Know Your Wood

Wood Banner

Burn The Right Wood

BTUs per cord of common wood in Alaska:

Species MMBtu / cord*
Birch 23.6
White Spruce                 18.1
Black Spruce 15.9
Cottonwood 14.5

*For Seasoned wood, unseasoned wood gives off less heat

More information at: Cooperative Extension Service

Hardwood vs. Softwood


- Comes from trees with leaves
- More dense
- More BTUs per cord
- Burns slower than softwoods
- Leaves a good bed of coals


- Comes from trees with needles
- Less dense
- Lower BTUs per cord
- Burns quickly
- Doesn't leave a good bed of coals

Driftwood - Saltwater vs. Freshwater

Saltwater Driftwood:

- Never burn in a woodstove
- Contains salts that corrode stoves and stove pipes
- Produces toxic chemicals

Freshwater Driftwood:

- Weathered driftwood contains fewer BTUs per cord
- Soaked wood takes longer to dry
- Always season wood before burning

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Part 2:

How to check if your wood is dry:

  1. Use a moisture meter, dry wood is under 20%. See: Wood Moisture Temperature Corrections (PDF)
  2. Feel how heavy it is for its size, dry wood weighs less
  3. Check the ends for cracks, wood cracks as it dries
  4. Knock two pieces together, dry wood sounds hollow
  5. Split a piece and see if it feels dry to the touch inside
  6. Still not Sure? Burn some test pieces, wet wood is difficult to light and smolders

Burn dry wood, but not too dry

- Water regulates how fast wood burns
- Ideal wood moisture range is from 10 to 20%
- Wood under 10% is too dry
- Very dry wood burns fast and hot
- Excessive heat can damage a stove
- Prevent damage by mixing in some other wood
- Aim for an average of about 20% moisture content