Firewood | The Essentials Of Wood Burning | Cut The Wood (2024)

Table of ContentsHide
  1. Burning of Wood
  2. Stages of Burning Wood
  3. How Hot Does Wood Burn?
  4. Which Wood Burns The Hottest?
  5. Why Does Wood Pop When Burned?
  6. What Wood is Toxic to Burn?
    1. Treated Woods
    2. Big Woods
    3. Driftwood
    4. Poisonous wood
  7. Types of Wood Used For Firewood
  8. Best Firewood Based on Heat Value
    1. High Heat Value
    2. Medium Heat Value
    3. Low Heat Value
  9. Key Takeaways
    1. Further Reading

Firewood is any harvested wood that is burned as fuel. It is typically not heavily processed and comes in a recognizable wood form. Although it is a renewable resource, the local and regional demand for this fuel may exceed its regenerating capacity.

Firewood is categorized as softwood or hardwood. This wood is different from green wood because greenwood can’t be used for burning due to its high moisture content. Regional variations exist in the harvesting and gathering of firewood. Some locations have designated areas for their collection, while others may include them to get a piece of land ready for planting.

Burning of Wood

For domestic purposes, wood is a sustainable and natural fuel to illuminate or heat homes. By igniting split logs, the firewood-burning stoves offer a healthy option for people to heat their homes.

The practice of wood burning has a benefit over the use of electricity. Unlike electricity, which we are all overly dependent upon, it is readily available and convenient to locate. Furthermore, others used wood residue after burning, called wood ash, as an agent to increase soil fertility. Meanwhile, burning wood has drawbacks as well, such as air pollution.

Stages of Burning Wood

Wood burning is a three-stage, simple process.

  • First, moisture is evaporated and then removed from the wood.
  • Second, volatile materials start to vaporize into gasses at temperatures more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The final stage is when gasses and charcoal are burned at temperatures above 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Hot Does Wood Burn?

Burning wood can reach temperatures as hot as 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,012 degrees Fahrenheit). Most kinds of wood will start to combust at about 300 degrees Celsius. Gasses will burn and improve the temperature of the wood to about 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit).

After the wood has released its gasses, it will create charcoal and ashes. On the other hand, charcoal burns at temperatures above 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,012 degrees Fahrenheit).

Which Wood Burns The Hottest?

With the rising cost of firewood, no doubt you need the firewood that will burn the hottest. Hardwoods burn hotter than softwoods. The reason is that hardwoods are denser, compact, making them longer to ignite.

But once hardwoods do light, they can emit hotter burning temperatures than any other type of wood. Hardwoods will burn more cleanly. Therefore, this will create less creosote compared to softwoods.

Meanwhile, firewood and wood experts agree that a mix of hardwoods and softwoods on a woodpile can help control the burn. Hardwoods can take longer to catch fire but will burn longer; softwoods will ignite fast and burn quickly. Because of this quality, softwoods are ideal for getting the fires going. Once you have a nice fire going, you can add hardwood logs to keep the fire burning hotter and longer.

Why Does Wood Pop When Burned?

When the wood begins to burn, moisture, wood sap, and other elements found in the wood escape, as a result, it causes the popping sound that you hear.

First, the fluids in the chambers start to boil and then begin to vaporize as steam. The steam gets trapped inside the chamber, which exerts pressure on the walls of the wood.

After a while, wood gives way, and the familiar snap, crackle, or pop is heard. This is steam released into the fire from a crevice. If you have used wet wood for firewood, you may have noticed that wood cracks, pops and snaps more than usual. This is because more moisture is trapped in green wood than in dry wood.

What Wood is Toxic to Burn?

Some firewood cannot be burned because it is either harmful to health or creates a mess when burned. You need to be aware of this because doing so could end up harming your family’s health, particularly if you have someone at home who suffers from a respiratory condition.

Treated Woods

Some woods cannot be burned, especially indoors, because these contain very harmful additives like paint, varnish and pressure-treatment chemicals. If you burn this trash, you will release toxic chemicals into the air and pollute your home.

The Environmental Protection Agency claims that these dangerous substances can lead to health problems and will discharge hazardous fumes into the atmosphere. Never burn-treated, painted, or pressure-treated wood for disposal. Do everything you can to utilize the wood, or let the trash collectors remove these.

Big Woods

If the wood is more than five inches in diameter, you must chop it or split it before use. A large piece of wood will be very difficult to light and will only cause a lot of smoke and ash.


According to the EPA, using salt-saturated driftwood as firewood can release toxic or harmful chemicals when burned. It is simply best to leave driftwood alone or use it for décor or home accessories.

Poisonous wood

Never burn wood that is covered with vines. There are poisonous vines like poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak or anything else with “poison” in the name that releases the irritant oil urushiol into the smoke. Breathing the smoke from these vines can cause severe lung irritation and trigger allergic respiratory conditions.

Types of Wood Used For Firewood

Not all wood is created equal. Some are ideal for construction materials and furnishings, while others produce good fuel. You must be sure of what you’re getting and how much it will cost as you evaluate products with these particular features.

Hardwoods are the finest choice for indoor burning since they can burn slowly and produce the least amount of smoke and heat. The most common hardwoods for firewood are ash, maple, black birch, oak, and walnut.

Best Firewood Based on Heat Value

As mentioned, not all woods are equal. In terms of wood burning, some burn far better than the others. The reason relies on the amount of heat a wood produces known as heat value. It refers to the amount of heat energy a wood source generates when burned.

The heat value of different types of wood varies: a cord of wood with a “high heat value” produces the same amount of heat as burning 200–250 gallons of heating oil. Below are some of the best firewoods rated by their heat value.

High Heat Value

1 cord = 200 to 250 gallons of fuel oil

  • Apple
  • Ironwood
  • Mesquite
  • Red oak
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Sugar maple
  • White ash
  • White oak
  • American beech
  • Yellow birch

Medium Heat Value

1 cord = 150 to 200 gallons of fuel oil

  • Silver maple
  • Tamarack
  • White birch
  • Red maple
  • American elm
  • Black cherry
  • Douglas fir

Low Heat Value

  • Lodgepole pine
  • Red alder
  • Redwood
  • Sitka spruce
  • Western red cedar
  • White pine
  • Aspen
  • Cottonwood
  • Hemlock

Key Takeaways

Firewood came into existence because humans used wood to create fire. The fire that the wood ignites is useful for different purposes. However, it is important to remember that not all woods are meant to be burned because they may contain toxins, which are dangerous to health. Above all, knowing the facts about firewood and wood burning is a great way to explore the versatility of wood.

Further Reading

  • Wood 101: Everything You Need To Know About Wood Types
  • Helps is Here: Inspecting Wood Infestation and Applying Best Solutions
  • Increase Your Knowledge: Facts About Wood
Firewood | The Essentials Of Wood Burning | Cut The Wood (2024)


What is the answer to the burning of wood? ›

When we burn wood, it turns into ashes which is a new substance and the process is irreversible one, hence it is a chemical change. While cutting the wood into small pieces no new substance is formed. It is a physical change.

What is needed to burn wood? ›

In order to get something to burn you need three things, all in the proper combination: fuel (such as wood, oil or gas), oxygen and heat.

Is it correct to say burning of wood or combustion of wood? ›

The burning of wood is a chemical change as it leads to the formation of new substances like Carbon dioxide gas, water vapour, ash, etc. There are some substances that do not undergo complete combustion or do not react at all, these substances form the fire ash.

What type of wood is best for wood burning? ›

Most types of hardwood, for instance Ash (generally regarded as the best), Birch, Beech, Oak and Elm can be used. However, avoid burning woods with a high resin content. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the wood, then the greater the heat output and the longer burn time – the time between refills.

When wood burns in a fire, _________? ›

Burning wood is an exothermic reaction which turns the chemical potential energy stored in the cellulose into heat energy (and light). The most notable changes are the release of heat to the surroundings and the breakdown of the wood to form water vapor and carbon dioxide.

What 3 things are released when wood burns? ›

Unlike moisture, volatile gases are combustible. They burn and release heat. As the wood surface temperature rises beyond 212° F to about 450° F, major gases abundant in creosote are produced: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and acetic and formic acids.

What are the stages of burning wood? ›

The Wood Burning Process:
  • Drying Out the Moisture: Initially, the heat from the fire starts to dry out the moisture within the wood. ...
  • Pyrolysis (pai·ro·luh·suhs): ...
  • Releasing Gases and Volatile Compounds: ...
  • Combustion of Gases: ...
  • Charcoal Formation: ...
  • Complete Combustion:
Oct 1, 2023

How do you set up a wood burning fire? ›

Place two small logs across the fire bed. Place 5 pieces of kindling across the two logs, then 4 pieces laid at a 90-degree angle across the bottom layer and place two firelighters in between the gaps. Add another five pieces of kindling laid in the same direction as the bottom layer.

What is the difference between wood and firewood? ›

Firewood is any wooden material that is gathered and used for fuel. Generally, firewood is not heavily processed and is in some sort of recognizable log or branch form, compared to other forms of wood fuel like pellets. Firewood can be seasoned and heat treated (dry) or unseasoned (fresh/wet).

What is the technical name for wood burning? ›

Also known as wood burning, pyrography can see some exquisitely beautiful and detailed pieces of art created. Also known as wood burning, pyrography can see some exquisitely beautiful and detailed pieces of art created.

What is another name for wood burning? ›

Pyrography or pyrogravure is the free handed art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.

What type of wood doesn't burn? ›

Petrified wood, in which the organic molecules have been replaced by minerals will not burn.

How long should wood dry before burning? ›

Wait at least 6 months and up to 12 months for dry firewood depending on type of wood. Hardwoods like oak and maple dry more slowly than soft woods like pine and spruce. To ensure dry firewood, wait at least 12 months before burning. To test, bang two pieces together; dry wood sounds hollow, wet wood sounds dull.

What is the easiest wood to wood burn? ›

Birch burns easily and can be burnt unseasoned. It also burns very quickly so is often best mixed with a slower burning wood such as Oak or Elm. Birch bark can make an excellent fire-lighter. Another good firewood, burns slowly, good heat output and little smoke.

Does burning wood release carbon dioxide? ›

Secondly, for the same amount of heat or energy, burning wood releases more carbon dioxide than oil or gas. This means more carbon in the air immediately after burning wood for electricity compared with fossil fuels, and more carbon in the air after an evening in front of the wood fire than using the central heating.

What are the reactants and products of burning wood? ›

The reactants are wood and oxygen from the air. The products are ash and smoke containing gases like carbon dioxide.

What is the chemical formula for wood? ›

Wood is composed of: Cellulose: Cellulose is a polymer (C6H10O5) that can crystallise to form very strong fibres. Cellulose is the primary strengthening material in wood. Lignin: Lignin is also a polymer but is typically in an amorphous form.

What is the heat of combustion of wood? ›

The heat of combustion of wood is about 15–20 MJ/kg [7, 68], about half to two-thirds of which is released through flaming, the rest through smouldering [9, 17, 63].


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