10 Slowest Burning Firewoods (And How Long They Last)

Closeup of a wood pile with chopped oak firewood

When you start a fire, whether it’s in a fireplace, campfire, or for your wood-burning stove, the last thing you want is to have to add more wood constantly because it burns up too fast. A wood burning fire should be relaxing, long-lasting, and provide plenty of heat. So, which are the slowest burning firewoods and how long do they last?

Dense, properly seasoned hardwoods burn the slowest and longest because there is more wood packed into every square inch, so it takes longer for the fire to get through. Oak, maple, ash, hickory, cherry, apple, hornbeam, walnut, hawthorn, and Osage orange trees are the slowest burning firewoods.

There are tons of hardwoods to choose from out there depending on what exactly you want from your fire and where that fire is located. Today we are focusing on the slowest burning firewood, so get cozy and kick up your feet! Here is the list of the 10 slowest burning hardwoods and how long they last. 

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Hardwood vs. Softwood For Firewood

When it comes to firewood and lumber, you have two basic choices: hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods come from most deciduous trees. These trees lose their leaves in the winter, have broader leaves instead of needles, and produce less sap or resin than softwood trees. 

Softwood trees are your conifers. They include cedars, pines, and most evergreen trees. They do not lose their leaves in the winter, but they drop some of their needle-like leaves each year. Softwood trees also produce thick resinous sap when cut or damaged. 

Why Does Hardwood Make Better Firewood?

Denser hardwoods such as oak and birch burn slower, produce less smoke, and provide better heat energy than softwoods of similar size.

Not all hardwoods are created equal when it comes to firewood. There are several types of hardwoods you should not burn in fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. Poplar, for example, is a poor firewood choice because it can produce a thick smoke with a bitter smell, and may pop many sparks when it burns. 

However, hardwood is much better than most softwoods for fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Hardwoods, as their name suggests, are denser, and therefore burn longer, and hotter. 

Firewood cut and properly seasoned from quality hardwood trees produce less smoke and creosote buildup, burn longer and produce more heat than softwood does. It means you have to worry less about thick chimney buildup, and you do not have to spend your entire night throwing more logs onto the fire to keep it burning.

Softwood Firewood Uses

Although, this does not mean softwood cannot be firewood. Softwoods, especially when chopped into kindling, make great fire-starters. Softwoods catch quickly and burn hot for a short period, which is great for starting a hardwood fire.

The resins that flow through softwood help to burn quickly. 

Softwood can be used as outdoor firewood when burned in a campfire. It smokes and pops a bit, but since everything is outside, with a proper fire ring, you don’t have much to worry about. You get a quick-burning, hot fire that doesn’t last all night long. When you’re out camping, you’re probably not going to stay up all night long, you’ve got to go catch those early rising fish!  

The 10 Slowest Burning Firewoods

Small firewood logs stacked up neatly in summer forest

It is difficult to narrow down an exact time for each type of firewood, and exactly how long each one burns. There are many factors to include, such as how much airflow is around the fire, how you stack the logs and the thickness of the logs. Even in a single tree, you can get different densities and logs with varying burn times.

All the hardwoods in this list are pretty close to one another in density, heat output, and length of burn from start to ash. The average burn time for this list is from 5 to 8 hours long. This means you can get yourself a nice roaring fire full of warmth and ambiance, go to bed, and still have enough coals to continue a fire when you wake in the morning. 

Now that we have established the difference between soft and hard wood, and which is best used in which application, let’s get into the 10 slowest burning firewoods. 

1. Oak

Oak firewood is probably one of the best firewoods you can find. It does not put off the most heat or burn longer than any other firewood out there, but the other benefits simply put oak firewood near the top of any list. 

Oak is an excellent firewood because it produces a lot of heat, creates very little smoke or sparks, but it’s not very easy to split.

Oak firewood puts off plenty of heat. For one cord of wood, which is 128 cubic feet, oak measures an average of 27 million BTUs. There are a few species of hardwoods that burn hotter than oak, but they are harder to find. Oak is abundant nearly anywhere in the US, which makes it an easy-to-find, hot-burning, long-lasting choice for firewood. 

Oak firewood also burns clean when seasoned. You will not have a lot of smoke or creosote build-up when you burn oak firewood. 

An oak fire will burn for a long time. We used a wood-burning stove to heat our family house, and plenty of oak firewood. It was easy to find, and when I had a good bed of coals burning at night, it created plenty of heat that lasted all night long. 

When you get up in the middle of the night for a drink of water, or to stumble to the bathroom, you might have to put a log or two on the fire just to keep it extra toasty, but most times it is unnecessary with oak firewood and it can last at least half of the night (5-8 hours) if in a wood stove.

For more specific varieties of oak, check out our article on the 10 best oak trees for firewood!

2. Maple 

Maple firewood is another great choice for firewood as it burns hot, is efficient, and is readily available almost everywhere as well. It doesn’t get as hot as most oak firewoods; it burns at about 25 million BTUs per cord.

This hardwood is not as dense as oak, so normally it does not burn as long, but it is still a hot, long-lasting choice for firewood. Another benefit—as some see it—is if you burn this wood in your fireplace or campfire, the smell that comes off maple is sweet. Depending on which variety you burn, you could smell maple syrup, or get scents similar to cherry and apple wood. 

In your wood-burning stove, maple is a good choice because of the heat it puts out, the long-lasting fire, and its availability. In this list, for longevity, maple firewood would be somewhere in the middle of all these long-lasting firewoods most likely lasting around 4-7 hours in a wood stove at average temperature.

If you’d like to learn more about our top two firewood trees, you can check out our article on the major leaf and bark differences between oak and maple trees here.

3. Ash

Some people will swear by ash trees for firewood and say it’s the best around. It certainly has plenty of reasons it’s a great firewood. If you cut and split your own firewood, it is a very easy splitting wood, does not take long to season, especially compared to oak, and it burns clean and hot. 

In a wood-burning stove, meant to heat your house, ash is great because it puts off about as much heat as maple firewood. Although, because of the harder density, it will probably last longer.

Ash firewood also produces very little, well, ash when it is burned. It burns very clean, meaning you have less to clean out after a fire. Ash firewood lasts about as long as oak does, meaning a good fire should go for around 6 to 8 hours, providing plenty of long-lasting heat for your home. 

People enjoy ash tree firewood because it splits easily and seasons in a brief period. Where oak may take at least a year, sometimes even three, ash is ready to burn in about 6 to 8 months. It makes a superb choice when you are running low or need firewood soon. 

4. Hickory 

Hickory is one of the few firewoods that tops even the mighty oak. It’s a super dense wood and burns hotter than oak at 28 million BTUs per cord. It also lasts slightly longer than oak. 

In a fireplace and wood-burning stove, hickory firewood is an all-star champ. It provides even more heat than coal and lasts a very long time. It may not be as prevalent as oak or maple firewood, but if you can find or buy hickory firewood, you should. 

Hickory lives up to the legend of being a very hard wood. If hickory nuts are tough to crack, the wood is equally, if not more, tough to split. You will probably need a hydraulic splitter if you are cutting and splitting your own firewood. Other than the difficulty in splitting, hickory firewood is among the hottest and longest burning firewood. 

If you are in the market for a small hydraulic splitter, the Bestauto Log Splitter Pump Kit is a fantastic option! It is made of a high-quality aluminum, which is also wear resistant. It is also compatible with horizontal and vertical shaft engines.

5. Cherry 

Probably the most pleasing attribute of burning cherry firewood would be the sweet aroma. You might not notice this when you burn cherry firewood in your wood-burning stove, but it’s very noticeable in fireplaces and campfires. 

That’s where this wood really shines, though. Cherry firewood only burns at about 20 million BTUs, which is lower than our other firewoods on the list. If you cut your own wood and use firewood to heat your house, cherry is actually a good wood in a pinch because it splits easily, and seasons quickly. 

Cherry firewood is still a longer burning choice compared to poplar, or butternut. It’s similar in density to oak and should still give you a long burn time of at least 5 to 7 hours in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. 

6. Apple 

Apple is another fragrant firewood known for its aromatic scent. Unlike cherry firewood, apple is a hot-burning wood and produces around 27 million BTUs per cord. This is right on par with oak. 

Apple trees are not nearly as prevalent as oak trees though, because of course these trees are also prized for their fruits every late summer and fall. If an orchard is downsizing or getting rid of trees because they do not produce as much fruit anymore, you might get lucky and be able to purchase apple wood.

Apple firewood works great in wood-burning stoves because of the long-lasting, intense heat. The firewood is also great for fireplaces and campfires because of the heat, and the sweet smells that come from burning this wood.

Overall, apple firewood is almost as long-lasting as oak, puts off just as much heat, but also provides a glorious scent when burned; it’s great firewood for whatever your needs. 

7. Hornbeam 

Hornbeam tree in the twilight forest in crimea

More prevalent on the eastern side of the US, hornbeam is a firewood that will have you tending to the fire less, and enjoying the toasty warmth this firewood provides more. Hornbeam is a very dense wood, so it will burn for much longer than some others. 

One cord of hornbeam wood provides a high heat output of 27 million BTUs. It may take a little longer to get this firewood started because of the high density, but once this firewood takes, you can load up the wood-burning stove or fireplace and go about your business. For a firewood that will chase away the most bitter of chills, and last 6 to 8 hours, you cannot go wrong with hornbeam firewood. 

8. Walnut 

Even in a list of great, long-lasting firewoods, we still have to have one that is basically at the bottom of the list; walnut. This wood, though still good firewood, is about your average grade as far as longevity and heat. It may be a little difficult to find as firewood unless you cut it yourself because the wood is valued in furniture making.

Walnut burns a little hotter than cherry at 22 million BTUs, but it’s a medium-density wood and will not burn as long as cherry firewood. In a fireplace or campfire, if you mix walnut with something that burns hotter, longer, and has a more neutral smell, then you get the benefit of a great smelling fire with added heat and longevity.  

If you have walnut trees on your property, you probably notice there is not much growing around it because walnut trees produce a substance most other vegetation dislike. Not to mention, the nuts that drop off the tree every fall can wreak havoc on your mower.

I mention this because you might cut the walnut trees out of your property. If so, then why not use it as firewood?

Walnut is not the firewood you will be actively seeking, but if you are thinning them out of your property, it makes decent, long-ish-lasting firewood logs. It is better than turning it into mulch—because you might end up inadvertently killing off your landscaping if you do.

9. Hawthorn  

If you have twisty, thorny hawthorn trees on your property and you want them gone, then you have a good season or two of great, hot, long-lasting firewood waiting for you. Hawthorn trees are very dense and burn quite hot at 25 million BTUs per cord. 

Since this tree has large thorns and is difficult to split, you might not find hawthorn sold commercially. If you are cutting your own firewood or clearing these trees off your property, then you are getting some of the best firewood around.

Hawthorn wood has a wavy, twisted grain that is difficult to split, and large spikes you will need to be careful around, but it’s a dense wood that will burn for a long time. Think somewhere between oak and hickory as far as longevity. So if you have hawthorn, burn it in your fireplace, wood-burning stove, or campfire. It’s a great firewood.

10. Osage orange 

Fruits of maclura pomifera on a branch

Osage orange, also known as horse apple—although the green, wrinkly-looking fruits are not really edible—is at the top of the list for density, heat, and long-lasting firewood. Some people have even reported the heat that comes off Osage orange is so hot, it can warp wood-burning stove meta

Osage orange firewood releases intense heat, 34 million BTUs per cord, and is better used as a supplement for cooler burning firewoods such as hawthorn, or ash. It’s also known to spark, so the best place for this firewood is in the campfire. 

This firewood is not as prevalent in the US as others on the list because they require perfect soil conditions, are considered somewhat of a nuisance, and are so dense they are difficult to cut. That all being said, if you cut your own Osage orange trees, you will have a raging hot, marathon long-lasting fire from this firewood. 

What Wood Should Not Be Burned?

When burning firewood inside your wood-burning stove, if you don’t know what kind of wood it is, then the best advice is to leave it out of your stove. Only burn wood you have purchased from a reputable firewood dealer, or if you know exactly what kind of wood it is. You don’t want to burn softwoods that will smoke and cause a lot of creosote buildup that will need to be cleaned out all the time.

Softwoods are fine for outdoor campfires. They produce a lot of heat quickly, and can spark quite a bit, so they are better suited for outdoor fires. 

You already know this, but you should not burn scrap wood/building materials anywhere. Unknown chemicals can be released if you burn scrap wood, which isn’t safe, even outdoors. 

That’s A Wrap!

There you have it, 10 slowest burning firewoods and how long they burn. All the woods on the list are great, long-lasting woods, with burn temperatures high enough to keep you warm and leave you plenty of time to enjoy the amazing, natural heat. 

Oak, maple, and ash are all firewoods you can probably purchase from local firewood dealers and work great in all your wood burning needs. Some others on this list such as hickory, Osage orange, and hawthorn are woods to consider cutting for yourself to use as firewood because they are great, long-lasting firewoods. 

References:

Larjavaara, Markku, and Helene C. Muller-Landau. “Rethinking the Value of High Wood Density.” Functional Ecology, vol. 24, no. 4, [British Ecological Society, Wiley], 2010, pp. 701–05.

P. Abbot, J. Lowore, C. Khofi, M. Werren, Defining firewood quality: A comparison of  quantitative and rapid appraisal techniques to evaluate firewood species from a southern African savanna, Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 12, Issue 6, 1997, Pages 429-437, ISSN 0961-9534.

Robert Francis, Alexa Dufraisse, Firewood and timber collection and management strategies from early medieval sites in eastern England. Initial results from the anthraco-typological analysis of oak charcoal remains, Quaternary International, Volumes 593–594, 2021, Pages 320-331, ISSN 1040-6182.

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