Grab your marshmallows – because there is nothing better than relaxing by a toasty fire. Whether it’s by a campfire or by a fireplace, sitting by a fire is a time to relax and unwind and embrace the cozy feeling that it brings. But there are some things that will make this fire moment the best it can be – and it all starts with your firewood.
White Oak is better than Red Oak as firewood for a multitude of reasons. Because of its non-porous nature, White Oak has the ability to last longer and get very hot without a lot of smoke. White Oak is denser than Red Oak and produces 29.1 BTUs per cord, while Red Oak produces 24.6 BTUs.
Keep on reading because today we are going to talk about why White Oak is better than Red Oak and the must-haves of firewood in general!
The Must-Haves of Firewood
What makes good firewood can pretty much be summed up into two factors: density and water content. If the wood is dense and the wood is dry, this makes for an ideal piece of firewood. The denser and drier the wood is – the more heat it allows for burning.
White Oak is in the top firewoods when it comes to comparing the High Heat Value. The High Heat Value is a term used to compare the heat from a cord of firewood to the heat that comes from the burning of 200-250 gallons of heating oil.
A cord is a standard measurement of volume for firewood. The measurement is based on 4 x 4 x 8 feet stacks of firewood, making up about 128 cubic feet of wood. When you see stacked firewood, it actually has a name and a purpose!
Hardwood Makes for Better Firewood
Wood comes in all shapes and sizes, but when we are talking about firewood, an important factor to use in determining if the wood is good firewood is whether or not it is softwood or hardwood.
Hardwoods are best for firewood because of their dense and hard nature. Hardwoods like White Oak and Red Oak are both perfect for drawing a fire; however, White Oak does have some better attributes than Red Oak.
Hardwoods burn cleaner, are slower, have less moisture, and are more economical because you need less of it than softwood. Since softwoods burn faster, you will inherently go through softwood firewood faster, and thus, you need more wood, will need to spend more money on wood because you need more of it, and for the environment overall, hardwood is a better option.
9 Reasons Why White Oak is Better Firewood than Red Oak
Although both White Oak and Red Oak stand at the top of the list of best firewood out there, there are some good reasons why White Oak is a better choice than Red Oak.
White Oak Is Denser Than Red Oak
The truth is, since White Oak Trees take longer to grow, the wood actually becomes denser. Dense wood is great for firewood because it creates better heat production.
When you picture yourself at a campfire or fireplace, you want to enjoy the fire for a good amount of time and also want a good amount of heat. Because White Oak is so dense, it allows you to sit back and enjoy the fire without constantly having to get up and replace the wood for more heat.
Because of its density, White Oak is a strong and heavy wood almost readily available and comparable to the strength of Hickory. The stronger the wood, the more heat it produces.
White Oak Burns Longer Than Red Oak
Due to its density, White Oak burns longer than Red Oak. Realistically, when something is denser, it takes more to get through – and it’s the same idea when it comes to fire.
When you’re enjoying a fire, you want to have a nice long burn. Longer burns make for less firewood, and thus, is even more environmentally friendly. A White Oak firewood log can burn for two to three hours.
White Oak is Non-Porous
One of the two most important factors of picking good firewood is its moisture content, and the drier the wood, the better.
Since White Oak is considered to be a non-porous wood, that means that it doesn’t seep up water and moisture like a Red Oak does.
Because it is non-porous, White Oak is denser, is more sturdy, stronger, and drier altogether. All reasons as to why White Oak is a great firewood option.
White Oak Dries Faster Than Red Oak
Likewise – a reason why White Oak is better than Red Oak also is because it dries faster. Of course, just because it is non-porous doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get wet.
Our oak trees are outside all the time, and because of rain and precipitation, the wood does get wet, but since it is non-porous, the water doesn’t get into the actual wood, and therefore, keeps it relatively dry.
When you season firewood, it takes oak wood anywhere from 6-24 months to fully season properly. When compared to Red Oak, White Oak firewood dried faster in this period of time – the drier the wood, the better the burn.
White Oak Burns Cleaner Than Red Oak
Because White Oak is relatively drier, when seasoned correctly and given the time to dry fully, it will burn cleaner than other woods.
To burn clean means to produce less smoke, less sizzling and popping, and less dark and dirty smoke. White Oak burns clean, so you can expect more fire to smoke, and generally has reduced toxic emissions.
White Oak Produces Less Smoke Than Red Oak
Since White Oak is cleaner, it produces less smoke.
White Oaks density contributes to the amount of smoke it produces. The more wood in a log, the more organic material it has, and therefore, less bad stuff to help make wood burn.
The wood itself is all you need for the fire, and because it is so dense, one log, when given enough oxygen and when it is extremely dry, can produce little to no smoke.
White Oak Produces More Heat Per Cord
White Oak gets extremely hot and will stay hot for a long amount of time.
White Oak, when dry, produces 29.1 BTUs per cord, and Red Oak produces 24.6 BTUs, making white Oak the hotter choice.
The hotter the burn, the better the firewood, especially for your fireplaces.
When looking for firewood – the heat is always something to consider. Warmer fires will help heat your homes in the cold weather faster and longer, and the hotter the fire, the less creosote buildup in your chimneys – the horrible black stuff that comes from a dirtier fire.
White Oak Trees Have Straight Grains That Are Easy to Split
White Oak is also great firewood because it is easier to split! Although when compared to Red Oak – a little bit more difficult – White Oak has long, straight grains, which makes for easier splitting.
Since White Oak Trees take so long to grow, and they grow to extremely tall heights, the grains of the tree grow long and tall and straight, perfect for splitting.
The grains are what you use to split the logs in half. Of course, if you are using a machine, splitting doesn’t matter – but if you’re doing it with an ax – then White Oak is a great option.
White Oak is Less Expensive Than Red Oak
In the long run, although White Oak, because it is denser and a great quality wood, maybe expensive upfront – it is cheaper in the long run, especially if you are always using firewood.
When you purchase good quality firewood, the wood burns longer and lasts longer, so you will be using a portion of the amount of wood you would use if you were using other types. White Oak is one of the best quality woods for firewood, and it will burn for long periods of time.
Compared to Red Oak, White Oak burns hotter, lasts longer, smokes less, and dries faster. If
Tips for the Getting the Most from White Oak Firewood
Now that we have established how good of a firewood White Oak can be, there is more to this firewood story. At face value – White Oak is great, but there are things to consider getting the most from your firewood, no matter the firewood you choose to burn!
Buy Firewood Locally
Buying local can sometimes be the best choice when buying your firewood. Buying local firewood promotes sustainable forestry.
Buying White Oak locally also inhibits the import of insets and fungi from other regions. Sometimes in some regions, there are infestations of certain dangerous bugs, and because of that – it’s important to keep things local when you can.
Economically speaking, the price of the firewood will also be better because you don’t have to add high transportation costs. The wood is heavy and is expensive to ship – so, buying local will not only help your local businesses but will help your pocket as well.
Check The Density of The Wood
Of course, we know that White Oak is a great, dense option for firewood – but the density truly matters. The denser the firewood, the longer the burn, the cleaner the fire, and the less smoke it will have.
When choosing your firewood, always make sure to choose a wood that is on the denser side.
Buy Wood Without Moisture
This is one of the most important attributes of firewood. Wet firewood will create smokey fires, produce more of the bad stuff like creosote,
You can always check to see the moisture level of your firewood by using a hydrometer. It is said that any firewood that has a 30% or less amount of moisture is good; the lower, the more ideal it is.
If you don’t have a Hydrometer, you can always tell by looking at the ends of the logs. If the ends of the logs are cracked – it usually means it is dry and good to go.
If you are looking to purchases a hydrometer, you can check this one out – Moisture Meter by Tyho Tech.
Avoid Scrap Wood or Lumbar for Firewood
If you are not into firewood and want to just light up your fire pit for the season, the most important tip we can give you is to avoid using scrap wood or lumbar.
You shouldn’t just use any wood because there are woods that are treated with chemicals, have paint on them, glue, varnish, and even nails in them.
If you are burning these woods, you are creating toxic fumes, and it’s not only going to be bad for you but bad for the environment as well.
Although it may be free or cheap, the risks are not worth the price. Additionally, this wood will burn very poorly as well and be awfully smokey.
Buy Seasoned Wood or Season it Yourself
If you are buying firewood, there is a good chance it is already seasoned. However, if you chopped your own firewood – you need to season it before it is used.
How Do You Season White Oak Firewood?
Seasoning White Oak firewood is a lengthy process – although not much actually needs to be done. If you ever wondered why people stack their firewood in big piles (which are called cords), it’s not always just for decoration – in fact, seasoning White Oak firewood takes anywhere from 2-3 years.
Seasoning wood consists of piling your firewood and letting it dry out completely before use. To fully dry a log, it can take two to three years to reach 20% moisture. When talking about White Oak drying faster than Red Oak, this is what we are referring to.
Seasoning wood is essential because if you use the firewood too early, it really is a waste. White Oak wood that is too wet will never provide all the amazing benefits it provides when dry. It won’t burn clean, it won’t burn long, and you will need so much more of it that it will become costly.
We really like the idea of clean-burning wood, and even if the wood is inherently clean, when it has moisture, it will always produce black soot and will burn unevenly.
Red Oak Firewood Is Still a Good Option
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of White Oak – but the truth is, Red Oak has its perks too.
Red Oak is a good firewood option for many reasons as well. Red Oak is a hardwood, has a high heat production, provides a decently long fire, and also, because it is less valuable in terms of lumbar, helps save White Oak for other tasks.
Red Oak has a high heat value and is also abundantly available. It’s a clean-burning wood; however, because it is pros, the downfall is that it produces a lot more smoke and burns quicker.
Other Types of Firewood
If you are not sold on White Oak firewood, there are other options out there that can be just as good. Compared with Oak – Maple and Ash are part of the top three firewood.
More on the differences between Oak and Maple Tree’s here.
If you can’t seem to find Oak, and Maple and Ash are available – these are two great options that will give many of the benefits that White Oak or Red Oak provides.
Although White Oak is definitely the choice of firewood – as long as your firewood burns clean, is long-lasting, provides warmth, and is cost-effective and environmentally friendly – you are doing a good job!
That’s a Wrap!
Some of the best moments in life are shared around a campfire or fireplace. We use a controlled fire to heat our homes, cook our food, and sometimes – for pure enjoyment.
Making sure the fire is safe for use and safe for you and the environment is always essential when choosing your firewood. All in all, you can’t go wrong with White Oak, and you will surely be please with all the benefits it has to offer.
Jacobson, Michael, et al. “Sustainable Forestry.” Penn State Extension, 4 Sept. 2021
Aubuchon, R. R., Thompson, D. R., & Hinckley, T. M. (1978). Environmental influences on photosynthesis within the crown of a white oak. Oecologia, 35(3), 295-306.
Sonti, N. F., Hallett, R. A., Griffin, K. L., & Sullivan, J. H. (2019). White oak and red maple tree ring analysis reveals enhanced productivity in urban forest patches. Forest Ecology and Management, 453, 117626.