Types Of Firewood – A Simple Guide To Burning The Right Fuel

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Whether you’re buying or burning, knowing a few things about the different types of firewood can maximize efficiency and save you trouble when it comes to your wood stove, fireplace, or fire pit.

Not all firewood gives the same results, so understanding the characteristics of different types is key to choosing the best firewood for your needs.

There are two main types of firewood: hardwood and softwood, choosing the right type of wood in each of these categories will make all the difference with the quality of your fire! But don’t let the names fool you – Hardwoods aren’t always harder or more durable, and softwoods aren’t soft and workable—give or take a few exceptions.

axe and firewood

Actually, the difference lies in their terms of reproduction and physical structure, not by their end-use or appearance.

The short version of the story goes like this, hardwoods are generally denser than softwood, meaning they burn for longer and produce more heat. They are also less sticky than softwoods and are less likely to cause tar deposit buildups in your flue.

To get a better idea of the benefits and features of both hardwoods and softwoods, we’re going to break down each category with more details.

So let’s take a look at which is the best firewood for different types of fireplaces.

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The Best Types of Firewood


oak firewood

Most hardwood trees are slow growing, making them much denser than softwoods. They’re darker in color, burn more slowly, and are best for cooking and producing fires which are hotter and more intense.

What they’re great for: Long, lingering fires with lots of coals, heating your house, and fueling your stove. Hardwood is generally the best wood for your fireplace.

Popular Types of Hardwood For Burning:

The list of different types of hardwood could go on and on forever, so we will focus on just three of the most popular:


A favorite because it can be found almost anywhere, oak is very dense and can burn for a long, long time. It’s the slowest timber to season and is best used in a mix of different types of logs. It’s great if you need to keep a fire going at night. You can expect to pay around $180-600 per cord.


A great option for fires thanks to its ability to burn quickly and well, even unseasoned. There are many species of Birch (like Black, Yellow, and White) with varying degrees of efficiency. Its bark can also be used as a natural fire starter. It works best mixed in with slow-burning woods like Oak and a full cord will be around $200.


A favorite for wood burning because it burns well on its own, produces a steady flame, and has a good heat output. If you’re looking to buy a full cord seasoned and split, you can expect to pay around $360 – $420.


Walnut is a clean-burning hardwood that produces a medium amount of heat. It produces a pleasant smell and is quite easy to split.


cedar firewood

Softwoods typically season much more quickly than hardwoods and are lighter and lower in density. They ignite faster than hardwoods and emit more smoke, making them better for outside use.

What they’re great for: Perfect for kindling, campfires, or anything outdoors.

Popular Types of Softwood for Burning: When it comes to softwood the options may not be as plentiful as hardwoods, but there are some great choices. Especially if you’re looking for a wood with a lower heat output:


Small pieces can be burned unseasoned and generally give off a pleasant smell. Cedar will give you a nice, lasting heat with little flame and a strong crackling sound. You’ll be looking at paying around $220 per cord.


Lights easily and burns fast with a good flame, but will need to be refueled more often. An excellent fire starter, but should only be used outdoors as it has a high sap and resin content. A good option to mix in with other firewood, you’ll find a full cord for $160.


The hardest of all softwoods and actually harder than some hardwoods, larch must be seasoned well and will burn very hot. Perfect to mix in with hardwoods and good for stoves (be sure to close the door or you’ll get a smoke filled room). Popular because it’s pretty low-maintenance. A full cord will likely cost you $160.

Manufactured Firewood

Believe it or not, fuel for your fire doesn’t have to be just plain old firewood. These days, there are a few different types of manufactured fuel that can be used in a fire place to keep you warm in the winter:

Wood Bricks

wood bricks

These are exactly what they sound like, bricks made of wood. In fact, they are made of kiln-dried woodchips/sawdust (which has many different uses) that has been compressed into a brick-like shape.

If you buy a high-quality wood brick such as Bio Blocks, then they can actually burn more efficiently and produce more heat than cordwood.

Because they generally have a lower moisture amount than your typical firewood, they will also burn cleaner and leave less ash – meaning cleaning your fireplace is much easier.

Wood Pellets/Pellet Fuel

man holding pellet fuel

Wood pellets are very similar to wood bricks, except they are made into little pellets. They are designed to be burnt in special heaters called pellet stoves or even special cooking devices called pellet grills, but they can work in standard wood stoves if needed. They generally burn very quickly though, so I would only recommend using them in a standard wood stove as a last resort.

If, however, you find that it is time to replace your old wood stove, you should seriously consider a pellet stove. They are super efficient and environmentally friendly. You can learn more about pellet stoves in our guide here.

Types of Firewood To Avoid

A common misconception is that you can burn any old thing, but that’s not the case. Whether you’re preparing to use a campfire, a cast-iron stove, or even a stone hearth, there are a few woods you should never burn.

Non-local wood

If you find wood that has been cut and stored more than a few miles away, ditch it. Using firewood that has traveled too far is the number one way to introduce invasive insects or diseases to a new environment. Even one infected log can put an entire forest at risk.

Green wood

Freshly cut wood has a high sap and moisture content and can be hard to light. Once it gets burning it will smoke horribly and burn inefficiently. Ask your seller when the wood was cut if you’re unsure if it’s green.

Treated or painted wood

Older treated woods were often preserved with arsenic, when you burn this wood you are releasing arsenic into the air. This simple test can help you avoid burning inorganic arsenic. Additionally, painted woods release chemicals when burnt.


Due to its salt content the chlorine can transform into carcinogens, which you don’t want to expose yourself to. Although the salt may produce pretty flames, it’s best to keep this out of your fire.

Big wood

Logs more than 5 inches in diameter must be recut before use. Throwing large logs onto a fire is a waste of time, be sure to split your logs for maximum efficiency. A great tool to help you get the job done is a

Identifying what you need from your fire and the available species in your area are essential steps for choosing the best firewood for you. The next time you are shopping around, keep this guide in mind!

Common Firewood Terms (Jargon)

To ensure you aren’t lost when shopping around for firewood, there are three important terms to recognize:

  • Cord: Unit of measurement. When purchasing firewood, you purchase it by the cord. A cord is 8′ long x 4′ high x 4′ deep.
  • Seasoned: Dry wood.
  • Green: Unseasoned wood that is still full of moisture.cord of firewood

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Aaron is the founder of and Essential Home and Garden. With over 15 years of hands-on experience in home ownership, lawn care, and gardening, Aaron is a seasoned expert in areas like lawn care, DIY, HVAC, and pest control.

18 thoughts on “Types Of Firewood – A Simple Guide To Burning The Right Fuel”

  1. Avatar photo

    We recently purchased firewood locally, and received some wood that looked like cedar. The seller said it was “Hard Hat.” We use our wood for a indoor woodstove, and definitely want hardwood. We have never heard of Hard Hat. Does anyone know what he could be referring to?? Thanks.

    • Aaron Green

      Ive never heard of “hard hat” firewood.

  2. Avatar photo

    What category is Walnut

    • Aaron Green

      Walnut is a hardwood.

  3. Avatar photo

    Great info! I definitely learned a lot! I would put the jargon at the beginning but besides that, everything was well explained. Thanks again!

  4. Avatar photo

    Terrific stuff and I thought I knew a lot I don’t but I do now

  5. Avatar photo

    Is wattle firewood a suitable firewood for dovre fireplace unit?

    • Aaron Green

      Yes it is, you just want to make sure its seasoned properly.

  6. Avatar photo

    I need to know, is it ok to burn in the large open fire place seasoned local red gum branches?

    • Aaron Green

      Yes! Red gum is a great firewood and can certainly be used in an open fire.

  7. Avatar photo

    need more types of firewood!

    • Aaron Green

      We started off with a simple list, but I will look into expanding it!

  8. Avatar photo

    Why not burn big logs in wood heater….like 8 inches. We get a hot fire going and then put big log on and it last 5 or 6 hours. I hope we are not doing wrong…

  9. Avatar photo

    What are your thoughts about sweetgum?

    • Aaron Green

      Well firstly…good luck splitting it! It can be done, but it is a pain in the backside. You probably want a hydraulic splitter to do it… and then it burns very quickly. It also doesn’t store that great, tends to rot easily from what I have found.

  10. Avatar photo

    Great information to know! Thanks for sharing with others.

  11. Avatar photo

    Is lilac wood worth burning in a stove?

    • Aaron Green

      Depends what you mean by “worth burning”. If you have it lieing around because you have a lilac bush then yes it is worth burning. Although it does have to be seasoned for at least a couple of months. I wouldnt go chasing it as firewood though.

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