When considering what firewood you’re planning on using for your next trip out into the woods, you may have a couple of burning questions.
These may include:
- What does the birch firewood smell like?
- Will birch firewood burn long and hot?
- How expensive is birch wood?
- Is birch wood easy to split?
Well, in this article, we’re going to explore the world of the Birch tree, and its many characteristics. That way, you can decide whether or not Birch is a good firewood for you and your needs.
So, is birch good firewood? Let’s find out!
Birch Firewood Facts
BTU: 20.8 Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Weight: 4312 lbs./ Cord (Green)
Seasoning Time: 6-12 months
Resin / Sap Content: Medium
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Fragrance: Pleasant, Sweet & Slightly Fruity
Overall Quality: Fair
What is Birch?
Birch is a medium sized deciduous tree that produces hardwood. This is used for many things, from construction to firewood.
There are about 30–60 different species worldwide, and they live on average for 60–80 years. Some of the most common species of birch trees are white birch, silver birch, paper birch, river birch and Himalayan birch.
Birch trees can grow to be about 80 ft. high, and can closely resemble the aspen tree.
Common Types of Birch Used for Firewood
The most common types of birch used for firewood are usually:
Black Birch – Black birch is usually regarded as the most desirable for firewood, as its dense fibres allow for higher heat output.
Also known as mountain mahogany or cherry birch, this species grows in the eastern states of the U.S.
Yellow Birch – Also known as swamp-birch, this birch is more difficult to split and season as it has a high sap content. But it makes for for its heat production and pleasant aroma.
While cooking food, it will provide few sparks and little smoke, making it ideal for those long nights.
Yellow birch commonly grows in the Appalachian area of the U.S.
White Birch – White birch is also known as paper birch, due to its paper-like bark. This does not burn as well as other types of birch and is commonly found in Canada.
Like other birch species, white birch will produce a lot of heat, but it will burn fast and produce a lot of ash resulting in more clean up for you.
Gray Birch – Gray birch burns relatively hot and fast and is easy to split and light, but it is less commonly used for firewood because it produces less wood than other birch species due to its overall size.
Best Reasons to Use Birch as Firewood
Birch Catches Fire Quickly
Birch ignites more easily than other types of hardwood due to not being as dense. The bark is also very thin and paper-like, which can act as kindling to help the birch catch faster.
You’ll find birch easier to light when wet compared to other firewoods, which is perfect for those rainier climates.
Birch is Less Likely to Smoulder
As birch burns quickly and cleanly, there is less smouldering than you may experience with other hardwoods.
However, if birch firewood is not dried properly or is too green, it may smoulder and produce a lot of smoke. This is because the moisture in the wood prevents it from burning at a high enough temperature to fully combust the wood.
Burning birch for heat and cooking is a long-standing tradition in Scandinavian countries. Birch is a common tree species in this region, and it has been used for firewood for centuries due to its abundance and efficiency.
In addition to being a popular source of firewood, birch bark has also been used for kindling and starting fires in traditional Scandinavian cultures. The bark is highly flammable and contains natural oils that help it ignite quickly and burn hot.
Birch is also valued for its pleasant aroma when burned, which has made it a popular choice for heating homes and saunas in Scandinavia. The scent of burning birch is often associated with the warmth and coziness of traditional Scandinavian living.
Birch firewood can produce relatively large flames compared to other types of firewood. Birch is a hardwood that burns hot and fast, which means that it can produce a lot of heat quickly and create a lively flame.
However, the size of the flames produced by birch firewood can vary depending on a number of factors, including the size and shape of the wood, the amount of air flow in the fire, and the level of moisture in the wood. If the wood is too green or wet, it may not burn as efficiently and may produce smaller flames and more smoke.
Value for Money
Birch is relatively inexpensive compared to other types of hardwood, and will burn longer and hotter than softer woods such as pine and spruce.
It is also generally widely available compared to other types of firewood.
Birch can make for a nice design feature when stacked, given its attractive bark and shape.
This could be an important consideration if you’re looking to match it to your campsite stylistic choices.
Burn Qualities of Birch Wood
Birch firewood has a distinct and pleasant aroma when burned. The scent is often described as sweet and slightly fruity, with a hint of wintergreen or mint.
The pleasant aroma of burning birch is due to the natural oils and resins found in the wood. As the wood burns, these oils are released into the air and create a fragrant smoke that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors.
Many people enjoy the smell of burning birch for its calming and relaxing properties. The scent is often associated with cozy fireside gatherings and winter holidays, making it a popular choice for heating homes, cabins, and campsites during the colder months.
Resin and Sap
Birch firewood contains natural resins and sap that can affect its burning properties.
The sap and resin in birch firewood can make it more difficult to ignite, especially if the wood is not well-seasoned. Freshly cut or green birch wood may have a higher moisture content and more sap and resin, which can cause it to smolder or create more smoke when burned.
However, once the wood is properly seasoned and dried, the resin and sap content should decrease, making it easier to ignite and burn efficiently. The natural resins and sap in birch firewood can also contribute to its pleasant aroma when burned, as mentioned earlier.
Cut and Split Difficulty
Birch is relatively easy to split, but it can be fibrous, making it hard to get clean cuts. You may need to tear the last remaining fibres once the cut has been made.
Factors that influence the fibrosity are whether the tree was located in a direct headwind, as well as the age of the tree.
As Birch tends to rot quickly, it’s a good idea to stack the logs immediately after splitting.
Birch takes less time to season than other hardwoods, which is a big selling point when comparing it to similar firewood like hickory or oak.
Black birch can be seasoned in six months to a year, if stacked properly. However, yellow birch does take longer due to its high sap content.
Well-seasoned birch will have a clean and satisfying burn. However, if not seasoned properly, it can cause a lot of smoke and inefficient heat output.
Remember to hold onto the paper-like bark, as it makes an excellent fire starter.
Birch does burn less hot than some other hardwoods, but still records a respectable 20.8 million British Thermal Units (BTUs), so will burn hot enough to keep you warm throughout the night.
The heat output of birch firewood will depend on several factors, including the size and shape of the wood, the amount of air flow in the fire, and the level of moisture in the wood. Properly seasoned and dried birch firewood will burn more efficiently and produce more heat than wood that is too wet or green.
Well-seasoned birch will not produce particularly offensive smoke, but will produce more smoke than some other hardwoods. This is due to its higher sap content.
However, due to it’s high heat and efficient burning, birch firewood will produce and cleaner and more complete burn.
Well-seasoned birch will not cause an excessive production of sparks or other hazards, so it’s safe to burn in outdoor & outdoors.
Birch firewood can produce some sparks when burned, but the amount of sparks will depend on several factors.
Birch is a hardwood that burns hot and efficiently, which means that it can produce a cleaner and more complete burn than softwoods like pine. However, birch firewood may still produce sparks if it has a high resin or sap content, or if it contains knots or other imperfections that can cause the wood to crackle and pop.
Birch produces a respectable heat output, pleasant smell, and not too much smoke— making for a high quality fire.
Pros and Cons of Using Birch as Firewood
- Heat output – Respectable BTUs
- Smell – Sought after, pleasant smell
- Appearance – Makes for an attractive stack of wood
- Season Time – Can be very quick compared to other hardwoods
- Availability – Inexpensive and widely available
- Splitting – Can be tedious to split if particularly fibrous
- Rot – Tends to rot quickly if left out for too long, due to the tight bark
- Heat output – Lower BTUs than other hardwoods, such as hickory and oak, but still respectible
- Smoke – Higher smoke output than some other hardwoods
Birch vs. Other Firewood
What makes the best firewood is often down to your specific needs and what is available in your area.
Birch is a wood that seasons quickly, burns hot, and is easy to light — all very important aspects of firewood, if that’s what you’re looking for.
If you are more interested in a longer, hotter burn, hickory and oak may be the way to go. These woods are not always available and are often more expensive, however.
Other softer woods like pine may be more available and cheaper, but are not as hot as birch, and the sap is more sticky.
Verdict: Is Birch a Good Firewood?
Birch is a widely available, hot burning and inexpensive firewood, but does have some downsides that may make it less attractive to some people.
In the end, it really depends on what firewood is available in your area, and what your specific needs are.
Birch certainly has a lot that separates it from other types of firewood, and if these aspects are important to you then it may be the way to go for your next campfire.
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.