What is The Best Wood to Burn?


Douglas-fir: This ubiquitous tree has medium heating value, doesn’t make too much ash and is probably the best of the conifers for firewood – better than some of the hardwoods. Old-growth or tight-grain Douglas-fir is easy to split, but some of the younger, second-growth, smaller-diameter trees can be extremely difficult.

Red alder: Seasoned alder burns warm, but fast. Wet alder puts out a lot of ash and very little heat. Alder cuts and splits easily with an axe. Fir and alder are competitively priced.

Lodgepole or ponderosa pine from the east side of the Cascades: Lodgepole burns hot and fast, and it cuts and splits easily. Ponderosa from the west side burns hot and fast, but may be difficult to split and full of pitch.

Oak: Properly seasoned oak is hard to beat. It holds a fire, doesn’t spark, and much of it splits moderately well. But, it won’t produce much heat and will produce lots of ash if it isn’t adequately seasoned. Be careful, as oak often grows where poison oak is rampant. If you touch wood that has come in contact with the resin from this pernicious plant, you can develop a rash.

Oregon ash: Wet or dry, ash wood will produce a decent fire, but will leave a lot of ashes. Most ash cuts and splits relatively easily as long as it is still green.

Big leaf maple: Maple is pretty close to the quality of ash and has similar cutting and splitting characteristics. It burns slightly cleaner, sparks a lot more and doesn’t heat quite as well.

Madrone: When seasoned, this hard, dense wood burns very hot and produces long-lasting coals. Having little bark, madrone is clean to bring indoors. Some madrone is knotty and difficult to cut and split. It is expensive to purchase, but a little goes a long way in heating. “With today’s firewood going for consistently more than $200 per cord, burning purchased firewood for economic reasons has become a specious argument,” Bowers said. “But if you have access to firewood cutting areas and enjoy the work, then go for it. It’s good exercise and you get a sense of satisfaction at seeing a day’s work piled in front of you.”