Firewood is not as generic as it may seem. Different types of trees produce wood with traits that are both good and bad. You need to determine the use for the firewood and what will work best for you.
Hardwood will give you a more sustained, or longer, burn time, but it will take longer for the wood to be ready to use since it will need a greater time to dry out, called seasoning.
Softwood is a faster burning substance. It will get hot quicker but will not last as long and you will need to feed the fire more frequently to keep it going.
You should be able to identify the tree wood for your fire and choose carefully. You can start with some basic questions:
- Is it hardwood or softwood?
- How much heat is produced?
- What will I use it for, i.e. a campfire or a stove to keep the room warm all night long?
- Will the tree wood split easily and therefore be easy for me to manage into usable sizes?
This is a common tree found most everywhere in North America. White ash and green ash are the most common varieties used for firewood. It will not burn as hot as oak or sugar maple, but it will split easily and has a low moisture content, so most people like it.
Growing primarily in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, the sugar maple, sometimes called a hard maple, is primarily grown for its sap and sugar. Since it is readily available and provides a nice heat source, it is a popular choice for firewood.
Birch are small to medium sized trees that are usually found growing in lowland areas. They have a shallow root system and are easily recognizable by its bark that peels off like paper. The quality of firewood from this tree will range from excellent to moderate depending on the specific variety. Yellow birch and black birch are probably the best choices for firewood.
With approximately 600 different species of oaks, this is a popular choice for firewood. The oak will live about 200 years and can reach 100 feet tall. The most popular types are northern red oak, pin oak and white oak. It is a very dense wood and will provide heat for quite a while.