Is Basswood (Linden) Good for Firewood?

The basswood or also known as the linden is a medium-to-large deciduous tree that grows in many parts of North America.

The leaves of the basswood are heart-shaped and have a serrated margin. The flowers of the tree are small and greenish-white in color.

Basswood trees grow in a variety of habitats but prefer moist soils. The tree is commonly found near streams and rivers.

The basswood is light in color with a straight grain. It is soft and easy to work with. Therefore, it is demanded by many other industries for its unique properties.

However, the question still remains, is basswood good firewood?

The answer to this question is no, basswood isn’t good firewood. Basswood provides a low heat value and burns quickly. It also produces quite a bit of smoke when burned.

Since the wood has a high water content it likely won’t ignite easily and will produce a lot of sparks with occasional pop.

For these reasons, basswood isn’t the ideal wood to use for a fire. That said, the quick-growing nature of the tree means that it can be a sustainable source of wood if managed properly.

Since it can be replaced quickly after being harvested, it also tends to be more affordable than other many other types of firewood.

What characteristics does Basswood firewood have?

Basswood trees can reach up to 39 meters (128 feet) in height, but typically only grows to be around 18 meters (60 feet) tall.

The tree has a straight trunk with smooth bark that is gray to light brown in color. It can grow to a trunk diameter of 1–1.5 m (3–5 ft) at maturity.

Old basswood tree in autumn park

Basswood trees grow much faster than many other hardwood trees. They often grow twice as fast as American beech and many birch species.

Basswood trees can live up to 200 years, with flowering and seeding occurring between the ages of 15 and 100 years, though seed production may begin as early as eight years.

Now that we know a little more about basswood, let’s take a closer look at its firewood traits in more detail.

CharacteristicDescription
Heat OutputLow (13.8 million BTUs per cord)
DensityLow-density wood
Coaling AbilityPoor coaling ability
Smoke ProductionModerate
SparkingLow sparking
SplittingEasy to split
CleanupModerate amount of ash
FragrancePleasant scent
Popping/CracklingLikely to pop and crackle
StackabilityLightweight and easy to stack
Resistance to Rot/InsectsNot very resistant
Drying TimeAt least 6 months to 1 year
SustainabilityFast-growing and sustainable
CostRelatively inexpensive ($200 to $300 per cord)
Characteristics of Basswood Firewood

Low Heat Output

The heat output of wood is the measure of how much heat it produces when burned. The higher the heat output, the more heat the wood will produce. The heat output is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs.

The higher the number, the more heat the wood will produce. Basswood has a low heat output of only 13.8 million BTUs per cord.

This is significantly lower than other popular types of firewood such as white oak which has a heat output of 29.1 million BTUs.

In other words, basswood doesn’t produce as much heat as other woods making it a poor choice for firewood.

The low heat output of basswood means that it will require more wood to produce the same amount of heat as a higher-output wood.

This is not ideal if you don’t have a large enough storage space or you need more consistent heat over a longer period of time.

Low-Density Wood

Basswood is a low-density wood which means it’s not as dense as other hardwoods. This is because wood contains more air pockets than other types of wood.

The air content in the wood accelerates the burning process and causes the wood to burn more quickly. This is not a desired trait for most firewood.

Coals Poorly

Coaling is when the wood turns to coal after burning. This means that it will continue to produce heat even after the flames have died down. This is a desirable trait in firewood as it means you will continue to get heat even after the fire has died down.

Basswood coals poorly which mean it doesn’t produce long-lasting coals. This is because the wood has a high moisture content and air pockets. This causes the wood to quickly turn to ash instead of coal.

Produces moderate smoke

Smoke is the gases and particles that are emitted when the wood is burned. Although all wood produces smoke, some woods produce more than others.

The amount of smoke produced depends on the type of wood and how it’s burned.

firewood burning in fireplace

In general, low smoke output is desired as it means there will be less air pollution. Basswood produces moderate amounts of smoke when burned.

The high moisture content and air pockets in the wood cause it to produce more smoke than other woods. Therefore, it may not be the best choice for indoor wood-burning appliances.

Low Sparking

Sparking is when the wood emits flying embers when burned. This can be dangerous as it can cause fires if the sparks land on something combustible.

Basswood doesn’t produce many sparks when burned which makes it a safer choice for firewood.

Easy to split

Firewood should be easy to split so that you can easily get it into the fireplace or wood-burning stove. Basswood is a softwood which means it’s easy to split. The wood is also lightweight which makes it easy to carry.

Ease of cleanup

Once the fire is out, you’ll need to clean up the ashes. Basswood produces a moderate amount of ash when burned. This means that it’s not the easiest wood to clean up but it’s not the hardest either.

Good Fragrance

All trees have a certain scent that is emitted when the wood is burned. Some trees release a stronger scent than others.

Basswood has a pleasant scent pretty similar to that of lilacs. A lot of people enjoy the fragrance of basswood when burned so it’s a good choice for smoker fires to add a nice smell to the meat.

Likely to Pop or Crackle

Popping and crackling is when the wood makes loud noises as it’s burning. This is caused by the water vapor being released from the wood as it heats up.

Basswood is likely to pop and crackle when burned. If you don’t like the sound, you may want to choose another type of wood.

Stackability

Stackability is important if you need to store firewood. You’ll want to choose a type of wood that is easy to stack and doesn’t take up too much space.

Basswood is a good choice for stackability as it’s a lightweight wood that is easy to carry.

Snow Covered Basswood (Tilia Americana)
Basswood logs under snow

However, the low density of the wood means that you would need more storage space for the same amount of heat output as other woods.

Resistance to Rot and Insects

All wood is susceptible to rot and insects but some woods are more resistant than others. Basswood is not a durable wood in regards to heartwood decay. This means that it’s not the best choice for outdoor projects.

The wood is also susceptible to insect attacks. The most common insects that attack basswood are termites, carpenter ants, and powderpost beetles. These insects feed and breed on the wood, causing it to weaken and break down.

Wood that is left outside is susceptible to rot and insect damage. Therefore, it is best to protect the wood by storing it in a dry, well-ventilated area. If you are still concerned about a potential infestation, consider using a wood sealer or insecticide.

Bark Detail of Basswood
Lichens on basswood bark are not harmful to the tree.

However, you should note that any chemicals used on the wood will be released into the environment when burned. And you are most likely to be exposed to these chemicals when the wood is burned in an enclosed space like a fireplace.

Drying Time (Seasoning)

Seasoning is the process of allowing the wood to dry so that it burns better. Basswood needs to be seasoned for at least six months to a year depending on the thickness of the wood, and the climate.

If you live in an area with high humidity, it may take longer for the wood to season. You can speed up the process by splitting the wood into small pieces and storing it in a dry, well-ventilated area. Regions with strong sunlight and low humidity are ideal for seasoning wood.

Sustainability

Basswood is a fast-growing tree native to North America that is commonly used for reforestation and regenerating clear-cut areas, as well as for paper production, lumber, and other wood products.

Basswood is considered a sustainable resource due to its fast growth and ability to be sustainably harvested from sustainably grown forests.

As a result, basswood is an excellent choice for those seeking sustainable firewood options.

Cost

Basswood is relatively inexpensive compared to other types of firewood. You can often find it for sale at hardware stores, lumber yards, and online. The cost of the wood will depend on the region, season, and availability.

That said, a cord of basswood can cost anywhere from $200 to $300. The price is typically higher in the winter as demand is higher. You may be able to find discounts and deals if you purchase the wood in the off-season.

Conclusion

Basswood is a poor choice for firewood. It has a low heat output and coals poorly. If you are looking for the longest-lasting and most efficient burn, you should choose another type of wood.

It produces moderate amounts of sparks and smoke and makes loud noises as it’s burning. Basswood is also not a durable wood, meaning it’s susceptible to rot and insect damage.

The wood is also easy to split and stack, making it a good choice for those who cannot carry heavy wood. Finally, it may be a good choice if you are looking for a sustainable and inexpensive option that is easy to find.

Unlock Financial Greatness with Bite-Sized Brilliance.

Join our fastest-growing community where finance is fun dropped right into your inbox!