How to Choose a Type of Firewood

DR Hydraulic Wood SplitterIt’s wood season again! And with it comes the satisfying challenge of splitting all the cords of wood you’ll need for the winter, stacking them neatly, and having a reliable way to transport them to the wood stove.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step is choosing a type of firewood to split and stack. And, most importantly of all, to rely on for heat in the coldest months of the year. So, which type of wood should you choose? There are a few that are generally considered to be the best choices. Otherwise, here are the most essential things to look for as you browse the wood types available in your area:


Anybody who uses wood fuel – or has had a campfire, for that matter – knows that hardwoods and softwoods burn very differently. Softwoods burn quickly and do not create as much heat as hardwoods. Also, they don’t produce a lasting coal bed. Hardwoods, on the other hand, burn long and hot, leaving a long-lasting coal bed. This makes them ideal for most winter burning. In some cases, such as for fall and spring heating, softwoods are a good choice because they won’t overheat the house.

Fire woodMoisture Content

Wood with a high moisture content simply will not burn. And even if you could get it to ignite, it would be smokey and short-lived. When a tree is first cut down, the wood may seem dry, but it is what is called ‘green wood’. This means that it still has moisture lurking within its cells. Letting it dry out is called ‘seasoning’ the wood. Hardwoods should season for at least a year, while softwoods may only need a few months. As you choose a type of wood to use as fuel, consider the seasoning process. Or, if you plan on purchasing wood that has already been seasoned, test it with a moisture meter before committing to a large delivery. Firewood is ideal for burning at a 10-25% moisture content.


As with just about any purchase, price is a factor that cannot be escaped. It may seem that pre-seasoned hardwoods are the best choice for winter heating. Unfortunately, that often means that they carry the heftiest prices. Depending on your location and delivery options, you can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $600 for a cord of wood (consider the lower end of the range for softwoods, and the higher end for hardwoods). A mix of hard and soft is often a good way to be economical. Check with friends and neighbors in your area to see how they get the most burn for their buck when they buy firewood.


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