There’s nothing like Fall in New England. The beautiful colors of turning leaves and crisp cool nights by the fireplace. Whether it’s gathering around with friends or family or finding some quiet time to read, fireplaces are used as a meeting spot to unwind.
There are two things you’ll need to bring this all together – a safe working fireplace and fuel! We’re often asked which kind of wood is best to use and therefore this month we are providing you with all the information you need to choose the right fuel for your fireplace.
Identifying Types of Firewood
While it’s true that most wood will burn in a fireplace, choosing the right wood is important, not only to your enjoyment of your fire but the health of your fireplace and your environment. The best kind of wood to burn is one of the hardwoods, such as oak, hard maple, and birch because they release more heat and produce fewer creosote deposits.
Oak is considered the best wood to burn in a fireplace, by far. This type of wood produces a slow-burning fire that lasts longer and burns more evenly and hotter. Also, oak is plentiful and found in almost any area of the country. There is one requirement: to burn well, oak needs to be seasoned well, and that means it needs to be dried for at least a year after cutting, so the sap dries. Oak can also be a little harder to ignite, but you’ll be richly rewarded by the perfect fire once it gets going.
Hard maple is found mainly in the northern United States and Canada. Like oak, it’s heavy and burns slowly, once seasoned properly. Different types of maple that can be used for firewood include red maple, sugar or hard maple, black maple, Norway maple, and silver maple.
Birch gives off a beautiful flame, but unlike oak or maple, it burns quickly, so you’ll need to have more on hand than either oak or maple. Because hardwoods burn more slowly and completely, you’ll have less to clean up once the fire is out and less chance of buildup in your chimney.
What About Softer Wood?
Softer woods, like pine and fir trees, season more quickly than hardwoods, are easier to split and is easier to start, but also burn faster and leave more ash residue. The fact that softer woods season more quickly isn’t necessarily a good thing; there are more chances of residual sap pockets, causing more sizzle and snap than well-seasoned hardwoods. Fir trees do result in less ash, and season well, with fewer leftover sap pockets.
Make sure you’re buying seasoned wood or have time to season it yourself. Seasoned wood produces more heat for your fires, burns more cleanly, and is easier to start. Seasoned wood takes on a grayish color and is relatively lightweight. Heavy wood can indicate that there’s still sap, which will burn quickly and not produce as much heat.
Do not burn painted or treated scraps from construction projects, as burning this type of wood can release harmful chemicals into your home.
Store your wood in a well-ventilated area outside, up off the ground, protected from the elements using a plastic tarp or covering.
Only bring in as much wood as you’re going to use at one time. Because wood attracts bugs, like termites, bringing more than you need to the house will encourage the bugs to stick around inside.
Many people also have questions about burning artificial logs. Convenience is their strong suit, and in general, they are fine when time is an issue, and you want a quick fire without all the muss and fuss of natural firewood. Usually, they should be burned only one at a time and only in an open fireplace. One should be careful about poking them and moving them around once they are burning since they may break up and the fire
And remember—regardless of the type of wood you’re using, schedule to have your chimney cleaned and inspected before you use your fireplace to make sure it is in good working order, safe and ready to go!