Have you ever had to move to another side of a firepit because the wind is blowing towards you, causing you to get completely smoked out?
How about jumping out of your chair because an ember landed on you? Or being scared about the fire because it just won’t stop crackling and popping while the kids are running all over the place?
This all comes down to the type of wood, your burning and the different characteristics that firewood has.
You can’t buy cheap firewood and expect it to burn like beautiful and premium quality wood!
How do you know what you are going to get when purchasing firewood?
Here is a detailed explanation about the firewood you will encounter in Calgary and Surrounding areas so that you can honestly know what you are getting when you purchase firewood in Calgary.
Poplar – Aspen, balsam or cottonwood poplar is actually a softwood, hardwood hybrid. Still, it is the lowest quality of firewood when it comes to burning. The most significant reason it acts as such inferior wood is its poor smell while burning, a considerable amount of smoke and a large amount of popping. It puts off a low amount of heat and a moderate amount of burn time. I would avoid burning poplar if possible, but if its all you have in a pinch, it will still work for outdoor and recreational burning.
Poplar, on average, takes 1-2+ years to dry once cut because of how much moisture it stores inside of its grains, which is the primary reason that it causes so much trouble when burning. It takes a long time to have a very dry poplar that is adequately seasoned to burn.
Spruce – is the most common type of firewood around these areas. Spruce is an evergreen tree, and we have a dense population of them all over the place. They take anywhere from 6 months – 2 years to be adequately seasoned and ready to burn as firewood.
Once dry, spruce acts as lower quality firewood that is good for outdoors and recreational usage. You will experience a low-moderate amount of heat and burn time. Spruce has a low density, so it will release a moderate-high amount of smoke. You will get a relatively significant amount of crackling and popping.
Pine – Can be split into the 3 most common species of pine, white pine, jack pine and lodgepole pine. White pine and jack pine burn very similarly to spruce due to their density and burning characteristics.
Lodgepole pine is significantly more dense with a straighter grain allowing it to dry faster and have less moisture/air pockets causing a better quality burn. Lodgepole pine is mid-grade firewood releasing a moderate amount of smoke, popping with an average amount of heat and reasonable burn time.
Cedar – Acts as specialty firewood because of its pleasant aroma and fast but very hot burning characteristics. You will still get a moderate amount of smoke and popping; however, you get a much higher fast heat making it ideal for kindling and fire starters. People love burning cedar around the holidays, getting a space smelling good and burning hot.
Tamarack/Douglas Fir – These are a more premium quality softwood firewood. They have a much higher density causing them to burn much hotter and longer than other softwood counterparts. They also burn cleaner causing less smoking, popping and leaving behind less residue than spruce/pine.
Maple – is a very dense hardwood. When appropriately dried, it burns hot, long with a pleasant aroma and a moderate amount of smoke with no popping. Maple is known for its pleasant flavour transfer into food and its scorching and long-burning coals. This makes it suitable for cooking on or enjoying great low maintenance fires.
Ash – Ash is an incredibly dense hardwood. It burns very long and relatively hot. The coals will stick around the fire for a long time, but it is a prolonged burn. If your goal is to have a big roaring fire, then ash isn’t for you, but if you want a great extended fire, then ash will be precisely what you’re looking for.
Fruitwood – This includes woods like apple, cherry and pear. All fruitwoods are very dense hardwood that smells fantastic and burn very long and hot with a moderate amount of flame and smoke. Generally, used for cooking and smoking foods and meats, they make for good specialty firewood used for specific purposes.
Birch – Birch is the gold standard of firewood in these areas for indoor or outdoor burning. It burns very hot and extended with a low-density smoke and no popping. It lets off a pleasant aroma while leaving behind little ash and little residue when burned. For an indoor or outdoor burning experience, you can never go wrong when choosing birch as your go-to firewood.
How do I choose?
When choosing your firewood, it comes down to accessibility, budget and desired experience. When purchasing ahead of time, you will always have more options to research and source the firewood quality you would like to purchase for your seasonal burning.
With firewood, you get what you pay for, so if you’re on a tight budget and do not care for the burn quality, then lower-mid grade firewood will be ideal for you.
If you have a little more to spend and care about having a high-quality stress free fires, then going for a higher quality hardwood will give you the desired results you are looking for.
Specialty firewood is generally regarded as the most expensive. Still, people will usually buy in smaller quantities for a specific purpose to achieve their desired results.
As long as you understand what you are looking for and what your budget is, and the wood is dry and ready to burn, there is honestly no way you can choose wrong.