Last Updated on June 5, 2021
After an arduous process of choosing the right fire pit and installing it in your home, you finally get to enjoy that warm and cozy fire you have always wanted. You’ll just need to buy firewood from the nearest grocery store or gas station, and you are all set. After all, wood is wood – they burn the same way, right?
Well, not quite.
See, the firewood that’s easiest to access may not be the best wood for fire pits. It also doesn’t offer you the best value for your money. The small bundles of wood you see in many stores around you are called softwoods. These are usually pine and cedar, which are easy to light but quick to burn. So if you want your fire to last for several hours, you’ll need to buy a lot of them. Thus, making your expenses higher.
But what exactly are softwoods? If these types of wood aren’t a great option then what is? Let’s find out below.
Softwoods vs Hardwoods
What is Softwood?
Softwoods come from conifer and evergreen trees, such as spruce, pine, fir, juniper, or cedar. Their seeds are typically enclosed in cones and they don’t produce flowers. They grow fast and are usually less dense.
What is Hardwood?
Hardwoods produce flowers with their seeds enclosed in a fruit. They have a seasonal life cycle and grows slower than softwoods. There are many types of hardwood trees, including maple, oak, walnut, and more.
What is Better for Your Fire Pit?
Both hardwoods and softwoods can be good choices for your fire pit. It just depends on how you are planning to use them. For instance, softwoods are great if you are not yet good at starting fires or if just want a quick and occasional fire for your little get-together. However, for a longer-lasting fire that can offer you the most heat, hardwoods are your best option. They have a lower moisture content and are denser, which allows them to burn slower and cleaner.
In terms of price, softwoods are cheaper upfront. However, they are also less dense, which makes them burn faster. Approximately, it will take twice as many softwoods to produce the same burning time as hardwoods. So you may get a better value for your money with hardwoods and find them cheaper in the long run.
Overall, hardwoods are a more efficient and economical choice for your fire pit. For a quick-fire experience, however, softwoods will suffice. You can also combine the two and use the softwoods for starting the fire and switch to hardwoods to make it last. Either way, your choice should depend on the availability of woods in your area and the purpose of your fire.
Best Wood for Fire Pits
Oak is a type of hardwood that is extremely dense, provides a long burning time, and high heat output. If you want a fire that can last through the evening, this is one of your best options. Yes, oak firewood has a more expensive upfront cost than softwoods. But since it burns longer and hotter, you will need less of it. Thus, making it more economical.
Furthermore, oak is also readily and highly available in most parts of the country, so you won’t have a problem looking for one. The only downside is that it can be challenging to light and requires about two years to season properly.
There are different types of oak wood, including the following:
- Black Oak: This type of oak produces the least amount of ash. Thus, making it easier to clean up.
- White Oak: While white oak produces the most ash than any type of oak wood, it does provide a long, hot, and steady fire.
- Coast Live Oak: Coast live oak is long-burning firewood that offers high heat output without producing too much smoke.
- Valley Oak: Like others, this type of oak wood burns long and slow. Thus, giving you more bang for your buck.
You’ll often find ash as one of the most recommended woods for fire pits. The reason for this is that ash is easy to light, split, and provides amazing heat without producing a lot of smoke. Sure, it doesn’t burn as long as oak, but it is quick to season. You can even burn it while it’s still green. Of course, it’s still better if you can wait for it to season. But if you can’t, Ash will still burn fine even before drying out completely.
Beech is very similar to ash. It provides a high heat output and burns for a very long time. It also produces a hot and clean fire without making a lot of sparks. Like other hardwood, beech takes a while to season due to its high moisture content. But it doesn’t take as much time as oak wood. Once seasoned, this type of wood can keep you warm in your backyard or patio even on the coldest winter nights. You don’t need to activate your patio heater if you have one since your fire pit is doing an amazing job keeping everyone comfy.
Hickory is among the best types of firewood due to its very high heat output, long burning time, and great smell when burning. Compared to other types of firewood, it provides the second-highest heat output. It also has a low sap content, which results in less creosote and better burn overall. Most of all, it has a relatively low smoke output.
Here’s another type of wood that provides a great aroma when burning. Maple is a good choice for your fire pit since it splits well, burns clean, and produces little smoke with almost no sparks. Once seasoned properly, maple can provide you with a long and steady burn.
One thing you should know about maple wood is that it has a lower BTU than other types of hardwood. Meaning, it can’t provide as much heat as the others. So if you are using your fire pit as a heat source, this is not the best option for you. However, if your main purpose is to create a welcoming fire for parties or gatherings, maple is a great choice.
6. Black Locust
Arguably the best type of wood you can use in your fire pit, black locust is prized firewood. Many people prefer this type of wood over common favorites such as oak or ash – and for good reason. It can produce a lot of heat, is easy to split, burns slowly, and produces minimal smoke. It also creates a nice and hotbed of coals that can burn throughout the night.
What Not to Burn in a Fire Pit
Now that you know the best woods for your fire pit, let’s head over to an equally important topic – what not to burn. There are certain types of wood that you should never burn in your fire pit, including the following:
- Painted, stained, or pressure-treated: According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), you should not burn coated, painted, and pressure-treated wood. These types of wood can release toxic or harmful chemicals when burned, so avoid using them in your fire pit by all means.
- Wet or green (unseasoned): EPA also states that you should not burn green or wet wood. These types of firewood are not seasoned and have high moisture contents. Thus, making them hard to light and burn. They will also pop, sizzle, smolder, and produce a lot of smoke – which will make your fire pit experience unpleasant.
- Wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood: Included in the list of EPA’s “What Not to Burn” are wet, rotted, diseased, and moldy wood as they can also release toxins in the air when burned.
- Ocean driftwood, plywood, particleboard, or any wood with glue on or in it: Burning these types of wood can produce chemicals that can be harmful to people.
- Wooden Pallets: Some wooden pallets are treated with chemicals, which if burned, can be released into the air. So unless you know for sure that the pallets you have were not treated, it’s best to avoid them altogether.