Ash As Firewood Is It Any Good?
If oak is better firewood, is ash as firewood good too? We have one of our blogs talking about oak as one of the best quality firewood you can easily find if you live in North America. Ash is endemic in most parts of the U.S. and its neighboring country like Canada as well as in some parts of Europe and Asia. It has also earned a reputation for being some of the excellent trees for deriving quality firewood including for making furniture. But before we talk about the ash, let’s discuss more about its identification.
Ash belongs to the olive and lilac family under the genus Oleaceae. It has about 65 species and most of these are deciduous which means they shed their leaves during the cold season while some of its species grow in the subtropical countries and are evergreen. Evergreens are the opposite of the deciduous species which means they keep their leaves all year round. Evergreen is also a major characteristic among softwoods though the ash types are generally considered hardwoods.
If you want to take hardwoods for firewood, you have to consider that not all hardwoods are the same and therefore not all of them are suitable for becoming firewood. Ash for firewood, however, is significant because it satisfies 3 important criteria to become an excellent firewood type. One, it can be split easily. Two, it can provide a good amount of heat necessary for heating homes and cabins. And lastly, it is widely available. That’s why we need to know more about the ash because like the oak, this should also belong among the best hardwoods that people want to use for firewood
Is Ash a Hardwood?
Let’s identify the ash tree to answer the question is ash a hardwood. There are 13 most common types of ashes in North America which are also popular for their excellent wood:
Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)
Green Ash (Fraxinum pennsylvanica)
White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
Blue Ash (Fraxinum quadrangulata)
California Ash (Fraxinus dipetala)
Carolina Ash (Fraxinus caroliana)
European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
Gregg’s Ash (Fraxinus greggii)
Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus)
Narrow Leaf Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia)
Pumpkin Ash (Fraxinus profunda)
Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina)
Manchurian Ash (Fraxinus mandschurica)
All of these trees are deciduous and need full sun to thrive while others can also survive in partly sunny regions. The ashes are also chosen for their shades so they are grown on lawns, parks, along streets and mostly in the backyard of urban homes. Moreover, there is an interesting fact about the ashes and that unlike the oak that is monoecious that bear both the male and female flowers for every tree, the ashes are the dioecious types. This means that they have individual trees that bear either all male or all female flowers. As such, they have to cross-pollinate in order to bear fruits and reproduce.
Generally, the ashes are the deciduous types and therefore are considered hardwoods. Their woods typically have a light-colored shade with smooth straight grains. And because ash woods are lightweight but durable, these are sometimes used in the manufacturing of furniture, tool handles, wooden frames and many more. Light but compact, ash as firewood is also better like oak as firewood.
Best Qualities of Ash for Firewood
One of the best qualities why people wanted the ash for firewood is it can be split easily once it gets dried fully. Seasoned or kiln-dried, ash can be split in a breeze using only an axe or a maul. And among the other good qualities of ash as firewood are the following:
Good provider of heat. Most homeowners agree that the ash as firewood can be very beneficial especially during winter where the coldest of days occur. It’s true that the typical ash can have lower BTU potential than the oak and sugar maple. But depending on the species, ash wood can produce between 19.1 to 23.6 million BTUs per cord. BTU means the British Thermal Unit which is the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. A cord measures 128 cubic feet of wood at 4 feet tall and 8 feet long while every piece of the firewood measures about 16 inches. If we compare the heat potential of ash to other heat sources that are used for heating homes, a cord of ash whether it’s green or white ash can produce the equivalent heat of the following:
– 20,700 cu.ft natural gas
– 6300 kwh electricity
– 235 gal of propane
– 155 gal of heating oil
Low in initial moisture content (MC)
People will always want firewood with low moisture content and most hardwoods have 75% to 100% moisture content in their green state. But did you know that white ash only has an initial moisture content from 44 – 48% while green ash from 45 – 53%? This is why some people say you can cut down a white or green ash tree, chop it into firewood size and it will burn without drying it out.
But then, we don’t recommend using freshly cut ash wood if you want ash for firewood or it will still produce some smoke as the ideal MC for firewood for home use is always 15 – 20%. So there’s always the need for seasoning the ash wood which can take up at least 6 months to meet the MC criteria. There are also some factors to fasten the seasoning process of ash, like splitting the wood into smaller pieces and stacking these up with shade above it. Get your very own wood moisture meter to check your firewood before delivery.
Easy to burn
Properly seasoned ash firewood can burn quickly and burn hotter. With its lightweight characteristics, you won’t need some kindling to start a fire with it but better start off with its little pieces. And once the ash firewood starts burning, it will completely burn leaving a clean ash. This is one of the reasons why ash are some of the favorites for home heating because they require less cleaning of its ash.
Unlike other hardwood types, ash firewood if dry will always burn clean and only throw very little sparks. So it can be an excellent choice for stoves and fireplaces and you can leave it overnight without worries of fire hazards.
All ash firewood does produce light to medium smoke and some of them emit a delicate aroma that best suits them for smoking meat like chicken, red meats and fish. Some people even argue that ash firewood is better than the oak when it comes to cooking meat on exposed fire like grilling and smoking. If we describe the smoke coming from the ash, its slight aroma can be nutty with a slight fruity flavor unlike the oak that other people describe its smell like cooking vinegar in a pot.
Because ash wood already has a low moisture content even as a tree, this means it doesn’t have too much sap in it. Therefore, less sap means less smoke. However, as we have advised before, don’t burn fresh cut ash because it can still produce smoke and this smoke can linger inside the chimney which in the long run can also create creosote. Creosote is a sticky substance that comes from the smoke from any wood that gets thickened and can ignite when it gets very hot.
White Ash as Firewood
Among the ash, the white ash is known as the best because of its durability that its wood can be made into baseball bats and tool handles which only the strongest and most flexible type of woods can manage. Also popular in the US as “cane ash”, it can grow up to 80 feet and can produce a huge canopy and serve as a shade tree. So going back to the question, is ash a hardwood capable to surpass other quality wood fit for firewood? Yes, especially the white ash. If you suddenly ran out of stock of firewood in your log cabin during the winter, you can pick up your reliable chainsaw and cut a white ash tree to get firewood again and burn it straight way.
Some people who live off the grid know that the white ash or any type of ash can be burned green although the best are the seasoned wood. But the point is, you can always rely on ash because it already has a low moisture content while it still lives. In some cases, you may never know the difference between burning dried to fresh white ash. The white ash is also easy to split and will leave very little ash in the fireplace or stove. And if BTU is a concern, the white ash can put up to 23.6 million BTUs per cord so it’s not even far from what the oak can give out. Because of its very fine grain, the white ash is one of the woods that people make violins and electric guitars from thanks to its lightweight but strong wood characteristic.
Green Ash as Firewood
The green ash comes second as the most abundant type of ash in North America. It can grow up to 70 feet tall and can live more than a century. Today, the most common green ash trees are aged 30 to 50 years old. And due to their popularity as firewood, thousands of green ash are getting harvested every year. These trees are also hardy and can live in a variety of soil conditions. When the Dutch Elm disease struck the industry of American Elm, the green ash was used as a replacement because of its high adaptability to many types of soil and weather conditions.
Although not as popular as the white ash, the green ash is also an excellent firewood type. The same, it can put up a steady fire and provide a good amount of heat. It can basically provide 20 million BTUs per cord and at this rating, the heat from the green ash can easily stabilize the warmth inside your house while its firewood burns slowly and leaves only a small amount of ash.
Seasoned Ash For Firewood and How Long Does It Takes to Dry
Ash is a straightforward type of a fuel wood which means you can burn its wood even if it’s freshly harvested. However, it will make a great difference if you allow the ash firewood to dry to better achieve the amount of heat you always desire when burning it.
Some homeowners say that the seasoned firewood is better than the kiln-dried. So we asked why. Accordingly, seasoning the wood would not take out the natural aroma of the wood especially the aromatic type. And although kiln-dried firewood can be more dry and will still smell once it gets burned, the seasoned firewood will still smell even more as the sap inside it will stay in the fiber and will not evaporate like what happens during kilning. Yet, there must be a proper way to season ash for firewood and the first rule is stacking them accordingly so that air can circulate around and through the stack.
Typically, seasoning the ash can take 6 to 18 months depending on the weather and how you manage your stacks. If you are to buy your ash logs to make firewood and not sure if the cut logs are properly seasoned, check if the end of the logs are a bit dark in color and cracked. The cracks should appear from the bottom and radiate to the sides. The logs should also be lighter. You can also take one log and bump it onto another log and listen if there’s a sharp, dry sound. If the logs are still fresh you will hear a dull thud sound. You can also peel the bark of one log to see if there is no green part.
Pros and Cons of Ash for Firewood
No firewood is actually perfect. By and by you will see the differences in the wood you burn and you may also notice the significance of one type of firewood from the other. Ash is basically one of the best you can use for home heating as it burns hot and slow.
Unfortunately, because the ash burns slowly, it can also build the nasty creosote as the smoke continues to linger inside the chimney. Also, some species of ashes don’t grow straight so they tend to develop knots on their trunks making them difficult to split. And when it comes to buying ash for firewood, this can also be a bit expensive compared to other hardwoods. Other costly woods for firewood are the hickory, walnut, and live oak. The less expensive are the fir and pine trees that belong to the softwood types but people also want for their firewood.
If you want to save on firewood, our tip is to mix some softwood with the ash like the pine and the cedars. These trees are softwood but they are harder than most softwoods so they don’t burn as fast. They are also widely available and produce sweet-smelling smoke. You can also ask your firewood seller the best softwood that can be combined with the ash if you want to save on firewood cost.
Hopefully, we have given you enough information about the ash as firewood. Ash is a good hardwood that fits the criteria for being one of the best firewood types. But there’s always one thing to remember when burning ash for your stove or furnace and it should always have low Moisture Content..
If you plan to stack on ash firewood, you may want to remember some of our tips here including putting it under the shade and covering it with breathable material to let the air circulate around it. Avoid putting up your shed under the trees or near the buildings. Seasoning ash firewood is not much different from seasoning any type of wood.
For our next blog, we will also talk about how long does a cord of wood last. This is for those who wanted to know how much wood they can keep to help them have warm households throughout the cold season. We will also discuss some saving tips on how to consume your firewood so that you won’t have to spend so much money buying firewood in cords.