Oak As Firewood - Is Oak Good Firewood?
When people ask us about oak as firewood, we can’t help but smile because being a hardwood, oak is one of the best firewood you can find among hardwood species. We say oaks are some of the most amazing trees the world has ever known because of their being part of history that even during the legendary conquest of the Vikings these are used in creating large ships and even barrels for their wines. But going back to oak firewood, let’s take a look first at what oak trees are and how they become part of American culture and heritage. There are more than 600 species of the oaks and most of them are deciduous which means they shed their leaves during the coming of the cold season and grow them again in the spring or summer. More so, some of them are also evergreen which means they keep their leaves all year round. Oaks grow better in the Northern Hemisphere which includes the countries of the US and Europe. Some of them also grow in tropical regions and these are the evergreen types since these don’t shed their leaves but can also thrive in colder countries. The most number of oak species grow in America and Mexico where about 160 species of them can be found. But the most interesting fact about the oaks is that they can live to more than a thousand years and they would not be considered old until they reach the age of 700 years old. They will not even bear fruit until they reach the age of 20 and some species at the age of 50. They can also reach the height of up to 150 feet high and their branches can grow up to 130 feet long.
Is Oak Good Firewood?
Being some of the oldest trees on the planet oaks can grow almost anywhere. Oaks are also some of the most widely used wood that man has benefited from. And with the oak firewood, this has also served humans thousands of years ago by providing heat on campfires, until today’s fire pits, home stoves and furnaces. Elegant for use in the manufacturing of furniture, flooring materials to wine barrels, the oak wood has a lot of uses that some people consider it the miracle tree for being the best hardwood for multiple purposes. So is oak good firewood? The answer is an absolute yes. Oak is known for its slow, long burning potentials because of its dense wood structure. It is one of the most favorites among the hardwoods that people want for their stoves, fireplaces and also for grilling, smoking meat, and baking bread on wood-fired ovens. Most of the time, some demanding chefs will request for oak firewood to meet the quality of their cooking.
Once the oak firewood has been seasoned or kiln-dried, it will give out heat up to 30 BTUs (British Thermal Unit). BTUs, as we have discussed in one of our blogs, is the unit of heat that can be produced by a heated or burning object capable of raising a room temperature by one Fahrenheit for every pound of water. In the case of oak, we mentioned that there are a lot of their species so each species also has certain BTU potentials. Two of the most favored types of oaks are the white oaks and the red oaks. These two are popular because of their high BTU potential that fit for heating homes and also for cooking. So what are other characteristics that these two oaks have that make them popular for firewood?
Qualities and Characteristics of Oak Firewood
Very Easy to Split
One of the things that people want with the oak firewood is it’s a breeze to split it up. Whether you are using an axe or a log splitter, producing firewood from oak is not a problem. Most oak trees have straight grains that when their wood gets dried, it almost becomes brittle but not to the point that it cracks. Unlike other firewood like elm firewood that has stringy and irregular grains, the oak has smooth and straight grain making it easy to crack in two or four halves.
The only time that you can find cutting the oak difficult with an ax is when you cut it horizontally like chopping it up while standing or when it gets dried and cutting it into smaller logs. This is when you’ll see the hardness of the oak and you have to use the best chainsaw for this job.
Produces Hot Fire
This is the criteria where the oak can surpass other types of firewood in terms of producing heat necessary to warm homes and even for the outdoor setting like fire pits and campfires. According to some research, red oak firewood on a full cord can produce about 24 million BTUs of heat which is second to the black locust that can put up to 26.8 million BTUs also on a full cord.
Oak woods have denser composition than other types of wood and when they get dried, this dense characteristic is what makes it produce hotter flames and red blazing embers.
While most of us are getting used to using oak firewood, we sometimes get used to its earthy aroma once it gets burning. But for those who are smelling the smoke of oak for the first time, they can easily recognize its fresh scent much like you are on a campfire with nature around you and enjoying the warmth while the smell of the natural aroma of burning wood emanates. Compared to other firewood like hickory and cherry, oak as firewood may not be as fragrant but still, its refreshing scent from its smoke is softer to the nose and senses.
Less Sap and Resin Content
Oaks are known to be low in sap and resin which is typical for most hardwoods. Softwoods like pine normally have lots of saps and resins so even though these are dried and used as firewood they can still release a good amount of smoke while leaving stains like creosote on the side of the chimney which can be a fire hazard when it accumulates. One of the characteristics of evergreens being softwood is their thorns. Oak firewood is a clean wood which means you can use it not only for heating but also for cooking and will not pollute the air inside your homes.
Very Low Moisture Content
Oaks even when growing into trees have low moisture content compared to some hardwoods. A live oak tree can only have as much as 75% moisture content which, if compared to an evergreen like Pine that has a 100% moisture content. In this regard, the oaks when cut can get dry easily. And with proper seasoning which means natural air-drying for at least six months, the optimum dryness of oak wood can be achieved. For quick drying, however, one of the best ways is to kiln dry the firewood. Kiln-dried oak firewood can only have as much as 15 to 20% moisture content which is best for burning on stoves and furnaces.
Burns Without the Mess and Smoke
One of the qualities that we always seek with the firewood is how they burn aside from its heat giving capacity. Oak as firewood easily burns and without much smoke. Its smoke is almost unrecognizable because it can easily dissipate in the air. Unlike with other tree firewood that releases lots of smoke, this is a sign of high moisture content. Softwood firewood also smokes a lot because they burn faster even when they are dried.
Oak firewood is also low on resin which is another cause for high smoke. Once a dry oak firewood burns, it will completely burn without the mess but a little smoke. This is why many chefs also prefer oak firewood for grilling and smoking because aromatic smoke when absorbed by the meat can add flavor to the food.
If you need firewood and you want to buy from a seller, you can almost be sure that you’ll find oak firewood among the best woods’ lists. The firewood industry also depends on oaks because this is a prime commodity and widely available. Like in the US, this is where a lot of the species of oaks grow and people know that this tree is always beneficial. From its bark that has medicinal properties to its acorn fruit that can be made into pastries, the wood of the oak is an essential and integral part of human existence primarily for the construction of homes and furniture down to heating buildings.
Now, why do some individuals choose the white oak and red oak for firewood among the other types of oaks? Well, these types of oaks are not only the most common especially in the United States but they have a greater amount of BTU potential than other oak types. Though all oaks are under the genus Quercus of the beech family, there are also other reasons why people prefer these two types. Below are their qualities.
White Oak Firewood Qualities
White oak trees (Quercus alba) are endemic in North America and up to the Upper Midwest and up to Canada. As they grow old, they can reach up to 100 feet high. They have very bushy branches which can provide good shade on the ground. Why they were called white oaks is because the underside of their leaves is colored pale white which makes them very distinguishable from other oaks. And like ordinary oaks, these trees can both produce both female and male flowers and that’s one of the reasons they can propagate much easily and spread far and wide.
Being firewood, the white oak firewood also burns slow but without producing too much smoke. However, the white oak is also known to be a bit difficult to split unlike with the other types. But needless to say, once its wood is properly seasoned, its firewood becomes an ideal choice for cooking and burning. Depending on the climate and location, the white oak firewood can complete natural seasoning from 6 months on fair weather up to 24 months if you live in a region where the cold season is longer than summer.
A lot of people living in rural areas and mountainous regions and dependent on firewood recognize the potency of white oak firewood for heating and other uses. It burns hot and doesn’t produce much smoke thus becoming one of the best choices for homeowners’ use.
Red Oak Firewood Qualities
The Red Oak (Quercus rubra), on the other hand, comes after the White Oak in terms of heat and burning potentials. This tree type can grow up to 150 feet although their regular height is 70 to 100 feet. A handsome tree as some people call it, it’s trunk’s diameter can grow as much as 8 feet. But how does the red oak firewood fare compared to other types of oak woods?
Red Oak firewood also burns hotter and slower like the White Oak firewood. But unlike the White Oak that is a bit difficult to split, the Red Oak wood can be split pretty easily. Unfortunately, the Red Oak may not be the best type of wood for other uses. When used as fence posts they tend to rot quickly starting from the base due to contact with the soil.
On the contrary, when Red Oak wood is turned into roof shingles and doors, they fit perfectly in these aspects which in a way its wood is also favored in the manufacture of furniture. As firewood, its wood would best for cooking and heating and its coals can also provide a good amount of heat. You can leave the Red Oak firewood overnight in a furnace and you will still feel the warmth inside your house in the morning. Now that we know a lot about oaks as well as the heat and the burning potentials of the Red and White Oak firewood, let’s answer the question is oak good firewood. To know that, let’s also identify its weakness if there are any.
Is Oak Good Firewood?
As we have discussed above, oak won’t fail us as firewood or for anything as long as you need to burn it. Being on the top list among the best firewood, it is also widely available and most of its types are easy to split. It can always provide hot flames until the wood becomes coal and it burns longer than other hardwood types. However, because oak is a dense type of wood, it will take time to season them out to achieve that ideal amount of moisture content necessary for complete burning. Unless you pay for the kilning or buy already kilned oak firewood, air-drying the oak wood may take time. So if you want to stock on your oak firewood, do it many months before the cold season starts.
Also, some of the oak wood types are not easy to split like the White Oak so if you have large logs to turn into firewood, better have your chainsaw ready or you will need some physical strength with your ax in splitting it. Other people also say that they don’t like the smell of burning oak which for them smells like matured vinegar being cooked in a pot though this smell may depend on the type of oak wood.
So the question “is oak good firewood”, well, we can’t say anything bad about it. Maybe in the furniture aspect as oak wood is heavy and can crack in time. But in the aspect of oak as firewood, we will always vote for this to be among the best.
Oak as firewood is undoubtedly one of the most ideal types of wood when it comes to offering greater BTUs and slow-burning capacity. And it is not as expensive as the ironwood because oak woods grow in many parts of the world though mostly in temperate countries. Being used for its timber, the oaks have been part of many heritages and until this modern time, these trees are still in-demand particularly for home furniture and construction. So if you want some affordable types of firewood to heat your homes or for cooking, never hesitate to choose oak firewood because being a very useful type of wood, this can always provide the heat you want.
For our next blog, we will talk about the ash as firewood. Ash, most of the time, can surpass the oak firewood in terms of BTU ratings so don’t miss our discussion about this wood type.