Is Oak Good for Firewood? A Comprehensive Guide

Oak is a high-quality wood that is often used for things like furniture, flooring, and cabinetry.

But what about firewood? Is oak good for firewood?

The answer is a resounding yes! The oak is an excellent type of firewood for the following reason.

Oak has a high heat output (29.1 Million BTUs per cord) and coals very well. It provides a long-lasting, hot fire while releasing a pleasant aroma.

When burned, oak produces very little smoke and sparks, making it an excellent choice for indoor fires. It also does not pop or crackle as much as other woods.

Oak is a hard, dense wood that can take some effort to split. So, if you plan on working with large pieces of oak, you’ll need a chainsaw rather than an axe.

However, once the wood is split, it is easy to stack and store since it resists rot and insect infestation.

What characteristics does oak have as firewood?

Oak trees are among the oldest and most massive trees in North America. They are very resilient to drought, strong winds, and other harsh conditions.

This makes oak adapt well to different climates and soil types.

Large oak tree

They can live from a few centuries to millennia, with some individual trees living even longer.

For example, the Pechanga Great Oak Tree located on an Indian reservation just south of Temecula, California estimated to be around 2000 years old.

Oaks can grow often wider than they are tall. The average oak tree is about 50-70 feet tall and can have a trunk diameter of up to 3 feet. However, some oak trees can reach 150 feet tall while achieving a trunk diameter of more than 5 feet.

Having said that, most oak trees do not grow very tall unless they are healthy and disease-free.

Although oak trees can grow quite large, they can only reach a height of 10-15 feet in about a decade.

White oaks grow only 12-14 inches per year, compared to the Monterrey oak (Quercus polymorpha), which grows 48 inches per year.

That means oaks are slow-growing trees. They need more time than most other trees to mature and reach their full potential size.

Therefore, they should be primarily used for woodworking projects, like furniture and floors, where strength and stability are required. Using oak as firewood should be a secondary option since it takes so long to grow.

You can choose unhealthy or dead oak trees that cannot be used for anything else for your firewood. However, you shouldn’t cut down a living oak tree for firewood!

Remember all wood not depending on the type of wood should be sourced from a sustainable forest that is managed with care.

Sustainable forestry is the management of forests according to principles that consider both the economic and environmental needs of present and future generations.

Now let’s take a closer look at the firewood characteristics of oak.

High Heat Value

When it comes to producing heat, oak is one of the best. With a BTU (British Thermal Unit) value of 29.1 million per cord, it’s nearly double the average heat value of wood like catalpa (16.4 million BTUs per cord) and basswood (13.8 million BTUs per cord).

This means that oak firewood will burn longer and hotter than most other types of wood.

However, there is more than one type of oak, and not all oaks are created equal when it comes to heat output.

The two most common types of oak used for firewood are:

Type of OakBTUs per cord
Oak, Bur26.2 million
Oak, White29.1 million
Oak, Gambel30.7 million
Oak, Red24.6 million

As you can see, white oak, gambel is the best of the bunch when it comes to heat output. But other oaks like bur and red oak are not far behind.

Weight Per Cord

White oak has a 5573 (lbs./Cord) when it is green. The wood’s weight drops to 4200 (lbs./Cord) when it is dry. Oak is a dense wood that is heavy when green and very dense when dry.

Oak firewood stacked for sale

To give you a better idea, a cord of spruce weighs 2800 (lbs./Cord) when it is green, and 2240 (lbs./Cord) when it is dry.

That means you don’t need to use as much oak as you would other types of wood to get the same amount of heat output. This can potentially save you from storage and transportation costs.

Coals Well and Lasts a Long Time

Another great thing about oak firewood is that it coals well. This means that when you put a piece of oak on the fire, it will continue to burn long after the initial flame has died down.

This is due to the fact that oak is a dense wood with a high density of cellulose and lignin.

This makes it an ideal wood for slow-burning fires that you want to last all night. Not only does oak coal well, but it also produces a long-lasting, hot fire.

Produces Very Little Smoke

Oak firewood also produces very little smoke. This is due to the fact that it has low moisture content and a high density.

The low moisture content means that there is less water to vaporize and produce smoke. The high density means that the wood burns more slowly and produces fewer gases.

This makes oak an ideal wood for indoor fires, as it will not produce a lot of smoke or fumes.

Oak also doesn’t cause much creosote buildup in chimneys due to its low sap content. Creosote is a sticky, flammable substance that can cause chimney fires if it builds up too much.

Generally, sappy wood tends to produce more smoke. Because when the sap burns, it produces more gases and smoke. But oak has a low sap content, so it doesn’t produce much smoke. Compared to trees like pine the amount of sap in oak is very low.

Here is why you would want to care about the low smoke output. The low smoke output of oak means that it is an ideal wood for indoor fires, as it will not produce a lot of smoke or fumes.

All indoor fires should be as smokeless as possible to avoid any health risks. Because some of the smoke will always find its way into the room, no matter how tightly sealed your fireplace is.

Smoke from wood fires contains a variety of pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants.

These pollutants can cause a variety of health problems, including respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature death. To eliminate as much smoke as possible, it is best to use wood with a low smoke output like oak.

Produces very Little Sparks

Oak is also a good choice for firewood if you are worried about sparks. Since the wood is so dense, it doesn’t easily break into small pieces.

This means that there are fewer opportunities for sparks to fly off the fire and land on something else.

Of course, all wood will produce some sparks, but oak is a good choice if you are looking for firewood that produces fewer sparks than most. Another reason why oak doesn’t produce many sparks is that it has a low moisture content.

As we mentioned before, the lower the moisture and air content trapped in the wood, the more uniform and spark-free the combustion will be.

Doesn’t Pop or Crackle Much

Popping and cracking are two of the most annoying things about burning wood in a fireplace. Because of the way that oak burns, it doesn’t produce as much popping and cracking as other types of wood.

Oak is a hard, dense wood that doesn’t trap much moisture and air in its cells. This means that it burns more evenly and doesn’t produce as many sparks and embers.

High Density

Oakwood has a density of around 0.75 g/cm3, making it one of the denser types of wood available. This density gives it a high heat output per cord of wood, making it an excellent choice for those who want a long-lasting fire.

Additionally, since oak is a denser wood, it takes less space to store. This may be something to keep in mind if you have a limited storage area for firewood.

Resistant to pest

Oak is very resistant to insect and fungal attacks due to its high tannin content. Tannin is an acidic natural preservative that protects the wood from rot, decay, and pests.

Tannin stops the growth of fungi and bacteria, making it an ideal material for long-term storage. Tannin is held in the liquid sap of the tree and is released when the wood is cut or damaged in some way.

The chemical is also responsible for the characteristic “oak aroma” that is released when oak is burned.

oak barrels

This pleasant scent is often described as being similar to vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg. Therefore, oak barrels are often used to age wine and liquor.

Relatively Difficult To Split

One downside of oak is that it is relatively difficult to split. This is because of its high density and interlocking grain.

While this might not be a problem if you have a large wood-splitting machine, it can be a challenge for those who are splitting wood using an axe or hatchet.

If you do need to split oak by hand, you can use a wedge to make the initial cut.

A wedge is a small, thin piece of metal that is inserted into the wood and hammered in with a mallet. This will create a crack that you can then use to split the wood.

Once you have the wedge in place, use a sledgehammer or axe to drive it further into the wood. The wedge will split the wood as it is driven in, making it easier to split the log into smaller pieces.

Obviously, the better solution is to use a machine. An electric log splitter or a chainsaw is the best way to split oak logs. Splitting the oak with a machine will make the task much easier and faster.

Ignites Quickly

One of the benefits of oak is that it ignites quickly. Therefore, it can be a good choice to be used as kindling. Kindling is small pieces of wood that are used to start a fire.

However, using oak as kindling is only effective if the wood is dry. Wet or green wood will not ignite as easily and will produce a lot of smoke. You should also avoid using oak that has been treated with chemicals, such as pressure-treated lumber.

Because these chemicals can be toxic when burned, it is best to use only natural, untreated wood for kindling.

The best way to use oak as kindling is to cut it into small pieces and then strike a match to the center of the pile.

The oak will catch fire and help to ignite the larger logs. Once the oak is burning, you can then add larger pieces of wood to the fire. This will help you get the fire going faster and with less effort.

Resistant to Rot

Another benefit of oak is that it is resistant to rot. This is due to the high tannin content that was mentioned earlier. Tannin is a natural preservative that protects the wood from decay and rot.

This resistance to rot allows the oak to be used for a variety of applications, such as flooring, furniture, and even boats.

For the same reason, oak firewood can be stored for long periods of time without much worry that it will rot or decay.

However, it is important to note that oak is not completely immune to rot. If the wood is not properly seasoned or if it is stored in a damp environment, it can still rot.

Therefore, it is important to take proper care of your oak firewood to ensure that it lasts for many years.

Not a sustainable source for use as firewood

Oak is not a sustainable resource and is becoming increasingly scarce. This is due to the fact that oak trees take a long time to grow and they are often used for other purposes, such as furniture and flooring.

As a result, the current supply of oak is not able to meet the demand. This has led to an increase in the price of oak firewood, making it difficult to replace once it has been used.

If you are looking for a more sustainable source of firewood, you might want to consider other options, such as poplar which grows much faster.

While oak has many positive qualities for its use as firewood, it shouldn’t be used as firewood unless the wood cannot be used for anything else.


Oak is also one of the most expensive types of firewood. This is due to its scarcity and the fact that it takes a long time to grow.

As a result, oak is often used for other purposes, such as furniture and flooring. If you are looking for the highest heat output for your money, you might want to consider other options before choosing oak.

A cord of oak firewood can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 depending on the region and the supplier. However, oaks are almost always more expensive than faster-growing trees like poplar.

Fine to smoke meat with

Another use for oak is smoking meat. The tannins in the wood give the meat a unique flavor that is different from other woods.

Particularly red oaks are better for smoking meat because they have a higher tannin content. Although oak gives the meat a unique flavor, it doesn’t overpower the taste and texture of the meat.

To use oaks for smoking, you will need to soak the wood in water for at least an hour.

This will help to prevent the wood from burning too quickly and will also give the smoker time to flavor the meat.

After the wood has been soaked, you can then use it to smoke your meat. Oak can be used to smoke a variety of meats, such as chicken, beef, pork, and fish.

How to season oak for use as firewood?

One of the most important things to do when preparing oak for use as firewood is to season it properly. Seasoning is the process of allowing the wood to dry out so that it burns more efficiently.

Green or unseasoned wood contains a lot of moisture and will produce a lot of smoke when burned. In addition, unseasoned wood is more likely to rot or decay.

The best way to season oak is to cut it into small pieces and then stack it in a dry place.

The wood should be stacked in such a way that air can circulate around it. This will allow the wood to dry out more evenly.

Oak is a dense hardwood that needs at least a year to season it. In most cases, it is best to keep oak for two years to allow it to optimally dry out.

The typical seasoning process is also known as air-drying. Therefore, for seasoning oaks, you will need to have a well-ventilated and dry storage area.

During the seasoning, you should check the wood periodically to make sure that it is not rotting or decaying.

If you are in a hurry, you can use a kiln to speed up the process. Kiln-drying can take as little as a few weeks but it is important to note that this process can be expensive.

If you don’t have a well-circulated storage space that is protected from the elements, it is better to purchase seasoned oak firewood. Seasoned firewood is wood that has been cut and allowed to dry by the supplier.

Is oak a renewable resource?

No, oak isn’t a renewable resource in a traditional sense. This is because it takes a long time to regrow new oak trees to replace the ones that have been cut down.

In fact, this is true almost for all firewood. We cannot replace most firewood as quickly as we use it. Burning firewood for energy pollutes the air and contributes to climate change. Therefore, firewood isn’t a renewable resource.

However, firewood is a need, and it will always be used in some capacity. As a result, there are things that we can do to make sure that firewood is managed sustainably.

One of the best things that we can do is to plant new trees to replace the ones that we cut down. This will help to ensure that there is a steady supply of firewood in the future.

In addition, certain trees are specifically grown for the purpose of being used as firewood. These trees are known as coppiced trees and they are managed in such a way that they can be cut down and regrown quickly.

Is oak a hardwood?

Yes, oak is a dense hardwood that grows slowly. It is often used for furniture and flooring because of its durability.

Although it is a sturdy wood with a strong grain structure it can still be worked very well provided the right tools are used for the purpose.