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Stay Warm This Winter

Learn which woods are best for building a toasty fire

For all of FPL's technological advances in wood science over the past century, the simple act of wood providing warmth and ambiance in fireplaces and wood stoves is still important.

According to the USDA publication "Firewood for Your Fireplace," choosing the best wood for your fire depends on several factors. You should consider what species are readily available to you, any personal preference you have as to aroma, and what type of fire you want to build.

Softwood species are easy to ignite and burn with a hot flame. However, they also burn rapidly and require frequent replenishing to stay lit. Softwood species are recommended if you're looking to warm up with a short fire that will burn out quickly.

For a longer lasting fire, hardwood species are a good choice. These woods burn less vigorously with a shorter flame and produce long-lasting, steady glowing coals.

The ideal fire, then, would be made with a mixture of softwood logs for easy ignition and hardwood logs for longevity. By adding wood from fruit trees (such as apple and cherry) or nut trees (such as hickory, beech, or pecan), your fire will also emit a pleasant aroma.

The chart to the right outlines the characteristics of several species and may help you decide which wood to use the next time you're looking to keep warm by the fire.
Characteristics of Wood by Species
Species Amount of heat per cord Easy to burn? Easy to split? Have heavy smoke? Pop or throw sparks? General rating
Hardwood trees
Ash, red oak, white oak, beech, birch, hickory, hard maple, pecan, dogwood High Yes Yes No No Excellent
Soft maple, cherry, walnut Medium Yes Yes No No Good
Elm, sycamore, gum Medium Medium No Medium No Fair - too much water when green
Aspen, basswood, cottonwood, yellow poplar Low Yes Yes Medium No Fair - but good for kindling
Softwood trees
Southern yellow pine High Yes Yes Yes No Good, but smoky
Cypress Medium Medium Yes Medium No Fair
Eastern red cedar Medium Yes Yes Medium Yes Good - good for kindling
From USDA Leaflet number 559, Firewood for Your Fireplace

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