Are you chilly and in need of a decent fire but don’t exactly know where to start?
Or, perhaps you’re already skilled in making fires, but want to fully understand the craft?
The over 100,000 types of wood can be categorized into two many types: softwood and hardwood. With so many options, it can be incredibly overwhelming to figure out which wood will be the most useful.
This article will focus primarily on ash, a type of high-quality firewood that belongs to the hardwood category.
So, is ash good firewood?
Ash is a great option when building a campfire, due to its numerous advantageous qualities such as its pleasant smell, heat production and minimal smoke output.
Still, it’s not completely straightforward as there are many different species of ashwood, and each has its own unique benefits.
You could say that there’s a lot to learn about ash and the art of creating a desirable fire. Fortunately, we have you covered. In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know about using ash as firewood.
Ash Firewood Facts
BTU: 20-24.2 million BTU/cord
Weight: 4184 lbs/cord (green)
Weight: 3952 lbs/cord (white)
Seasoning Time: 6-12 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Fragrance: Sweet and pungent
Overall Quality: Excellent
What is Ash?
Ash is a genus of plants in the lilac and olive family typically found in northern Europe, Asia, and America. These trees require exposure to direct sunlight so they can grow quickly.
Depending on the species, ash trees can grow from 20 to 120 feet tall. They also have long lifespans and can reach at least 200 years on average.
This tree has a fair color and is smooth-grained. It’s also light, yet strong and densely compacted.
When making fire, ashwood is prized because of its many characteristics that result in longer-lasting flames.
Types of Ash Trees Used for Firewood
Two types of ash are commonly used for firewood: White ash and green ash.
While these species look incredibly similar, white ash’s leaves are stalked out more with obvious white bases. In contrast, green ash’s stalks are much shorter.
Green ash is known for its ability to flourish in a wide range of soils. This tree is often found in wet areas such as floodplains and swamps.
Unlike white ash, green ash is usually smaller and narrower. Its leaves are a rich shade of green that remains the same hue all throughout. During autumn, this deciduous tree’s foliage turns to gold.
In contrast with green ash, white ash is larger and taller. This species grows between 65 and 100 feet tall and also has a wider trunk compared to green ash.
Although this tree is quite adaptable, it prefers growing in somewhat moist areas. When autumn comes, the white ash’s leaves turn either yellow or red.
While green ash is typically used for ornaments, white ash is sturdy enough to use as timber. It’s also the wood of choice for making baseball bats.
The Burn Qualities of Ash Firewood
Ash is dense and has a thin layer of bark, making it a lightweight and surprisingly resistant firewood.
Unlike other firewood, such as hickory, ash isn’t known for its aroma. At best, its scent when burned is described as being quite neutral and subtle.
Burning ash gives off a mild smell that doesn’t overpower the senses. This clean aroma appeals to people who have sensitive noses, as well as those who dislike having to deal with a lingering scent.
However, if you’re looking for more aromatic firewood, then ash probably isn’t the most suitable for your needs.
Resin and Sap
All kinds of trees produce sap, a sticky residue that you can use to easily identify the difference between hardwoods and softwoods.
Hardwoods like ash don’t produce a lot of sap, saving you the trouble of dealing with the mess when splitting firewood.
If an ash tree is leaking sap, this likely indicates an infection. Once this occurs, it is extremely concerning as it affects the overall health of the tree.
Cut and Split Difficulty
When it comes to splitting wood, ash is generally easy to split thanks to its low moisture content. However, it’s a little more challenging compared to oak, and its girthy trunk also adds to the difficulty.
Since ash typically doesn’t grow straight, there are also knotty sections where a branch is about to grow. Knotty wood is notorious for being nearly impossible to split.
Seasoning is the process of drying out firewood before burning them. By drying the wood first, the unpleasant aspects that come with burning firewood (such as smoke and creosote) are avoided.
Since ash has a very low moisture content, it seasons quickly despite being a hardwood. On average, you should season ash for 6 to 12 months.
This short seasoning time gives ash a huge advantage when compared to similar hardwoods, which typically take much longer to season.
Its drier wood also means that freshly cut ash can be set aflame, unlike other types of hardwood. However, this is definitely not recommended, as the wood will produce excessive smoke and creosote.
Heat Output and Efficiency
The unit used to measure the energy produced when burning a cord of firewood is the British Thermal Unit (BTU). A cord of firewood is equal to 128 cubic feet.
When lit, ash provides between 20 million and 24 million (BTUs) per cord. White ash burns stronger compared to green ash, making it more suitable for those who want a stronger fire.
This is also great to use during long winter months. Its high heat output and high density mean you’ll store fewer cords of wood, making it efficient overall.
Typically, ash burns cleanly and with very minimal smoke– especially if it was properly seasoned. Due to this, ash is ideal for indoor heating.
In general, burning wet wood produces a lot of smoke. Since ash seasons quickly, you’re better off waiting for the wood to dry before throwing it into the fire.
Firewood that throws a lot of sparks is more hazardous and increases the risk of spreading fire. Since ash doesn’t produce a lot of sparks, it’s an ideal choice for burning outdoors and cooking.
Ash vs Other Firewood
Hickory, another popular firewood, contains a strong smell that’s reminiscent of barbecues and smoke flavoring. This sharply contrasts with ash’s mild and subtle scent.
Unlike ash, other prized firewood such as pine and fir produce a lot of sparks. Burning pine results in the classic cackling fire when compared to ash’s more subdued and calmer flame.
Ash is also easier to set aflame, unlike other types of commonly used firewood.
Pros and Cons of Using Ash as Firewood
- Strong and dense
- Seasons fast
- Neutral smell
- Minimal smoke
- More expensive than other wood
- Can grow curved and be difficult to split
- Can die easily from infection
The Verdict: Is Ash Good Firewood?
Ash is a great firewood to use primarily because of its hot flame that lasts for a long time. With its minimal smoke production and neutral scent, ash is the perfect firewood of choice for many people.
The wood also seasons quickly, making it available much faster than other hardwoods of a similar caliber.
Despite it being expensive and more challenging to split, ash has a lot of advantages that allow it to easily beat out other options.
Firewood Facts – Your Guide To Campfire Fuel
There are many types of firewood you could use for your campfire. All of them offer different characteristics which make for better or worse campfires – depending on what you’re looking for.
Discover, below, the key differences between some popular firewood’s to help you determine which wood would be best for your next campfire.
For a complete firewood facts guide, check out our Best Firewood Facts Chart article.