Is Birch good for Firewood?

Birch trees are thin-leaved deciduous hardwood trees of the genus Betula, in the family Betulaceae, which also includes alders, hazels, and hornbeams.

They are largely found in temperate and cold regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Its wood is close-grained and commonly used for furniture, joinery, and flooring. It can also be used for veneer, paneling, plywood, toys, turned objects, and other small specialty wood items.

However, the question still remains, is birch good for firewood? How would it perform if you had to rely solely on it to heat your home?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at Birch as a potential firewood option and see if it’s up to the task.

Before we get into the specifics, here is what to know about Birch as firewood.

Birch has a low to medium heat output (20.8 Million BTUs per cord) and coals well. It does alright as firewood but is far from the best.

It produces a medium level of smoke and few sparks when burned. However, it can still work as indoor firewood provided you have a secure fireplace screen.

Birch is a medium-density wood that weighs 4312 lbs./Cord when green and 2992 lbs./Cord when dry. The wood is okay to work with and can be split easily enough. It can be stacked and stored like most other firewood after it’s been seasoned.

When burned Birch releases a slight floral scent with a potentially little pop or crackle. If the sudden sound of a popping log startle you then Birch may not be the best firewood for your fireplace.

What characteristics does Birch have as firewood?

Birch trees are renowned for their exceptional bark qualities as well as their beautiful, delicate foliage.

Birch forest

There are numerous species and cultivars utilized in landscaping, and almost all have distinct bark colors, growth shapes, and susceptibility to specific insect pests.

Though homeowners frequently prefer birch as an aesthetic tree, they quickly learn that birch can be quite difficult to keep as a healthy, long-lived specimen. Birch trees begin to deteriorate within a few years in many environments, and many trees die before reaching maturity.

A healthy birch tree should be able to live for 40-50 years. However, it is fairly uncommon for birch trees, particularly white-barked birches, to die before reaching the age of 20 in many yards.

Birchwood loses about 15% of its volume during the curing process and will curl if proper drying pressure is not followed.

Although birchwood is a stable wood, it is susceptible to deterioration, fungal infection, and insect infestation. The reason for its rapid deterioration is that birch trees have very high water content.

Therefore, it is important to store the wood in a dry place and periodically observe it for signs of damage.

The wood of a birch tree is about 47% cellulose, 12% lignin, and 30% extractives. The high extractive content gives the wood its yellow color. The extractives also make the wood more susceptible to decay and insect attack.

The heartwood of a birch tree is a pale yellow to almost white, while the sapwood is a pale yellow. The sapwood is not always clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

Here are the firewood qualities of Birch:

Low to medium heat output

Birch has a low to medium heat output, producing 20.8 million BTUs per cord when burned.

This is on the lower end of the spectrum for firewood, so it’s not the best choice if you’re looking to heat your home solely with birch.

To give you a better idea white oak has a heat output of 29.10 million BTUs per cord, and alder has a heat output of 17.5 million BTUs per cord. So, what this means is that birch falls right in the middle as far as heat output goes.

Coals well

Coaling means that firewood burns down to hot coals that can be used to keep a fire going for an extended period of time. Birch does this well, meaning that it’s a decent choice for wood to keep a fire going overnight.

Medium level of smoke

Nothing burns without producing smoke, but some woods produce more smoke than others.

Birch produces a moderate amount of smoke when burned. It is acceptable for indoor use if you have a good fireplace screen that seals off the fireplace from the rest of the room.

Few sparks

Sparking is always a concern when burning wood indoors. It can even be a concern when burning wood outdoors if there’s a lot of wind.

Birch produces some sparks, however, it’s not known for producing an excessive amount of sparks.

So, compared with other firewood like Juniper or Hemlock, Birch is a safer choice when it comes to sparking.

Slightly floral scent

Every tree has a unique scent that’s released when the wood is burned. This is due to the essential oils that are released when the wood is burned. Birch has a slightly floral scent that’s not too overpowering.

Although it’s not as strong as other woods like pine, it’s still noticeable when burned. If you’re looking for wood to smoke meats with, birch would not be a good choice.

Medium-density wood

The density of wood is important to consider because it affects how long the wood will burn.

The denser the wood, the longer it will burn. Because the burning reaction is limited by the amount of oxygen that can reach the center of the log, a denser piece of wood will burn slower.

Birch is a medium-density wood, weighing 4312 lbs./Cord when green and 2992 lbs./Cord when dry. It will burn for a decent amount of time. It’s not the best choice for a long-burning fire, but it will last long enough to get the job done.

This quality of birch wood also makes it a good choice to work with. It can easily be split and seasoned without much effort.

Easy to stack

Firewood should be stacked in a way that allows for good air circulation. This will help the wood to dry out and season properly.

Birch trees don’t grow very thick compared to most other trees. Also, the tree tends to grow more straight rather than crooked.

stacked birch logs

This makes birchwood easy to stack and store. You won’t have to worry about the wood taking up too much space or not being able to fit in the wood stove.

Easy to split

Splitting wood can be a difficult task, especially if the wood is wet or crooked. Birchwood is relatively easy to split because it’s not too dense and it tends to grow straight.

This will save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to preparing the wood for stacking.

In most cases, you will only need an axe to split the wood. However, if the wood is particularly hard, you may need to use a maul or sledgehammer. For the best results, it’s always best to split the wood when it’s dry.

Can crackle or pop

Crackling or popping is caused by the wood releasing moisture as it burns. Moist wood tends to crackle or pop more often than dry wood. Birchwood can crackle or pop when burned, but it’s not as bad as other woods like pine.

Crackling or popping is perfectly normal and should not be a cause for concern. However, some people find the sound to be annoying. If this is the case, you may want to consider using another type of wood.

Seasoning wood will help to reduce the amount of crackling or popping that occurs.

Prone to pests

Trees attract all sorts of pests, and birch trees are no exception. Birch trees are particularly susceptible to aphids, which can damage the tree’s leaves and bark.

insects on birch trunk

However, the real concern is the pests that can infest the wood. Birch is a favorite food of carpenter ants and termites. If you have an infestation of these pests, they can quickly destroy your firewood supply.

To avoid this problem, it’s best to buy firewood that has been properly treated and stored.

This will help to keep the pests away and protect your investment. If you have your own firewood, be sure to store it in a dry place, and monitor it for signs of infestation.

Prone to mold

Birch is also prone to mold and mildew. This is due to the high moisture content of the wood. If the wood is not properly seasoned, it can develop mold and mildew.

Mold and mildew exposure is a concern even if you burn the wood. The spores can be released into the air and inhaled. This can cause respiratory problems, and it’s especially dangerous for people with allergies or asthma.

To avoid this problem, it’s important to only burn well-seasoned wood. If you have your own firewood, be sure to store it in a dry place, and monitor it for signs of mold or mildew.

How to season birch wood?

It’s always best to season wood before burning it. Seasoning wood helps to reduce the amount of smoke and makes the wood easier to light.

To season birch wood, split the logs into smaller pieces and stack them in a dry place. Allow the wood to air dry for at least six months. If you live in a humid climate, it may take longer for the wood to season properly.

Once the birchwood is dry, it’s ready to be used. Be sure to store the wood in a dry place to prevent it from getting wet and start the seasoning process all over again.

When to harvest birch wood?

Birch trees can be harvested at any time of year. However, the best time to harvest birch wood is in the fall or winter. This is because the wood is dryer at this time of year, which makes it easier to split and stack.

If you harvest birch wood in the spring or summer, be sure to allow it to dry for at least six months before burning it. Because birch tends to be a wetter wood, it will take longer to season properly.

How to store birch wood?

Storing birch wood is relatively easy. Birchwood can be stored indoors or outdoors, as long as it’s in a dry place.

If you store birch wood outdoors, be sure to cover it with a tarp or plastic sheeting. This will help to keep the rain and snow off of the wood.

Indoor storage is a bit more tricky, as you’ll need to find a place that’s both dry and well-ventilated. A garage or shed is a good option. If you don’t have either of these, you can store the wood in your basement, as long as it’s not too damp.

Whichever way you choose to store birch wood, be sure to monitor it for signs of mold or mildew. If the wood does get wet, be sure to allow it to dry completely before using it.

Conclusion

Birch is an okay choice for firewood because it has a moderate heat output, coals well, and doesn’t produce too much smoke. However, it’s important to take into account the other drawbacks of birch wood.

It is easy to stack, split, and season. However, if not properly seasoned, it can develop mold and mildew.

Carpenter ants and termites both enjoy birch as well, so it’s important to store the wood in a dry place. As a result, it is critical to purchase firewood that has been properly treated and stored.

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