Types of Wood For Burning.

Hard Or Soft – What type of wood is best?

The difference between hard and soft woods is the density of their cells or fibres.  The harder a wood, the greater the density and quantity of fibres in any square inch of that wood.
As a general rule, deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the autumn) are usually thought of as hardwoods and evergreen trees (such as pine, firs and larches) as the softwoods.  As with all general rules there are exceptions so it is worth taking the time to understand the nature of the wood you intend to burn.


Assuming that the wood is reasonably dry, the weight of a cubic metre of good hardwood may be up to 50% more than that of a cubic metre of softwood.  This means that the same volume of hardwood will provide you with more fuel to burn than an equal amount of softwood, simply because it is more dense and therefore contains more substance.

The other advantage of good hard fire woods are that the stove does not need to be fed as often and the charcoal beds made by the glowing wood may burn more easily overnight.

Ash – The king of firewood.  Produces both heat and a really nice bright flame.

Oak – Very dense wood making it difficult to dry.  Burns very slow and gives off a great heat.

Beech – Produces a good flame and heat.  Does have a tendency to spark.

Hardwoods tend to take longer than softwoods to fully dry out and be classed as seasoned.  Oak for example is very slow to dry out and ideally left for two years.


Because softwoods like line and larch contain a lot of resins and pitch, a popular misconception is that they will fur up the chimney with creosote more easily than a hardwood like oak.  This is not necessarily true, it is not the pitch that is the problem, its the water in the pitch.  Once the water in the wood has evaporated, that pitch becomes high octane fuel.

When dry, softwoods burn much faster than hardwoods and have a tendency to spit and crackle. Softwood can be used as firewood however should be mixed with hardwoods.  Softwood is generally not regarded as the best type of wood for maintaining a fire over long periods.

Softwoods cut in the previous winter should, with proper storage be ready to burn the next autumn.