Our Guide To Identifying Different Types Of Firewood

Not all wood is created equal when it comes to firewood, some types of wood burn easier than others while other wood creates too much smoke, understanding the difference between the type of wood for fire and how to identify a type of firewood can be helpful especially if you have a fireplace or if your camping.

Different firewoods can typically be identified by their bark, end grain, colour or leaves, this can change overtime however if the wood is exposed to the outdoor environments.

To help you out with identifying different types of firewood and which types of wood can be used for firewood, we’ve put together a guide below which will take you through which firewood is smoke-free, methods for identifying, the different types and how to identify them as well as knowing when firewood is ready to use. 

Which Type Of Firewood Is Smoke-Free?

If you are specifically looking for firewood that is smoke-free then you need to be first of all looking for firewood that has little moisture content. 

High moisture content can lead to excess smoke, residue in your fireplace and could potentially become a fire hazard. The type of wood you choose should be seasoned too if you want to avoid too much smoke in your home, unseasoned wood is cheaper but can produce lots of smoke when burned. 

When identifying firewood should also consider if the piece of wood is softwood or hardwood, hardwood species of trees typically make better types of firewood than softwood, this is because hard types of wood grow slower and have a harder structure, softwood is cheaper and should only be used as outside types of firewood.

The Best Methods For Identifying Firewood 

To find the different types of firewood you should use a few different methods to help you identify which dry wood is firewood. 

The End Grain 

Woods that have a distinct end grain like oak and elm can be used for identifying firewood, Elm for example has wavy end grains unlike any other type of wood, some people even use a hand lens for this job to make studying the grains easier.

The Colour 

If you are looking at types of wood like cherry wood or mulberry wood then you can use the color of wood to identify the firewood. This approach for wood finding is not always easy however since wood color can change when exposed to the sun over time.

The Leaves 

Using the leaves of larger trees is one of the easiest ways to see whether or not a certain wood is for firewood. Both maple and oak leaves are wood for kindling, this is not the most common method to use however as common woods might not be found with leaves, making them hard to identify.

The Bark 

You will often find that split firewood has bark still attached, some wood has very identifiable bark patterns or flaky bark making it easier to identify as firewood. Some bark can fall over time however making it hard to identify.

Different Types Of Firewood & How To Identify Them

Whether or not wood can be used as firewood comes down to the type of wood you choose, down below we’ve put together an ultimate list of firewood from different types of trees as well as some tips on how to identify them. 

Oak 

Oak, when used as a well-seasoned wood, makes great firewood and can burn for a long time, unseasoned oak however is not suitable for firewood use. Oak is also a great choice of firewood since it doesn’t smoke too much when burnt. 

How To Identify Oak Firewood 

To identify oak, it’s best to use the end grain method, this is because oak and sycamore are one of the only kinds of firewood that have a very visible ray inside of the tree bark when cut, sycamore is a light green white colour, so if not that then you know you’ve got oak on hand.

You can also use the leaves on an oak tree to identify the wood, they will have a unique five lobe shape.

Pine 

Pine makes an excellent wood into kindling but does have to be used with precautions since creosote can become residue when pine is burnt, this is flammable and can build up easily over time in your fireplace. 

How To Identify Pine Firewood 

Pine can be identified by its sap which makes the tree sticky to touch, it is also one of the only trees that have needles instead of leaves.

Sycamore 

Dry sycamore can be used as firewood but many people prefer to use it inside of a wood-burning stove rather than as firewood due to sparking, always avoid wet sycamore since it carries a high moisture content and can give off a bad smell. 

Sycamore burns easily so are great for starting a fire but don’t last as long as other firewood’s when burnt.

How To Identify Sycamore Wood 

You can find sycamore by looking at the bark, this bark will look naked, the leaves of sycamore also look like the large version of maple tree leaves. Sycamore further has rays like oak in its end grain, these are less visible, however.

Cherrywood 

Cherrywood is one of the best kinds of firewoods out there, it smells nice, doesn’t smoke too much and becomes seasoned quickly, it is however hard to get hold of. This type of wood will not give off a very strong flame. 

How To Identify Cherrywood

Cherrywood can be identified by being consistently red through the whole tree, it is not like mulberry wood which has a red centre. 

Maple 

Maple wood burns slowly and does not produce too much smoke or sparks when lit making it excellent firewood. There are a few different types of maple wood you can use for firewood such as; silver maple, black maple and red maple. 

How To Identify Maple Firewood 

For finding maple, one of the easiest ways to identify it is through the maple leaves since they are most recognisable, you can further look at the bark which should be tight and almost skin-like.

Ash 

Ash is a wise firewood choice if your looking for a fire with a slow burn, the wood from the ash tree is naturally dry too and does not take a long time to season, unlike other woods. 

How To Identify Ash Firewood

Ash has a light brown colour for its wood, if the bark is still on then you will also be able to see small ridges all over the bark. The leaves of ash trees also have opposite compounds all the way through.

Mulberry 

Mulberry is a good hardwood to burn, the piece of wood burns for a long time and creates a strong flame due to it being a dense wood. It also smells nice, but the quality wood can be hard to get hold of.

How To Identify Mulberry Firewood

Mulberry is easy to identify since it has a dark heart red centre and a white sapwood outer ring, the leaves on these trees also grow in a left-right and right-left pattern.

Hickory 

Hickory is a very dense species of wood and can be compared to oak tree species with a different type of leaf. When burned the hickory tree wood has a good smell and high heat output. 

How To Identify Hickory Firewood 

Hickory has distinctive bark patterns with a flaky look, they additionally have alternate-compound leaves too in 7-9 pieces. Walnut leaves are very similar to these individual leaves but often have a couple of more pieces. 

Pear 

Pear is not one of the common types of firewood but can be great when used from a non-fruit type of pear tree, this is because the type of wood is dense and odour free, which is great for long burning times. 

How To Identify Pear Firewood 

If you want to look for pear firewood, you will need to identify it from a Bradford pear tree, they have a very unique branch structure that can be difficult to cut and produce non-edible hard fruits.

How Do I Know If Firewood Is Ready To Use? 

Now we know how to identify all the types of common wood for firewood, how do you know when a type of wood is ready to use as firewood? 

The easiest way to tell if firewood is easy to use is by testing the moisture content of the wood with a moisture tester, seasoned would also have a green/grey colour and should sound dry and hollow with little aroma. 

Driftwood and treated wood should never be used as firewood as they can give off chemicals when burnt into the air.

Final Words 

Overall, firewood can be difficult to identify at a first glance, but our bark method, tree grain method and leaves method it can make identifying certain types of firewood from the rest easier. Always try to burn with seasoned hardwood rather than unseasoned softwood since it will have a long hot burn.

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Scott Buckley

I'm Scott, a Woodworker by day and book geek by night. I love making things out of wood. While I have and still, on occassion do, work with metal and plastics, I find them to be cold and somewhat boring. Wood is warm and I feel close to nature with it. I started TeachMeDIY.co.uk as a means to help like minded creative folk to answer burning questions. I hope you enjoy reading and learning, and always feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions!

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