When choosing wood for a fire, it’s important that you know what type you are burning and what is best for a fire. Also keep in mind whether the fire will be indoor or outdoor, as different woods will burn with different intensity and duration. The main reason for the differences are wood density and moisture retention (how well they hold onto their water). Wood that is of a high density and high moisture retention being the worst example of firewood, providing little fuel for a fire to burn (lasts only a short period) and burning with a very low intensity (low heat).
And now for a ranking of natural wood types you may use. The ranking going from Very Good to Very Poor.
Bear in mind that these ranking assume the wood is in an optimal condition for burning: ie cut into small, dry, pieces.
Alder – Poor – The fire it produces is very low heat and does not last long. Not good for any kind of fire.
Apple – Good – Produces small but long lasting flame that gives off very little spitting or smoke.
Ash – Very Good – Considered the best wood for burning (as the name would suggest). It produces a long lasting flame with a high heat output, it can even be burnt relatively effectively without being dried.
Beech – Very Good – Burns very much like Ash, but does not burn well when not dried.
Birch – Fair – Produces good heat but bruns very quickly. The unseasoned wood can also cause sap deposits to build up in a stove.
Blackthorn – Good – Slow burning with moderate heat output. Very Good for smaller indoor fires.
Cedar – Good – Produces good slow burning heat, but tends to spit and leaves sap deposits with prolonged use.
Cherry – Good – Very good while in season, with a long lasting hot flame, but is a terrible burning wood when not in season due to high smoke and sap output.
Chestnut – Poor – Produces a very small flame with a low heat output.
Douglas Fir– Poor – Produces a very small flame with a low heat output, as well as leaving sap deposits in stoves with prolonged use.
Elder – Poor – Produces a very small flame with a low heat output.
Elm – Fair – Elm is a good burner when dry, the problem is drying the wood as it has a very high moisture retention, taking 2 years to get into a state where the wood is suitable for burning.
Eucalyptus – Poor – While it produces a lot of heat, it burns quickly and produces a lot of sap. Using Eucalyptus wood comes with a high risk of a chimney fire, and its short life span makes it unsuitable for a fire pit.
Hawthorn – Very Good – The traditional firewood. Very much like Beech
Hazel – Good – Good heat but is a moderately fast burner.
Holly – Poor – Burns quickly and produces very little heat, but will burn in dry or wet condition, making it easy to start a fire with.
Hornbeam – Good – A lot like Birch, it produces good heat, although lasts longer than Birch making it an overall better burning wood.
Horse Chestnut – Fair – Produces a good fire heat and lifespan, but spits and sparks a lot, this is less of a problem in a stove but is a safety hazard that must be kept in account.
Laburnum – Very Poor – Produces a lot of thick smoke for a very small fire. Do not use.
Larch – Fair – Reasonable in both heat and fire life span, but produces a lot of sap if unseasoned.
Laurel – Fair – Just like Larch, is a reasonable burning wood but must be seasoned first.
Lilac – Good – The smaller branches of the tree make for excellent kindling while the wood itself is a good burner.
Lime – Poor – Very little heat output and burns quickly.
Maple – Good – Produces a lasting and hot flame.
Oak – Good – Oak requires time to season, due to its high density, but is a good burner once seasoned.
Pear – Good – Just like Oak, burns well but must be seasoned well.
Pine – Fair – A lot like the Eucalyptus for heat output and hazard of a chimney fire, but its flame does last longer, making it a good burner if the correct precautions are taken. Also good for firepits.
Plum – Good – Good Heat output and burns fairly slowly.
Poplar – Very Poor – Just like Laburnum, poor burner that produces a lot of smoke.
Rowan – Very Good – Burns very slowly and produces good heat. An excellent wood type for any fire.
Rhododendron – Good – The Wood is very good if it is seasoned, but is otherwise mediocre.
Robinia – Fair – A wood that burns slowly and produces good heat, but spits a lot, just like Horse Chestnut.
Spruce – Poor – Poor heat and burns quickly.
Sycamore – Fair – Good heat output, but burns moderately quickly and must be seasoned first.
Sweet Chestnut – Poor – It’s fair for heat and life span, but spits a lot and produces a lot of smoke.
Thorn – Very Good – One of the best woods for burning. A long lasting and hot flame with minimal smoke or spitting.
Walnut – Fair – Is overall a fair wood for burning. Not especially good or bad for anything.
Willow – Poor – Does not burn well even when seasoned. Only thing saving it from being very poor being that it has no hazards attached to it.
Yew – Very Good – Very high heat output that lasts a very long time.