There are dozens of different types of firewood, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Firewood type is defined by the tree from which it was harvested. And considering that there are more than 60,000 species of trees throughout the world, according to National Public Radio (NPR), it’s safe to say that there are many different types of firewood. Whether you’re planning on buying or harvesting it yourself, though, you might be wondering what’s the most common type.
What Makes Firewood Common?
Several factors affect whether a specific type of firewood is common or rare. Firewood harvested from a tree that grows in dozens of countries, for example, will naturally be more common than firewood harvested from a tree that’s native to just a single country. The speed and ease at which a tree grows can also affect the rarity of its firewood. If a specific type of tree reaches maturity in just 20 years, its firewood will likely be more common than that of a tree maturing in 70 years (yes, trees can take that long to mature).
More importantly, a firewood’s ability to produce a hot, long-lasting flame will affect it’s usage. Softwoods like cedar, redwood and spruce produce less heat than hardwoods. Therefore, most people prefer hardwood firewood, as it performs better when used in fires. Due to the increased popularity surrounding hardwoods, they are more common than softwoods.
Common Types of Firewood
Some of the most common types of firewood include hardwoods like hickory, apple, maple, oak, walnut and cherry. All six of these hardwoods burn hot and stay lit for a long period of time. Of course, this makes them ideal for use in campfires, fire pits, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Softwoods can also be burned, but they don’t perform as well as hardwoods. This is because softwoods are less dense, and many softwoods contain high concentrations of resins that hinder the combustion process and create lots of soot-filled smoke.
Oak Is the Most Common
In the United States, oak is probably the most common type of firewood. Regardless of where you live, you can probably find full cords, face cords and half cords of oak firewood available for sale.
Why Oak Is the Most Popular Type of Firewood
Oak firewood is popular, partially because of its widespread availability. There are roughly 600 known species of oak. They are found in North America, Central America, South America, Asia, Europe and even certain parts of Africa. Here in the United States, there are 90 species of oak. The widespread availability of oak allows companies and entrepreneurs to easily harvest and sell oak firewood.
Oak trees also grow very fast when compared to other types of trees. It’s not uncommon for a live oak to grow more than 2 feet a year. As a result, it yields a significant amount of firewood in a short period of time. Lumber companies can easily harvest large amounts of oak firewood thanks to the oak tree’s exceptionally fast growth rate.
As previously mentioned, oak is a type of hardwood. And like other hardwoods, it’s denser and contains less resin than softwoods. The dense properties of oak allow it to burn hot and stay lit for a long period of time. Why is this important? When firewood burns hot, it produce more heat. This means more warmth when you and your family are gathered around a fire as well as higher temperatures for cooking food. And the long-lasting properties of oak means you won’t have to use as much firewood to keep your fire going through the night as you would with other types.
Oak firewood is also popular because of the unique flavor it injects into food. You use use oak chips or chunks to produce flavorful smoke that compliments most meats and vegetables. Just toss the oak chips or chunks over a bed of coals. As the coals ignite the oak firewood, it will release flavorful smoke into your food.
What’s the Least Common Firewood?
This question is a little more difficult to answer. There are plenty of rare woods that you would never want to burn in a fire. Brazilian Rosewood, for example, is a rare type of wood that’s prized for its brilliant color combination of red, brown and black. It’s been used to make musical instruments like guitars and flutes. But Brazilian Rosewood is only found in a specific area of Brazil, so you probably won’t find it for sale anywhere in the United States.
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