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Wood Types: Best to Worst

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.

AlderPoor – 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.

BeechVery 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 FirPoor – 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 ChestnutPoor – It’s fair for heat and life span, but spits a lot and produces a lot of smoke.

ThornVery 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.

WillowPoor – 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.

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