Best Firewood: Heat Values and Wood-Burning Tips

What is the Best Firewood to Burn?


Do you burn firewood? Here is a list of the best firewood to burn—sorted by high, medium, and low heat value—as well as a few important wood-burning tips.

Best Firewood: High Heat Value

1 cord = 200 to 250 gallons of fuel oil

  • American beech
  • Apple
  • Ironwood
  • Red oak
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Sugar maple
  • White ash
  • White oak
  • Yellow birch

Medium Heat Value

1 cord = 150 to 200 gallons of fuel oil

  • American elm
  • Black cherry
  • Douglas fir
  • Red maple
  • Silver maple
  • Tamarack
  • White birch

Low Heat Value

1 cord = 100 to 150 gallons of fuel oil

  • Aspen
  • Cottonwood
  • Hemlock
  • Lodgepole pine
  • Red alder
  • Redwood
  • Sitka spruce
  • Western red cedar
  • White pine


Firewood-Burning Tips

  • How much is a cord of wood? The volume of a cord of wood is 128 cubic feet of stacked wood. Due to air space between your stack, the amount of solid wood in a cord may be only 70 to 90 cubic feet.
  • What is heat value? Heat value varies based on the type of wood. A cord of wood with “high heat value” provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil. Other heat values are listed above.
  • Cutting wood: Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture and must be seasoned to 20 to 25 percent moisture content before burning. Wood containing more than 25 percent moisture is wet, or green, and should never be burned in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Splitting wood: Wet wood is easier to split than dry wood. Wood must be split into pieces and stacked out of the rain for at least six months to season properly.
  • Seasoning firewood: If steam bubbles and hisses out of the end grain as the firewood heats up on the fire, the wood is wet, or green, and needs to be seasoned longer before burning. Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with visible cracks or splits. It is relatively lightweight and makes a sharp, distinctive “clink” when two pieces strike each other.
  • Burning pine: Limit the amount of pine you burn. It’s a resinous softwood.

Now here’s how to keep warm on just one stick of wood! (Humor required.)