Poplar wood is being used more and more around the world these days, and you’ll likely find it in different furnishings around the house. However, the question remains:
Is poplar good firewood?
Generally considered a poor type of firewood for the campfire or stove, poplar doesn’t have a lot going for it.
While it’s a suitable choice if you don’t need a fire that’s lit for hours, people who want something that’s sufficiently warm might be disappointed with poplar.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What poplar wood is, and whether you can use it as firewood
- The smell, seasoning time, heat output, and other characteristics of poplar wood
- The pros and cons of burning poplar
Let’s get into it.
Poplar Firewood Facts
BTU: 13.7 Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Weight: 2080 lbs./ Cord (Green)
Seasoning Time: 6-12 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Easy
Fragrance: Sweet, Nutty
Overall Quality: Fair
What is Poplar Wood?
Poplar wood is popular for good reason: It’s one of the most readily available woods we have.
This common tree grows quickly (up to five feet a year in some cases), but it has a rather short lifespan. It’s also low maintenance and easy to farm, which is why farmers often sell it in large quantities.
Poplar tree produces light-colored wood that has a hardness comparable to softwood—despite the fact that it’s technically a hardwood. As a result, poplar is commonly used for furniture, kitchen utensils, and doors.
All these factors combine to make it a cheap wood that’s good for mass production and useful for beginner woodworkers to practice on.
Can You Use Poplar Wood as Firewood?
While you can use virtually any kind of wood as fuel for your campfire, poplar isn’t a popular choice among many people. One aspect that many will dislike about it is the fact that it doesn’t possess qualities that make it decent firewood.
People can and do burn poplar, but the decision to use it or not will depend on what you’re looking for.
If you want a short-lived fire that easily lights and doesn’t create too much warmth, poplar is a good choice. However, if you want more than that, you’re probably better off using other types of firewood such as Ash or Hickory.
As you will learn, the poor flame produced has everything to do with the particular characteristics of poplar wood.
The Characteristics of Poplar Wood
Poplar often gets a bad rap for the smell it produces when it’s used as firewood.
Many complain about its stench and describe it as sour, acrid, and unpleasant overall.
On the opposite side of the debate, others who have burned poplar claim that the wood smells sweet (or doesn’t even give off any odor at all!).
As with any type of firewood, make sure to properly season poplar first before throwing it onto the fire. By doing this first, you’ll lower the chance of any pungent smell wafting into your nostrils.
Remember that when there’s too much moisture in the wood, any tree is far more likely to reek when it’s burned.
Every tree produces sap, as it’s their way of nourishing themselves. When it comes to poplars, you’ll be delighted to know that they don’t produce too much of the sticky stuff.
As a result, you don’t have to worry about sap clinging to your clothes while you’re cutting and splitting the wood.
Cut and Split
As mentioned, poplar is known for its softness. It’s this trait that makes cutting and splitting the wood so much easier compared to other types of trees. At the very least, you won’t have to exert a lot of effort when it comes to poplar.
For optimal burning, firewood must be seasoned and dried first to remove as much moisture as possible. This way, you’re also avoiding smoke and nasty odors being emitted when the wood is burned.
Unlike other hardwoods, poplar seasons quite quickly because it’s soft and light.
Compared to oak which can take up to three years to properly season, poplar is ready in as little as six months; however, some people will let the wood season for a whole year. Generally, the longer you season wood, the more suitable it is for burning.
When seasoning poplar, it’s important to keep the wood dry and away from moisture. Poplar soaks up water quite easily, and your progress could be ruined by something as simple as a light rain shower.
It’s also a good idea to cut and split the poplar first and stack it off the ground before seasoning. This way, you’ll speed up the process because there’s more surface area for the moisture to evaporate from.
If you’re planning to use poplar, be prepared for a hot and fast burn. When properly seasoned, poplar lights quickly– making it a great wood to get a fire started.
However, you’ll also likely need a stack of wood at the ready thanks to how quickly the wood burns. Further, poplar doesn’t produce a lot of coals; instead, when the fire dies, you’ll be left with piles of ash.
For this reason, many people combine poplar with other firewood such as oak and beech for a longer burn.
Heat Output and Efficiency
One of the most important considerations for firewood is its heat efficiency, and this is where poplar, unfortunately, falls short.
The heat efficiency of a cord of wood—equivalent to a volume of 128 cubic feet—is measured in terms of British Thermal Units (BTUs). A higher BTU means that the firewood gives off more heat, making it appropriate for long, cold nights.
Poplar only produces about 14 million BTUs per cord, a below-average output that’s much less than other hardwoods like oak or pine. With a heat output this low, poplar can’t sustain enough heat to warm a campsite for long.
Since poplar burns so quickly, it’s an inefficient type of firewood because of how often you’ll need to refuel the campfire.
Nobody likes a smoky fire. Poplar, unfortunately, produces a moderate amount of smoke even when it is seasoned. This firewood isn’t ideal for indoor heating because it can cloud the entire house and make it difficult to breathe.
However, if you want to burn poplar indoors, make sure you have a ventilation system that can funnel the smoke effectively.
Poplar can spark a lot, which is another reason to take necessary precautions at your campsite. Otherwise, embers might fly unpredictably and cause burn injuries or a fire hazard.
Because of this, it’s also wise for you to keep watching and tending to the flame so you can extinguish any stray sparks before they go rogue.
Pros and Cons of Using Poplar as Firewood
- Easy to split and cut
- Doesn’t produce a lot of sap
- Seasons very quickly compared to other types of hardwood
- Lights easily
- Cheap and readily available
- Doesn’t burn for very long
- Produces moderate amounts of smoke and creosote buildup, as well as dangerous sparks
- Burns too fast while providing low heat output, making it inefficient.
The Verdict: Is Poplar Good Firewood?
To answer this question:
Poplar is a below-average type of firewood that’s better used as fast kindling rather than sustaining longer-lasting campfires. It also has a negative reputation for its foul stench, smoky fire, and creosote buildup.
Nevertheless, its quick seasoning times and the fact that it lights easily are traits that work in its favor. You can also always burn poplar with other types of firewood to keep the campfire going continuously.
In other words, it depends. Poplar is a good choice if you’re content with a mild, short-lived fire. Otherwise, you would do well to consider another type of wood to keep you warm.
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.