If you have a wood burning fireplace, a fireplace insert, or a woodstove, you may be curious to know what is the best firewood to use. The simplest answer is that you should use the driest, best seasoned wood you can get. Dry wood will burn more completely than green wood, resulting in a hotter fire with less smoke. A cold, smoky fire that comes from using unseasoned wood will make more creosote build up in your chimney liner than you would have with dry firewood. Creosote buildup makes it necessary to clean your flue more often than you might like. It is a fire hazard, since it is highly combustible, and it also constricts the flow of gases up your chimney liner, resulting in decreased draft and dirtier subsequent fires.
Besides the requirement that your firewood be as dry as possible, there is the question of cost. If you have a chainsaw and a pickup truck, you may be able to obtain firewood for nothing more than the cost of your time and fuel by asking nearby landowners for permission to cut their dead wood, or getting a permit from the state or federal forest agency to cut wood on public land. In this case, the type of wood you get should not be of too much concern. If you are buying firewood, then you need to consider the relative cost of hardwood such as oak versus softwood such as pine. You can go online to find the heating value of a cord of any kind of wood. For example, a cord of red oak contains about 24 million BTU’s of energy, whereas a cord of white pine only contains a little over 14 million BTU’s. So, you can pay seventy percent more money for a cord of oak than a cord of pine and get the same heating value from it.
It is a good idea to have a mixture of hardwood and softwood on hand for different stages of fire burning. Softwood cut into small pieces makes excellent tinder and kindling to get a small, hot fire going. Then, larger pieces of softwood mixed with pieces of hardwood will give you a good, steady burn while you are in the room enjoying your fire. If you want the fire to last most of the night, feed it with a few big chunks of hardwood, and you will probably have plenty of hot coals in the morning to start a new fire all over again.