Hardwood vs Softwood for use as Firewood!

Hardwoods

Please Note! We do not sell firewood. These pages are For Your Information.

Generally speaking, the easiest way to identify a hardwood is by its leaf type. Hardwoods have a broad-leaf and they will defoliate (the leaves fall off) in the autumn.

This group (hardwoods) consists of many different species of trees but some of the most common and are oak, maple, beech, ash and elm.

Hardwoods are often considered to be a superior firewood because the wood is very dense.  This dense wood creates a hot, long lasting fire without a lot of smoke or sparks.  The wood also creates hot coals which give out radiant heat for a long period of time.

When purchased by the cord (128 cubic feet) hardwood will produce more heat (for some darn reason it is always stated as BTU’s or British Thermal Units) than a cord of softwood.

However, just because the tree is classified as a hardwood doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice.  For example, a low quality hardwood is actually softer and less dense than a good quality softwood.

Are there any negatives to hardwood?  The dense wood takes longer to season or dry out (typically between 1-2 years) and it’s harder to light compared to softwood.

You can also expect to pay more for hardwood compared to the same amount of softwood. (Hint! Don’t buy softwood!)

Softwoods

Softwoods such as evergreen trees or conifers can be identified by their distinct needles and pine aroma.

Cedar, red pine and fir are all popular species of trees classified as softwoods.

Softwoods grow very fast compared to most hardwoods resulting in a much lighter, less dense of wood.

This lightweight wood is typically very resinous, which allows the wood to light easily and burn hot and fast.  A fire built from softwoods will usually have large flames that crackle and spark.

Softwoods season faster than hardwoods and light much easier which makes them a popular choice for kindling.  In fact, cedar is one of the best sources of kindling available.

One disadvantage of softwoods is the amount of smoke they create and they leave behind fine ashes with little to no coals.  With poor coaling qualities, softwoods are not good for overnight burning in a wood stove because the fire will likely be out with not hot coals left over to restart it.

Besides kindling, softwoods are great for campfires because they burn quickly and produce a nice large flame.  They also work great when mixed with hardwood to help freshen up a slow burning fire.

Overall – Hardwood vs Softwood

When comparing hardwoods vs softwoods it’s the density of the wood that makes the difference.  Pound for pound hardwoods and softwoods will create the same amount of heat!

However, due to the difference in density, you may need twice the volume of softwood to compare to the same weight as hardwood.  More volume means more cutting, splitting and stacking. 

This is why many people choose to burn hardwood over softwood if given the opportunity.

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