Firewood: characteristics and differences. Which one to choose?

You want to find out what is the most suitable firewood for your fireplaces? In this article we explain what are the fundamental characteristics that a good firewood must possess to be effective.

Firewood, what characteristics?

The first characteristic that a good firewood must possess is absolutely that of being well seasoned.

To identify a good firewood based on how well it is seasoned, it is possible to consider a simple parameter. Firewood with low humidity should be considered below 20%.

Generally freshly cut wood contains a moisture content of around 65% for this reason it is recommended to let the freshly cut wood rest for about 6 months, but a longer period is recommended to fully ensure the lowering of humidity.

For this reason, many times one waits even a year after cutting the wood before being able to burn it.

It is important that the wood is well seasoned, essentially for two reasons. First of all, wood that is wet will be very difficult to ignite, wasting a lot of time and also creating a lot of smoke.

Another important feature to consider when it comes to firewood is the type of wood: tough or sweet.

The difference between these two types of wood consists essentially in the fact that hardwood is denser, and therefore produces more heat in relation to the volume. It is also important to point out that this type of wood burns more slowly. This slowness thus translates into longer heat over time.

On the contrary, wood sweet manages to trigger earlier than hard, being able to light the fire first but obviously the duration of the heat will be shorter.

It is important to underline that ultimately it is necessary to consider a set of characteristics that will ultimately help us to choose the optimal wood for our fireplace. We have summarized everything in these points:

  • Caloric efficiency
  • Burn without smoke
  • Creation of embers
  • During the time

These are the factors that must first be taken into consideration.

Which are hard woods and which are sweet ones?

We report below the main woods that belong to the so-called hard woods:

  • -Oak (Oak is especially recommended as firewood) Do you want to find out everything about oak? Find out all in this article
  • -Beech tree
  • -robinia

Those considered sweet:

  • - white and red fir
  • -pine pine and black
  • -larch

Among these varieties it was not mentioned chestnut which is not considered an optimal wood to burn since it does not however have a great power regarding heat.

Poplar is also generally not recommended for creating embers, but usually used for lighting.

Did you know that the ash is an excellent fertilizer for the soil? In this article we explain why and how you can use it in your crops: Fertilize with ash: all the secrets and properties

And staying on the subject of wood… are you looking for tips for an excellent log splitter? In this article you can find everything you need: Log splitter: which one to choose? All purchase advice

Do you think the information in this article is incomplete or inaccurate? Send us a report to help us improve!

Comparison between wood stoves and pellet stoves: costs, pellet certifications, advantages

Pellet stove or wood stove? The choice seems simple if we listen to relatives and friends who have found the solution to the fuel supply in pellets and the choice of a wood stove with lower costs seems even simpler, but there is more to know.

Pellets or wood? The choice for heating our home this winter is in serious danger if we cannot find the solution that best suits our urgent needs: save on the initial cost of purchasing the heating system and on the fuel that will be used later.

The types of wood stove or pellet stove turn out to be the two most popular solutions on the market, but which have different characteristics for:

  • installation
  • initial cost based on the coating
  • cost of fuel
  • need for electricity
  • thermal power
  • possibility to automate heating.

For this it is necessary to sift and compare each characteristic to make the choice that best suits your heating needs and economic budget.

(Example of a pellet stove with steel and majolica cladding. This type of stove is among the cheapest models and ranges between a cost of 1,100-1,500 euros)

So how do you choose between a wood stove and a pellet stove?

According to the theories of relatives and friends who have just bought the sick of the moment, or the pellet stove, this is the cheapest choice with high thermal efficiency, while listening to the most traditionalists and lovers of the vision of the flame, the choice of a wood stove it is the best on the market, for initial prices significantly lower than the pellet stove and for the possibility of having wood "free" - this is especially true for those who live in the countryside.

What is most important to reiterate is that the advice and experiences of those who have already purchased a product are important, but never reflect the reality of things, as they are disconnected from the typical situation. The optimal result of the heating system depends on numerous factors e primarily from the house itself, different for each user, which varies the thermal efficiency and therefore also the fuel consumption, the power needed to heat the rooms and the final annual cost for heating.

The only universal factor is the initial purchase price of the stove: a wood stove costs less than a pellet stove, this is the only certain fact. As for all other assessments, it is necessary to draw up an analysis of all situations and needs, remembering that there is no one-size-fits-all optimal heating system, but the heating system exists ideal for a specific type of customer, because chosen on the basis of one's energy consumption, the thermal insulation of the house, the typical situation of the house itself or on the basis of the time you stay at home.

Not all firewood is the same

If you have a wood-fueled fireplace, stove or fireplace in your home, you must pay attention to the type of wood you use: it is not true that "one is as good as another".

Oak, chestnut, hazelnut, elm, acacia, eucalyptus, beech… which wood is better to cut? There are many types of firewood In circulation. For convenience we can distinguish two large groups which differ mainly in the combustion properties.

There sweet wood includes:

  • fir
  • poplar
  • alder
  • chestnut
  • Birch
  • Willow
  • Pine tree

The raw material obtained from these trees ignites very easily but also burns very quickly. This type of flame is suitable for ovens but not recommended for a domestic heating system: the wood would burn up very quickly and this would lead to an increase in the amount of fuel needed to maintain the flame.

Furthermore, when this wood is burned in the hearth of the stove or fireplace, it creates more creosote (coal tar) going to dirty the brazier and the flue, forcing you to clean the heating system more often.

There strong wood includes:

  • Oak tree
  • holm oak
  • Beech tree
  • Elm tree
  • ash tree
  • oak
  • acacia

There firewood coming from these plants burns more slowly, with shorter flames and it is therefore recommended for domestic heating Why lasts longer is produces less residue.

Obviously, the aforementioned lists do not include all the existing types of firewood to be cut, the list would be really long. However, they are important to understand that you can really heat your home at no cost (or almost). Although, as you will read shortly, it is not the only criterion you need to consider.

The differences between soft wood and strong wood

Wood from different trees gives different results when used in fireplaces and stoves. The main subdivision distinguishes wood into soft wood and strong wood.

The best firewood for lighting the fireplace and stove is strong wood. The sweet one, which includes, for example, pine, poplar, fir, chestnut and alder, can be good for lighting. It is, in fact, a wood that burns very easily. However, it is not recommended because it wears out very quickly and dirties the fireplace and stove more.

Strong wood includes, for example, beech, oak, birch and elm, and is the best wood for heating. That is, it has a very high heat yield and lasts a long time.

When choosing the best wood, you must also pay attention to the density. A denser wood will last longer and heat more, even if its price will be higher.


There firewood it's not all the same, that's why you have to understand how to choose it. Here is a guide that will explain how to choose firewood, from seasoning to fine wood.

There are two characteristics we need to know for choose the best firewood, hardness and calorific value. By hardness we mean compactness and weight, while by calorific value we refer to the heat developed by a kilo of burnt wood.

Difference between hardwoods and softwoods

Hardwoods are heavier and therefore more compact. They come from hardwoods such as oak, walnut, beech, elm and oak. Soft woods are lighter, generally obtained from conifers or evergreen trees such as larch, fir, pine ... When it comes to firewood, the only difference is not only that between softwoods and hardwoods, we also speak of resinous and non-resinous wood.

Low or high maintenance wood: resinous and non-resinous

There firewood rich in resin, it comes mainly from conifers and, due to the presence of resin, it burns much faster and produces a more intense but less regular heat. They need higher maintenance because they require the wood to be adjusted more frequently.

Non-resinous woods deliver heat more consistently and burn more slowly. They require less chimney maintenance, and due to their greater weight, a piece of non-resinous wood provides more heat than a similarly sized piece of resinous wood: resinous wood is lighter than non-resinous wood.

Seasoning of firewood

Fresh wood burns more irregularly, produces much more smoke and sparks on the contrary, seasoned wood does not produce sparks or pops, burns regularly and, in general, the wood should be seasoned at least two years before burn it.

How to recognize the seasoned wood and good from burn?
Seasoned wood is recognized because it has cracks in the classic wood grain. Cracks form as the moisture dries. Fresh wood (also called green wood) is more humid, it can be recognized because it appears more compact and weighs more than dry wood.

Firewood, which is the best?

Firewood: fir, larch and pine

They are to be chosen when the firewood it is intended for cooking meat or other foods: it is aromatic and resinous woods. They emit a lot of smoke during burning: the smoke is deposited in the flue so in the long run they need more frequent cleaning of the flue. These are resinous woods, they burn faster.

Firewood: acacia

It is not suitable for "starting" the fire: it burns very slowly and can be purchased to play a role in maintaining the flame.

Birch and poplar wood

They are not indicated as firewood. The thinnest branches of birch or poplar can be used for start the fire because when dry they burn with extreme ease.

Firewood: beech and hornbeam

Beech wood is compact and heavy, burns very slowly and is a good firewood. Hornbeam wood is one of the best types of firewood both for the calorific value and for the efficiency.

Firewood, the chestnut

The chestnut one is excellent firewood but only if seasoned: it is not very heavy but it is compact so it burns well.

Firewood, the walnut

When it comes to walnut wood everyone thinks of the furniture sector, in fact walnut is a precious wood and therefore less used for burning. Those lucky enough can burn walnut wood which is also excellent from burn. Given its value, its use is recommended for cooking bread, meats and other foods: it is a highly aromatic wood!

The best firewood?
Probably the oak one! With oak wood we mean the wood of English oak, holm oak, oak, turkey oak and cork oak. These are certainly counted among the best firewoods especially for the strong compactness that allow a slow burn with uniform heat distribution.

Other tips for making a thoughtful choice of the best firewood are contained in the article: how to choose firewood.

Published by Anna De Simone on 11 December 2015


It is a wood much appreciated for its many positive characteristics and lends itself to various uses. The main ones are:

  • Construction of furnishingsvaluable and lasting.
  • Construction of small boats.
  • Construction of fine barrels for the aging of wines.
  • Realization of load-bearing structures in construction.
  • Realization of
  • Realization of
  • Firewood, produces a high amount of heat and a low smoke density.

Video: What Kind of Wood Should You Build With? WOODWORKING BASICS

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