Homeowners who heat with wood or just enjoy the ambiance of an open fireplace should be aware of various types of firewood available as well as the differences between woods. Using the best wood can produce the most heat with less smoke, and some woods are easier than others to handle. Pine is often good for kindling, while hardwoods are best for regular burning.
Kindling, or the small pieces of wood used to start a fire, can come from several sources and may be of various types. In many parts of the United States, blocks of what are called "starter pine" are sold. Because pine burns hotter and is often easy to ignite, it is often used as kindling. Many stores also sell commercial starter logs that may be made from wood or other materials. Fire starter pine cones can also be purchased or made at home following a prescribed formula.
Hardwoods, such as ash, oak, birch, beech, hickory, and hard maple, are optimum for wood burning purposes, including in wood stoves and open fireplaces. These woods burn well and emits high heat with little or no smoke. They are also easier to split than many other varieties. The availability of these woods may depend on location, because some woods are native to particular areas while others are not. Hickory and oak, for example, are found in many areas of the United States, but birch and beech are more common in the Northeastern part of the country.
Other adequate types of firewood for the home use include soft maple, black cherry, and yellow pine. These woods are a little more difficult to split and produce a greater amount of smoke. Basswood, poplar, and white pine are also used with good results.
Elm and sweet gum trees may also be used as firewood, but their use is recommended only in the absence of other, more desirable options. Elm and sweet gum do not burn as easily or as well as other wood and are difficult to split.
Firewood is generally obtained in one of three ways. One is for the user to cut the wood himself, which is the best for land owners with wooded areas and the expertise to cut wood in a safe, effective manner. It is not recommended for inexperienced wood cutters because of the associated dangers. This is the most difficult method because it requires individuals to cut down a tree, cut the wood into lengths, split the wood, carry the wood home, and stack the wood.
A second option is to collect wood from forests, with appropriate permission. Most of this wood is already on the ground, but it is necessary to cut the wood into appropriate lengths and then split it for use.
Probably the most common way to get firewood, at least for the city sweller, is to order it from wood brokers or wood delivery services. Often, rural wood cutters will bring loads of wood to urban areas for sale and sometimes delivery.