10 Best Oak Trees For Firewood Ranked

Wood burning in furnace in a home during winter

Sitting by a fire is always one of the best places to be. It’s relaxing, it’s warm, and it’s the time to wind down and call it a day. Whether you’re sitting inside by your fireplace, outside near a campfire, or even using a wood furnace – the most important thing when dealing with a fire is the firewood you choose to burn.

White and Red Oak Trees produce the best firewood as they both produce a high heat value, long-lasting fire, and clean burn. The best oak trees to burn are the Shumard Oak, Black Oak, Willow Oak, Pin Oak, Cherrybark Oak, Oregon White Oak, Post Oak, Bur Oak, Chestnut Oak, and Swamp White Oak.

Although you can’t go wrong with oak trees for firewood, we still have the top 10 oak trees for firewood that we want to share with you! But first – let’s talk about why oak is such an amazing firewood option.

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Why Are Oak Trees Good for Firewood?

Oak is simply the best when it comes to firewood because of two things: the density of the wood and the water content. The more dense and drier the wood is – the better the burn. But that’s just the start of all the wonderful things that oak has to offer for firewood.

Since Oak Trees provide such dense and dry wood, it checks off some of the most important factors when enjoying a fire. Oak lasts long, oak burns clean, and oak produces little smoke.

Since Oak Trees provide hardwood, it automatically sets them at the top because hardwood firewood is the best wood to consider burning.

Hardwood is the best for firewood because it is denser than softwood, takes longer to burn through, has less moisture, and is more economical – since you will need less of it.

Oak Tree Firewood Gets Very Hot

Whether you are choosing a White Oak Tree or Red Oak Tree for firewood doesn’t matter. Although White Oak Trees do produce hotter fires per cord, Red Oak Trees produce fairly hot fires as well.

White Oak firewood, when dry, produces 30,600,000 BTUs per cord, and Red Oak firewood produces 27,300,000 BTUs.

Having a hot fire is so important for many reasons – the hotter the fire, the better the burn.

A hot fire will help warm your homes faster and longer. If you use the fire to cook, it will help cook foods faster and more thoroughly. If the fire is hot, there is also less of a chance of getting the bad stuff that can occur from a fire – like the black soot called creosote, build-up in your chimneys, and a lot of smoke.

Oak Trees Are Very Dense

Another determining factor in why oak trees make amazing firewood is how dense they are. With Janka hardness levels of 1290 for Red Oak, and 1360 for White Oak, on the Janka scale – oak is very dense and strong.

The denser firewood is, the longer it burns. Imagine burning through a thin piece of wood, compared to a thick – it will take absolutely longer to get through the thick wood!

The actual wood from an oak tree is very dense, to begin with, as oak trees grow for long periods of time and to very tall heights, creating time for the wood to get thick, the grains to be straight and long, and in turn, a denser piece of wood.

Since grains are straight and long on oak tree firewood, it will provide less smoke and burn cleaner. There won’t be so much popping and sizzling when your fire is burning through the wood, and along with the patterns of the wood.

Oak Trees Provide Dry Firewood

Although a Red Oak Tree is porous, and a White Oak Tree is non-porous, on paper, yes – White Oak Trees are better for firewood – but that’s only when compared to one another. When both types of oak trees are compared to other trees out there, Red Oak and White Oak are the best firewoods.

Both White and Red Oak Trees will provide dry firewood, which is ideal for fire burning.

But – oak trees are definitely not in ideal conditions when it’s cut down right away. When an oak tree is cut down, for the ultimate fire experience, oak tree firewood should be seasoned for 2-3 years until it reaches less than 20% of moisture.

You can check the moisture in your firewood by using a Moisture Meter – like with the General Tools Digital Moisture Meter. You use the pins to pierce through the wood, and it will give you the moisture percentage.

So you may be wondering – What’s the Best Oak Tree Firewood to use? Without further adieu – here is our rank!

10 Best Oak Trees for Firewood Ranked from Good to Best!

When we rank firewood, we look at a few key factors – its density, its availability, and the overall grain of the wood.

#10 – Shumard Oak Tree

A Red Oak firewood, Shumard Oak, is found in the South Eastern Part of the United States and is commonly available for purchase.

Shumard Oak is dense and has a hardness level of 1290 lbf. Shumard Oak is abundant, comes in many sizes, and is typically less expensive than other types of oaks, making it good firewood.

The downfall with Shumard Oak is that it has very large pores. Although straightly grained, the texture is uneven, and the pores are big enough for someone to blow through and get to the other side.

In terms of firewood, it does have a lot of pros – however, the large pores will make it burn faster and may create more smoke.

#9 – Black Oak Tree

Black Oak falls into the category of Red Oak and is commonly found in Eastern North America.

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Flowering Black Oak (Quercus velutina) in early spring.

Black Oak is relatively dense. Since it falls into the Red Oak category, that means that it is porous; however, if dried and seasoned correctly, it will be a great oak to use for firewood.

Black Oak is also an oak that won’t produce a lot of ash or smoke because its bark is relatively smooth. With grains that are typically straight, this yellow-colored oak wood will be a perfect addition to your firewood.

#8 – Willow Oak Tree

Another Red Oak, Willow Oak, is a good option for firewood. Found in the Eastern United States, Willow Oak is abundant.

A fall foliage willow oak (quercus phellos)
A fall foliage willow oak (Quercus phellos.)

Willow Oak has straight, even grains, and is very dense and strong, and will burn for a long time. Its Janka Hardness Level is 1460 lbf, making it one of the harder Red Oaks.

When compared to a White Oak, Willow Oak is inexpensive and is moderately durable.

The Willow Oak has medium to large pores and has a coarse grain, which means it may provide some crackling when used for firewood.

#7 – Pin Oak Tree

Pink Oak is a Red Oak Tree and is a great option for firewood – and not really a great option for anything else.

Pin oak tree leaves in autumn.
Pin Oak Tree Leaves in Autumn.

Pin Oak is found in the Eastern United States and is very hard with a Janka Hardness Rating of 1500 lbf; however, it does not have straight grains and cannot be used in furniture because of its warping abilities.

Although Pin Oak warps and may not be good for other things, the warping isn’t too much of an issue for firewood, as it will move along with the fire. It is a great firewood option; it is very abundant and inexpensive.

#6 – Cherrybark Oak Tree

The last Red Oak Tree on the list – Cherrybark Oak, is one of the highest quality Red Oak firewoods available and amongst the strongest.

The Cherrybark Oak Tree is very hard and dense and has relatively straight to curved grains. It is a dense wood that will burn for long periods of time.

Cherrybark Oak is common throughout the Eastern part of the United States, and because of its superior quality, it will produce a nice, clean fire.

If you’re interested, you can read our piece on 29 incredible facts about Red Oak Trees here.

#5 – Oregon White Oak Tree

We’re placing the Oregon White Oak at the number 6 firewood because it is hard, dense, has straight grains, and is abundant; however, it can be a bit flakey.

An oregon white oak (quercus garryana) on a foggy fall morning.
An Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana) on a foggy Fall morning.

Oregon White Oak firewood will burn for long periods of time and has one of the hotter heat values in the category of White Oak.

The downfall to Oregon White Oak is that the bark is generally flakey – and can produce a lot of ash, and can be very messy.

#4 – Post Oak Tree

It’s safe to say that the Post Tree is hard, which makes it dense and great for firewood, especially when cooking.

Autumn post oak (quercus stellata) with blue sky.
Autumn Post Oak (Quercus stellata.)

Live Oak Trees, such as Post Oak, are commonly seen in the Eastern United States, and they are abundant. They are part of the White Oak family, and although they grow straight, they do have some diagonally shaped grains that can create smoke.

However, usually smoke is not the best when considering firewood, but if you’re looking for a cooking fire, then the Post Oak Tree may be the firewood to choose. Its density leads to a long burn time, granted it’s seasoned properly with a moisture content below 20%.

But don’t count it out as firewood – because Post Oak is abundant, it is dense, it will create a long burning fire and produce a lot of heat!

Fun fact – Live Oak Trees are one of the longest living oak trees. You can read more about how long oak trees live here.

#3 – Bur Oak Tree

Bur Oak is placed at number 3 because it is dense, can be found in most parts of the United States. It has a BTU of up to 29 Million and has a fantastic burn time while producing low smoke.

Old bur oak (quercus macrocarpa) grows along a wetland of northern illinois.
Old Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa.)

Bur Oak is a White Oak, which makes it non-porous, meaning it is less susceptible to moisture – when dried seasoned correctly (.5 – 2 years), Bur Oak can be an amazing firewood option.

Found in the Eastern to Mid-Eastern part of the United States of America, Bur Oak is abundant and is moderately priced.

The only downfall to Bur Oak is that it has medium to large pores, which means it may crackle and pop when it is burning. The more cracking and the more popping, the more smoke it may produce.

If you’re finding your firewood is crackling and burning, it either has a high moisture content or is a tree with larger pores. You can either get a moisture reading device or look into a fireplace chain curtain (like this chain curtain from Midwest Hearth Store) to stop access sparks leaking from your fireplace.

#2 – Chestnut Oak Tree

Commonly found in the Eastern part of the United States – Chestnut Oak is another great option for firewood.

Chestnut Oak Trees have very straight grains, and although not the hardest White Oak, it has enough hardness to be dense and long-lasting. Chestnut Oak doesn’t have as many tyloses as other White Oaks, which is good – because it will dry faster for use.

Additionally, Chestnut Oak firewood isn’t very porous, leading to less crackling and popping than, say, a Bur Oak Tree.

#1 – Swamp White Oak Tree

The Swamp White Oak tree has been determined, by us, to be the best firewood.

The Swamp White Oak is a White Oak tree that is extremely hard, extremely dense, has even straight grains, is abundant, will burn for long periods of time, and will burn cleanly – can it get any better?

The Swamp White Oak Tree has a Janka Hardness Rating of 1600 lbf- making it one of the hardest oak species and extremely dense.

The Swamp White Oak Tree is seen in the Eastern to the Mid-Eastern United States. It primarily grows in well, swampy and damp areas. However, it can survive quite well in residential areas as well.

You should wait at least 18 months to allow Swamp White Oak to season before using it as firewood. Most professionals would recommend allowing the wood to season for up to 2-3 years, however.

Is White Oak or Red Oak Better for Firewood?

Now that we have our Top 10 – you may notice that the White Oak Trees are considered the best when comparing firewood! Although this is like comparing Red Autumn Leaves to Orange Autumn Leaves, we love them both; equally, there are some benefits to choosing White Oak to Red Oak for Firewood.

White Oak is better firewood because it burns at higher heat values, is non-porous, and is denser than Red Oak.

Here are some reasons why you may want to consider White Oak for your next burn.

You can also read our full guide on why white oak is better than red oak for firewood here.

White Oak Produces More Heat

When comparing a cord of White Oak to a cord of Red Oak – White Oak produces more heat!

Like we mentioned earlier – White Oak, when dry, produces 30,600,000 BTUs per cord, and Red Oak produces 27,300,000 BTUs, making white oak the hotter choice.

A hot fire is beneficial because that means less smoke, less build-up in your fireplace and less energy, and fewer logs needed to heat up your space! You’re saving a lot here.

If you ask us, the amount of heat a fire produces is important – especially if you are heating up your home or cooking with it.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about the key differences between Red and White Oak Trees here.

White Oak Dries Faster

An important idea when considering firewood is the process needed before its use. Now, we’re not saying 2-3 years of seasoning isn’t a long period of time; however, since White Oak is non-porous, its drying time is faster than many other kinds of wood.

All firewood should be dried before it is used. Of course, we’ve all found some twigs on the floor or chopped down our own tree and couldn’t wait to use it in our fire pit – and okay, if you’re not a firewood enthusiast, maybe that’s not the worst thing – but, if you want to actually reap the benefits from firewood, you need it to be dried and seasoned correctly.

Dried firewood means less smoke, longer burns, less wood needed, and less popping, cracking, and smoking. When wood holds moisture, it’s only going to start putting itself out as it burns, creating a ton of smoke in the middle of the burn.

But if you just can’t wait, and you don’t have any seasoned firewood available, the best tip we can give you is to only burn clean wood.

If you’d like to check it out, here are 32 incredible facts about White Oak Trees.

Avoid Burning Scrap Wood

No matter which firewood you choose, White Oak, Red Oak, or something else – do not burn wood that has been used for other purposes.

Scrap wood and lumbar were often used to build things. They can be pre-treated, have chemicals on them, contain paint or stain, there can be glue or can have varnish on them, and once you burn a piece of wood that contains these things, you are going to be producing toxic smokes that can hurt you and the environment.

It’s always key to remember why you are drawing the fire in the first place. If you are using it for your indoor space and heat, you want to make sure your wood is clean to protect you and your house.

If you are using it for leisure in an outdoor setting, there’s a good chance you are going to be close to it – and an even better chance that you’re going to roast some marshmallows, and that being said, if it produces any smoke at all – it needs to be free of chemicals and any of the bad stuff.

And because we are believers in clean fires – this is why we think oak trees are a superior option!

That’s a Wrap!

When choosing firewood, it’s important to remember why you need this wood in the first place. Firewood needs to be as clean as possible, but picking a dense, long-lasting, and evenly grained firewood can make all the difference.

With firewood, it’s like a domino effect. When it is dense, that means it will burn longer. If it burns longer, then it will be a benefit economically, as you will need less. If you need less, you are helping the environment.

Firewood, having very personal preferences attached, should always be seen as something that will be beneficial for you and the environment.

References

Dow, B. D., & Ashley, M. V. (1996). Microsatellite analysis of seed dispersal and parentage of saplings in bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa. Molecular ecology5(5), 615-627.

Gardiner, E. S., & Hodges, J. D. (1998). Growth and biomass distribution of cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda Raf.) seedlings as influenced by light availability. Forest Ecology and Management108(1-2), 127-134.

Kabrick, J. M., Dey, D. C., Van Sambeek, J. W., Wallendorf, M., & Gold, M. A. (2005). Soil properties and growth of swamp white oak and pin oak on bedded soils in the lower Missouri River floodplain. Forest Ecology and Management204(2-3), 315-327.

King, W. W., & Schnell, R. L. (1972). Biomass estimates of black-oak-tree components (No. TVA-2902217). Tennessee Valley Authority, Norris (USA). Div. of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Development.

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