Burning wood in your fireplace or woodstove

Burning wood at home will never go out of fashion. There’s a sort of rugged beauty about them that is virtually impossible to replicate. This is one reason why they still remain so popular even with how modern the world has become today. Perhaps you want a house with one, or you just moved into a house with an elegant fireplace (congratulations!). If so, here are some things you should know about burning wood in your fireplace or woodstove.

There are many types of wood out there. However, for burning wood at home, wood has three important characteristics. You should be knowledgable about wood’s heat value or whether they are aromatic or have certain properties that help them emit less creosote. We’ll be discussing this in greater detail later on. First, here are some basic tidbits about fireplace woods you should know.

what is the best wood to Burn in your home?

This often depends on what you want. There are several types of wood. Although there are various properties in which people classify firewood, at the core of it, they are broken down into two groups. There is the hardwood type of firewood and the softwood type. Depending on where you are, below are examples of some species of hardwood and softwood you might find around Buffalo New York.


Oak wood

English Oak

Ash wood

Hickory wood

Sugar Maple wood


White Birch wood

Spruce wood

Tamarack wood

Red Elm wood

Douglas Fir wood

Hard vs Softwood

The major distinguishing factor between these two types of wood is the density/thickness of the wood as well as about of moisture content present in the firewood. This in turn affects the burning properties of the firewood. As you would expect firewood that falls under the hardwood category are much denser than those found in the other category. This means that they tend to burn much hotter and for longer periods of time when compared to softwood firewood. Also, softwood species lend themselves more easily to generating smoke.

So during winter, when you are burning wood at home, it’s more advisable to go with hardwood firewood as they’ll give you more heat and consume less wood. In that same vein, it’s often better to burn softwood firewood during the spring period as they’ll give you just the right amount of heat and glow for that period of the year.

How is firewood packaged and sold?

If you won’t be chopping your own firewood, it might be helpful to know how firewood is usually sold. Firewood is usually sold as a bundle which is commonly referred to as a “cord”. The standard size of a cord is usually about 126 to 128 cubic feet (3.62 cubic meters). However, when you take into account the solid woods’ volume, as well as space, occupied purely by air within the whole stack, the cords’ real size generally doesn’t exceed 80 cubic feet (2.27 cubic meters) in total.

What is the heat value of firewood?

Basically, the heat value is the quality and amount of heat that firewood releases when we burn it to create energy. We measure this value in BTU’s – British Thermal Units.  The heat value of any firewood is dependent on whether the wood is hardwood or softwood. Firewood is generally grouped according to this heat value because it is the most important characteristic.

Does the size of the firewood matter?

Yes, it most certainly does. To obtain the best results when using firewood, never put in a firewood piece larger and/or longer than your fireplace grate. Only make use of pieces that are small and that fit perfectly and comfortably into your fireplace or wood stove. This is very important because it goes a long way in making the fire easier to stoke and handle. The appropriate length for firewood pieces should not extend beyond 18 inches (45.72 cm). With this, planning how you’ll get firewood and in what quantity should become a bit easier.

Additionally, it’s also important to pay careful attention to the diameter of the firewood you’ll be using. Firewood is usually split into different sizes. This isn’t actually happenstance as there is a very good reason for it. Firewood with thicker diameters burn hotter and die out less quickly as opposed to firewood which is small in width and diameter. Although firewood with smaller diameter will produce higher flames if you want a more visually appealing fire. This helps you choose the right piece of firewood for the occasion.

Shown is a stack of seasoned firewood for burning wood at home. It's in a rustic setting outside a home

What to know about cutting your own wood

Well, this isn’t a bad way to pass the time. Here’s what you should know. Green wood is generally cheaper to purchase and it is easier to split even when wet because it still has a high moisture content in the wood and it is softer. If the wood is still green in color that means it still contains high moisture content so it will not burn as effectively and it also contains more creosote. Keep in mind it can take up to 2 years for some wood to dry and ready to burn.

Some woods that are naturally low in moisture can dry out reasonably quickly in one year – like ash, certain maples, and lighter woods like walnut and poplar. If you put wood into the fire and you spot bubbles escaping from the end of the grain, the firewood is not yet dry. It’s best you cut down the wood far ahead of when you’ll need it or to kill a tree while it’s standing and drop it when you need the wood, if possible. You can usually tell the firewood has been fully seasoned if you see any of the following traces:

  • The wood is not as heavy as before. This is a sign that most of the moisture within it has evaporated. 
  • You hear a hollow sound when you hit two pieces of the firewood against each other. 
  • When you split the firewood, the inside is completely dry and shows no sign of dampness. 
  • The end of the grain of the firewood will show very visible cracks. 
  • The firewood darkens significantly in color to yellow or gray. 


Burning Wood at Home with aromatics

One thing most people aren’t aware of is that you can do more than just warm yourself and lighten your home with firewood. There are certain types of firewood that give delightful and earthy fragrances when burned. There are other types of firewood you can use that’ll help reduce the amount of creosote firewood burning generates. If you’re in Buffalo, New York, check out our list of woods to burn to reduce creosote and give your house that natural fragrance.

What wood should I burn in my fireplace?

The Best wood for creosote control


Firewood from oak trees remains one of the very best anywhere in the world. There are several reasons for this. Properly seasoned, very few woods can rival the quality and intensity of the fire that oak firewood brings to the table. It doesn’t produce a lot of ash and gives off even lesser creosote when burned. This means that using oak firewood you get to worry less about cleaning out your fireplace and chimney every other day. With oak you get 36.6 million BTU’s per cord and more weight per cord than any other tree.


This is a very good type of firewood to use in your fireplace on cold nights. Although it’s a bit tough to cut down and split, beech wood is one of the best and safest woods to burn. It burns much slower than most firewood and so produces very little creosote when compared to other woods.

Sugar Maple

Firewood from this tree burns much slower and at a lower intensity than wood from other trees, making it a perfect choice for you, if you’re not a big fan of constantly cleaning your hearth. As a result of how slowly it burns, the ash it produces is in small quantity and the same is true for the level of creosote it generates. This is very good firewood to have on chilly nights.

the best wood for aromatics


The smell of burning hickory wood is one that defies description. A lot of people buy this firewood specifically because of that delightful scent it produces while burning. The scent is one that is unique to just the hickory. What’s more is that several species of the hickory produce different scents, and all of them simply wonderful. Unlike other firewood that have good aroma, the hickory burns for far longer, meaning that you get to enjoy that beautiful scent for a long time.


The scent that burning cherry firewood gives off is simply divine. You know you’re dealing with uniquely-scented firewood when you can smell its delicate aroma even while merely holding it. Almost from the moment you put the firewood into the hearth, your home becomes engulfed in an avalanche of its sweet smell. What makes the cherry firewood especially appealing to us is that even after the fire goes out, that beautiful smell still lingers, improving the air quality and soothing you.


The last but by no means least on how fragrance list is birch wood. While most burning firewood gives off a certain aroma of pines or nuts, birch wood tops that in a most amazing way. Its smell conjures a sort of wintergreen scent that just seems to pull your house closer to nature. Properly seasoned, this firewood can burn for an extended period, giving you more opportunity to soak in its richness.

tips for burning wood at home

Here are some tips on how to best store your firewood,

  • Avoid placing your stored firewood on the ground. This will keep moisture in the wood and also attract insects. Rather, place the firewood on pallets or poles.

  • Make sure not to store your firewood in structures that are closed off and not ventilated.

  • You can protect your firewood by covering the top of the pile but make sure to leave the sides open so the woods can breathe.

  • Don’t stack your firewood logs too close to each other. Give them ample space so air can blow through them.

  • Don’t store too much cut wood in your home as you will undoubtedly bring in insects or attract them

On a final note, here are some basic practices that’ll help you keep your fireplace nice and clean,

  • Call in Buffalo Chimney Sweeping to give your Fireplace and chimney first class treatment and care

  • As tempting as it might be, do not burn your mails or bills in the fireplace

  • Avoid burning unseasoned wood.

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