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Firewood Guide: Selecting the Right Types for Indoor and Outdoor Burning

Published November 6, 2023 by Hamilton Builders' Supply
Stack Of Chopped Firewood - Firewood Guide: Selecting the Right Types for Indoor and Outdoor Burning

The ambiance of a roaring fire is something we all cherish. But did you know that the type of wood you use can make all the difference? With the right choice, you can enjoy a fire that burns longer, cleaner, and safer. Here, we shed light on standout firewood types and offer essential safety tips to ensure a wonderful fire experience, inside and out. 

Why Is the Type of Wood Important for Burning? 

The type of wood dictates burn duration, heat output, and smoke production. Hardwoods like oak and ash offer hotter and longer burns, making them ideal for warmth, while softer woods might burn faster, suitable for short, ambient fires. 

Which Woods Are the Best for Indoor Fireplaces? 

Hardwoods such as ash, beech, and maple are excellent for indoor use. They burn hot and long, ensuring maximum heat with minimal residue. 

Are There Any Woods Best Suited for Outdoor Fire Pits? 

For outdoor settings, oak, hickory, and cedar are great choices. They offer steady heat and resist wind factors, ensuring a consistent burn. 

What Woods Should Be Avoided Altogether and Why? 

Avoid burning woods like driftwood, painted or varnished wood, and pressure-treated lumber, as they can release harmful fumes and create excessive creosote. Creosote is a thick, sticky substance that accumulates on chimney walls and can ignite, posing a significant fire hazard. Regularly burning inappropriate woods can increase the rate of creosote buildup, making chimney maintenance more frequent and crucial. 

What Is Wood Moisture Content, and Why Does It Matter? 

Wood moisture refers to the amount of water content present in firewood. The level of moisture in wood impacts how efficiently it burns. Properly dried or "seasoned" wood has reduced moisture content, which allows for a cleaner, hotter, and more efficient burn. In contrast, "green" or freshly cut wood has a higher moisture content, making it harder to ignite and leading to more smoke when burned. 

Why Is Wood Moisture Content Below 20% Recommended? 

Wood with over 20% moisture struggles to ignite, produces less heat, and emits more smoke, leading to inefficient burning and excessive water vapour. 

Are Softwoods Suitable for Burning? 

Softwoods like pine and spruce burn faster and might be messier. However, when properly dried, they're suitable for short burns and kindling. Generally, we recommend these more for outdoor than indoor use.  

Is There an Environmental Impact of Burning Specific Woods? 

The environmental impact of burning wood varies depending on the type and treatment of the wood. Some woods, especially those treated or processed, release harmful emissions when burned, contributing to air pollution.  

On the other hand, burning natural, untreated hardwoods like oak, ash, and beech is generally more eco-friendly as they produce fewer emissions and burn hotter and cleaner. Plus, sourcing wood from sustainably managed forests can further reduce the environmental footprint, ensuring that the wood-burning process remains as sustainable and eco-conscious as possible. Always opt for well-seasoned wood, as this further reduces smoke and pollutants. 

Can I Use Scraps or Salvaged Wood for Burning? 

While salvaged wood can be economical, avoid burning treated materials and engineered goods, as they can be hazardous. As we've touched on, these hazards could be dangerous fumes or even unexpected explosions! 

Stone Firepit In Use In Backyard - Firewood Guide: Selecting the Right Types for Indoor and Outdoor Burning

How Can I Make My Fire More Aromatic? 

Adding aromatic woods like cedar, cherry, apple, or birch as kindling can lend a pleasant scent to your fire. 

Are There Woods That Burn with Less Smoke? 

Yes, some woods inherently produce less smoke due to their dense structure and low resin content. Woods like apple, ash, and beech have these properties, making them burn more efficiently. This efficient combustion results in fewer emissions and a cleaner, less smoky burn. 

How Often Should I Clean my Chimney? 

For optimal safety, clean your chimney at least once a year, especially if you frequently burn wood. For best results, contact a professional! 

How Do Hardwoods and Softwoods Differ in Terms of Ash Production? 

Due to their denser cell structure, hardwoods generally produce more ash. Meanwhile, softwoods generally leave behind finer ash, which is easier to clean. Ash production also depends on specific species and whether bark or other plant parts are burned as well.  

How Can I Ensure I'm Burning Firewood Safely, Whether Inside or in my Backyard? 

When burning firewood indoors, it's crucial to use fire-resistant floor pads to protect your flooring and maintain recommended clearances around fireplaces or stoves. Proper ventilation is essential, especially in enclosed spaces, and you should always have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms installed and regularly checked.  

For outdoor burning, positioning your fire away from flammable materials and structures is vital. It's also good practice to monitor the flames constantly, use a fire ring or pit for containment, and always have a water source or fire extinguisher within arm's reach. 

What Should I Look for When Buying Firewood? 

When shopping for firewood, first find a reputable supplier of well-seasoned wood, as it burns more efficiently and produces less creosote. Then, look for wood with a dark colour, cracked ends, and a hollow sound when knocked together. It should also be lightweight, indicating moisture has been lost.  

Avoid green or wet wood; it's inefficient and smoky. If possible, inquire about the wood's source to ensure sustainability. Additionally, a reputable supplier will provide consistent quality and proper storage recommendations if requested! 

Find Seasonal Supplies Like Firewood at Hamilton Builders' Supply Today! 

Choosing the right firewood can amplify the experience, whether you're cozying up indoors or gathering around an outdoor pit. At Hamilton Builders' Supply, we prioritize not just the quality of burn but also the safety and eco-friendliness of our offerings. Drop by and let us guide you to the best choices for your burning needs. Visit us today