There are many types of wood, but most wood does not make good firewood. Some is too hard to light, or too hard to keep burning, or too smoky, etc.
In this area of the country, there are only a few woods that make good firewood.
1) Oak - This is by far the most common wood used here. Oak makes a hot fire, is not too difficult to start, and gives off pretty good heat.
2) Madrone - This is a smooth wood that is easier to start than oak. It is often mixed in with oak when a customer orders firewood.
3) Almond - This is a pretty good wood for fires. It burns hot and is usually less expensive than oak.
There are some woods that are used as firewood by some customers, but which are not recommended.
1) Eucalyptus - This is a very oily wood that burns very hot and leaves little ash. The problem is that it leaves a coating on the inside of the chimney which is almost impossible to remove. It is just like third stage creosote, hard and shiny. I always recommend that customers avoid eucalyptus.
2) Redwood - This usually comes from fences or decks that have been torn down. Same as eucalyptus, leaves a residue that cannot be removed. You should have that old deck hauled away.
Then there are several woods that fall in between. These are pine, spruce and fir. These are soft woods, very easy to light, but give relatively little heat per log. I tell customers it's OK to use these as long as they are well seasoned, and as long as the chimney is swept often.
Sometimes customers tell me about a tree or even a bush that was growing in their yard, and ask if they should stack it up for firewood. The answer is almost always no; they will put a lot of work into the project and be very disappointed when their house fills up with smoke!
All firewood needs to be seasoned before it will burn well. This means that it is stacked where it will remain dry for a period of time to allow some of the natural moisture to evaporate. The wood should sit for at least 6 months, preferably a year. Wet wood is very smoky and hard to keep burning.
The best way to tell if wood is seasoned is to lift a log. If it feels wet and heavy, it needs more seasoning. You can develop a feeling for this characteristic of wood.
Many customers burn pre-made logs, like Presto logs or Duraflame logs. I have found that these are alright to burn in an open fireplace, but that they sometimes make a chemical odor that some people don't like. The chimney still needs to be cleaned regularly. One of these logs makes about as much buildup as a regular, 3 log oak fire. These pre-made logs can sometimes be burned in a wood stove or insert, but not if there is a catalytic converter in the stove.
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Types of Firewood