lilac.

Adequately good woods

This list contains woods that are adequate to give you fire but not particularly good.

  • Larch
  • Elm
  • Sycamore
  • Laurel

Poor Woods

We do not recommend these woods because they burn too quickly or are highly resinous. Use them only when the circumstances force you to.

  • Poplar
  • Alder
  • Holly
  • Eucalyptus
  • Chestnut
  • Pine
  • Laburnum
  • Firs
  • Spruce

Seasoned or Unseasoned Firewood

Whether you buy or chop your wood, it is always best to use seasoned wood for your wood stove.

Seasoning wood simply means giving it time to dry out by leaving it outside. It can be within one or a couple of years for hardwoods. Softwoods may dry out within 6-8 months. When seasoning your wood, have it in a location with good airflow and leave it uncovered whenever you can. If you want to speed up the time for seasoning, you can split the wood.

It is crucial to season your wood to remove the moisture content. The moment you chop down wood /green wood, it has a high moisture content because it carries all the moisture that enables the tree to live. However, when you season it, the moisture level goes down.

Green wood does not get the heat level high enough because it tends to steam the moisture from the wood- dry wood burns better than wet wood. Green or damp wood can also be problematic because it contributes to the accumulation of creosote which can be hazardous.

Seasoned wood is also better than unseasoned wood in terms of weight. Seasoned wood has less water content, and it is therefore lighter. Lighter wood is easy to transport, and it is also easier to burn.

Suppose you get your wood from a supplier, check with them whether it has been seasoned. It would help if you also discussed the qualities of the wood with them since they know all the ins and outs of the wood they are selling. If you chop it yourself, you can go the extra mile and do some research to help yourself learn how to distinguish different types of woods.

Wood Storage

Your chosen and seasoned wood will only serve you right if it is stored properly. How you store the wood affects if it burns right or not. If you store your wood wrongly, it can attract critters as they seek shelter.

The best ways to store your wood include;

Keeping it dry– Protect your wood from wet weather so that it is still dry and ready to burn when required. A tarp or an outdoor shed can be a good investment, but it should also have a ventilation provision.

In a well-ventilated area– Good ventilation gives your wood a better chance of drying, and it also results in wood that burns more efficiently and cleaner.

Not storing it directly on bare ground– It is best to keep your wood off the ground as direct contact can cause it to rot or deteriorate. Opt to store your wood a foot from the ground, probably on firewood racks or pallets.

Have the wood distant from your house– Since improperly stored wood can bring about critters, keep it a few feet from the house to minimize or avoid the risk of getting critters into your house.

Bonus Tips for Wood Stove Maintenance

Burning wood will leave ash in the firebox. Therefore, clean it regularly as needed. The amount of ash left is also determined by the size of your stove. A bigger wood stove uses more firewood and leaves more ash and vice versa.

The wood stove’s flue pipe (the pipe that leads to the chimney) will gradually accumulate creosote over time, especially if you burn oily woods or burn wood with closed air intake dampers. Once in a while, remove the pipe and thoroughly clean it outside using a brush.

You will find most chimneys having access ports at the bottom for cleaning. To scrape any unwanted build-up within the chimney’s pipe, you can use chimney rod attachments and the stovepipe’s cleaning brush.

Don’t forget to clean the wood stove’s door face to remove ash and soot.

Final Thoughts

Wood stoves are the best part about surviving cold weather, and they are also economical. But for them to create efficient fires, last longer, and prevent hazards, you must choose suitable wood for them. Some woods outshine others and are better. Others can be options, and others should only be used when you have no choice.

You must also take precautions to store wood appropriately and burn it when it is dry.

With our guide, you should be able to choose the best wood for your wood stove to carry you through cold temperatures.

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My name is Eugene Thornhill. I'm an outdoor enthusiast who loves nothing more than being one with nature. I've lived in numerous outdoor homes and even constructed my own. Living off-grid is something I'm very familiar with, more so than living in the city. For many years I've dealt with the many problems of living off-grid. It's time to pass on my knowledge through Cabinguides.

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