Types of Firewood and Their Benefits

Types of Firewood and Their Benefits

It’s the frosty time of the year when our heating bills take a hit, hot chocolate sales go up, and cozy sweater season is in full force. While many homes have gas fireplaces and are easy to use with the flick of a switch, nothing beats the ritual of an old-school fire.

The type of firewood you use can significantly affect how your fire burns. This is why it’s essential to consider the uses and benefits of each wood to determine which is right for you. In Alberta, our most popular choices are birch, pine, and tamarack. Read on to learn more about each firewood type and how to choose the best one.

Hardwood vs Softwood for Fires

There are two main categories of firewood – softwood and hardwood. This refers to their density and water content. Birch, for example, is considered a hardwood. These are typically better for long fires you’d use to heat your home or fuel a wood-burning stove. They burn hotter and more slowly.

Softwood often burns with less intense heat, ignites quickly, and has more smoke. These are usually better to burn outside and are lighter in weight due to their low density. You’ll likely want to use softwood for kindling or campfires, such as pine.

Types of Firewood

While the type of firewood you use can make a difference in the kind of fire you’ll produce, one crucial thing to keep in mind is that your firewood must be seasoned.

Seasoned doesn’t mean you’re sprinkling paprika over the flame. It simply refers to leaving the firewood out for a season. Otherwise, your firewood will have too much moisture and won’t burn well. Even the best type of firewood will underperform if it hasn’t had time to dry out. You typically want to ensure that the wood was split the year prior.

What can you expect from the popular firewoods – birch, tamarack, and pine? Let’s find out.


Birch is an excellent firewood to have on hand, and it’s considered a hardwood. Even if it hasn’t been seasoned, you’ll still be able to burn it. You just won’t get the best results. Birch firewood burns quickly and performs best when mixed with slow-burning woods such as oak.

Birch is a popular choice because of its cost, it gives off plenty of heat, and it is easy to find. The only downside is because it burns fast, you’ll go through it faster.


Tamarack, sometimes referred to as larch, is technically considered a softwood. However, it is harder than other trees in the softwood family. This type of firewood is known for its pleasant aroma while burning and gives the classic fire feel with popping, crackling, and smoke.

This type of wood isn’t the best for cooking, as you’ll likely get a piney or evergreen flavour. Tamarack is best for heat and provides a long hot burn.


Pine is often used as a firestarter as it burns quickly, but if you want your fire to last, you’ll likely want to switch over to a hardwood once you have things going. Pine doesn’t emit the same kind of heat a hardwood fire does, and it can also produce sparking due to the sap pockets exploding from the heat. Because of this, pine is best for outdoor use.

Firewood to Avoid

You can’t just put any old piece of wood in the fire and hope for the best. Well – you can. You may just be disappointed with the results. There are some types of wood that are hazardous to your health or can cause other problems. You’ll want to avoid the following:

Green wood: freshly cut wood is referred to as green wood, meaning it hasn’t had time to season. Its sap and moisture content will be too high, which makes it difficult to burn. If you can get it to burn, it’ll be very smoky and burn inefficiently.

Painted wood: any treated or painted wood has likely been preserved with arsenic. When you burn this type of wood, you’re releasing this chemical into the air.

Driftwood: while it’s unlikely you’d turn to driftwood, you should altogether avoid it, even when you’re in a pinch. Driftwood has salt content, which can turn chlorine into carcinogens when burned.

Mystery wood: anything that hasn’t been cut or stored locally could come with its own set of problems. When firewood travels, it raises its risk of bringing invasive insects or diseases to nearby forests when burned. You want to ensure you keep the environment safe with locally sourced wood.

When you purchase your firewood, you’ll buy them in cords. This refers to the unit of measurement. A cord is 8 long x 4’ high x 4’ deep. You can find your local firewood for the Calgary and Red Deer area at your nearest Blue Grass Nursery location. Warm up your winter season and visit our store to find seasoned and reliable firewood.

What’s your favourite type of firewood to use? Share your fire-building experiences with our readers in the comments below.