As the weather gets colder, it’s essential to keep ourselves warm and comfortable. What better way to do that than to build a fire for those cold winter nights, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor fireplace. But before you go and buy firewood, we’ve compiled a list of the different types of Australian firewoods and their heating properties to help you make a more informed decision and find the right firewood for you.

Properties of firewood

Here’s a look at the type of properties of firewood and how they can affect performance.

Available heat

‘Available heat’ is a measure of the heat that is given off when a wood is burnt. Heat content is shown as a percent of dry wood, and is calculated by dividing the density or dry weight of the wood by 11.2 (the recommended moisture content for dry firewood is around 12%). Values near 100 indicate higher heat content, and below that means lower heat content. Hardwood is denser than softwood, so it gives off more energy, but some softwoods have volatile oils that can increase their heat output.

Density

‘Density’ refers to a wood’s dry weight per unit volume in kilograms per cubic metre (kg/m3). Denser or heavier woods contain more heat per volume and also burn longer. For example, Sugar Gum is twice as dense as Radiata Pine, so a cubic metre of Sugar Gum weighs about 1070 kg, whereas a cubic metre of Radiata Pine weighs about 512 kg.

The majority of softwoods burn faster than high-density hardwoods, and have taller and hotter flames. But hardwoods give off more heat per cord since they burn slower and more steadily, and thus provide warmth for longer. An example of a high-density hardwood is Oak, and a high-density softwood is Red Cedar.

Splitting

Woods with straight grains are easier to split than those with tighter, more complex grains. Firewood can also be harder to split if it has knots, branches and other defects. In general, it’s easier to split dry (seasoned) wood than green (unseasoned) wood. Ease of splitting is important to consider when it comes to larger pieces of wood, as they usually need to be split for good drying and burning.

Ignition

This indicates the ease with which a firewood can be lit. Softwoods and low-density woods are generally easier to ignite and will burn quicker/shorter than hardwoods and high-density woods, which are usually harder to ignite and burn slower/longer. However, a lightweight hardwood can burn quicker than a dense softwood.

Woods that have more volatile chemicals such as resin are more likely to ignite and burn quicker than those that have less volatile chemicals. The drier the wood is, the easier it is to ignite. The flames of softwoods burn brighter and higher, whereas the flames of hardwoods burn less but last longer.

Moisture content

Firewood needs to be dried to 10-20% moisture content to ensure that it burns well, produces more heat and creates less smoke and creosote. A large amount of the energy that’s produced from burning green firewood in fact goes to evaporating the water that’s held in the wood. Also, green firewood gives off just 40% of the energy of dry firewood. So for your firewood to work optimally, you should cut, split and then stack it in a dry, well-ventilated area for a minimum of 6 months before you use it.

There are two main methods used to determine the moisture content of firewood: 1) oven-drying method, and 2) electronic moisture meters (resistance meters and dielectric meters). A common, way to measure a firewood’s moisture content is to refer to 1/5 of the moisture in the wood as 20% moisture content.

Smoke

A piece of heavy hardwood gives off little smoke, light hardwood produces a medium amount of smoke, and softwood pieces give off medium-heavy smoke. It’s important that you consider whether the firewood you choose will smoke heavily or not when it’s burned in a fireplace.

When it comes to their coaling ability, the majority of hardwoods make good beds of glowing embers, which reduces intense heat. Coaling is connected to density and heavy woods produce coals of higher quality. Woods that form long-lasting coals are good to use in wood stoves, as they can keep a fire running overnight.

Spitting/sparks

This will largely depend on the amount of extractives there are in the wood. The wood of Damson and the Forest Red Gum have high content of resin, which are liable to spit and cause a lot of sparks. Also, if wood isn’t completely dry, it will spark when it burns. Softwoods have a higher pitch content than hardwoods, so they tend to give off more sparks. The highest-sparking woods include Cedar and Pine.

Ease of splitting Ignition Smoke Spitting / Sparks
Poor: Light:
Fair: Medium:
Good: Heavy:
Excellent:
Firewood Heat content/ potential (%) Density (kg/m3) Ease of splitting Ignition Moisture content (dried to 12% MC) Smoke Spitting / sparks Notes on usage
Alpine Ash/Tasmanian Oak/Victorian Ash 55 620 N/A
Provides good light and warmth. Forms coals, so it’s good for use in wood stoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Belah, Buloke 100 1121 N/A
Bimble Box 97 1090 4.0% (tangential); 2.8% (longitudinal).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in wood stoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Black Bean 67 755 5.8% (tangential); 1.8% (radial).
Black Box 98 1105 N/A
Blackbutt 83 930 7.3% (tangential) 4.3% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Blackdown Stringybark 88 995 N/A
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Blue Gum 80-83 927 N/A
Blush Alder 55 625 5.0% (tangential); 2.5% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house.
Blush Walnut 68 770 6.1% (tangential); 2.7% (radial).
Bollywood 51 480-675
3.6% (tangential); 1.4% (radial) for L. leefeana. 5.0% (tangential); 2.0% (radial) for L. reticulata.
Brigalow 91 1025 4.7% (tangential); 2.6% (radial).
Brown Quandong 52 560-610 N/A
Brown Salwood 65 675-800 4.2% (tangential); 1.4% (radial) for A. aulacocarpa only.
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Brush Box 47 530 4% (tangential); 2% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house. Provides good light.
Calophyllum 64 540-900 Approximately 5.0% (tangential); 3.0% (radial).
Candlebark 70 785 N/A
Carbeen 92 1040 3.4% (tangential); 3.0% (radial).
Coachwood 55 625 8.1% (tangential); 4.0% (radial).
Damson 57 640 Approximately 6.0% (tangential); 3-4% (radial).
Eungella Satinash, Red and White 70 (red); 67 (white) 785 (red); 755 (white) N/A
Provides long-lasting light and warmth.
Forest Red Gum 92 1010-1055 8.6% (tangential); 4.8% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Grey Box 100 1105-1121 7.4% (tangential); 0.23% (radial) for E. moluccana only.
Grey Gum 94 1055 7.0% (tangential); 4.5% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Grey Ironbark 97 1105 7.5% (tangential); 4.7% (radial).
Good for use in a slow combustion heater. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Grey Satinash 70 690-880 5.7% (tangential); 2.5% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Gympie Messmate 90 1010 6.2% (tangential); 3.4% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Hoop Pine 50 560 3.8% (tangential); 2.5% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house. Provides good light.
Jarrah 74 835 7.4% (tangential); 4.8% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Kwila 74 830 2.6% (tangential); 1.2% (radial).
Long-leaved Box 89 1010 N/A
Mallee roots 100 N/A N/A
Manna Gum 68-76 750-855 N/A
Messmate Stringybark/Tasmanian Oak 68-69 771-780 N/A
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Miva Mahogany 56 625-640 4.3% (tangential); 2.7% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Mountain Ash 60-63 673 N/A
Provides good light and warmth. Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Narrow-leaved Red Ironbark 97 1090 Approximately 5% (tangential); 3.5% (radial).
Good for use in a slow combustion heater. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Northern Cypress 60 675 2.8% (tangential); 2.1% (radial).
Northern Silky Oak 50 560 4.7% (tangential); 1.6% (radial).
Burns slow with a small flame. Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Pepperwood 42 480 5.1% (tangential); 2.0% (radial).
Poplar 45 N/A N/A
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house.
Queensland Maple 51 575 7.2% (tangential); 2.9% (radial).
Provides good light and warmth.
Queensland Walnut 61 690 4.6% (tangential); 2.1% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Radiata Pine 45 512-545 5.1% (tangential); 3.4% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house. Provides good light.
Red Bloodwood 90 1010 4.0% (tangential); 3.0% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Red Box 91-94 1060 N/A
Red Cedar 40 450 4.1% (tangential); 2.2% (radial).
Provides long-lasting warmth and burns with a small flame.
Red Ironbark 97 1090 N/A
Good for use in a slow combustion heater. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Red Mahogany 88 995 6.3% (tangential); 3.9% (radial) for E. resinifera only.
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Red Siris 64 720 4.5% (tangential); 2.0% (radial).
Red Stringybark 80 890 N/A
River Red Gum 80-81 915 N/A
Good for use in a slow combustion heater, but it doesn’t burn with a lot of flame. Can be mixed with other firewood.
Rose Gum 71 800 7.2% (tangential); 4.0% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Rose Mahogany 62 705 4.3% (tangential); 2.5% (radial).
Satinay 71 800 Approximately 10.0% (tangential); 4.4% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Scentless Rosewood 58 625-675
6.3% (tangential); 3.4% (radial) for S. glandulosum only.
Silver Ash 58 640-675
5.5% (tangential); 3.0% (radial) for F. bourjotiana. 4.8% (tangential); 3.1% (radial) for F. schottiana.
Provides good light and warmth.
Silver Quandong 44 495 4.3% (tangential); 1.4% (radial).
Silvertop Ash 75-77 820-865 Approximately 10% (tangential); 6% (radial).
Provides good light and warmth. Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Slash Pine 55 625 4.8% (tangential); 3.0% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house. Provides good light.
Spear Wattle 114 1280 N/A
Burns slow and long with a small flame.
Spotted Gum 90 1010
6.1% (tangential); 4.3% (radial) for C. citriodora subsp. variegata.
Silvertop Stringybark 76 860 Approximately 10.0% (tangential); 6.0% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Sugar Gum 95 1070 N/A
Tallowwood 90 1010 6.1% (tangential); 3.7% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Tasmanian Oak 64 675-770
13.3% (tangential); 6.6% (radial) for E. regnans. 8.5% (tangential); 5.2% (radial) for E. delegatensis. 11.3% (tangential); 5.1% (radial) for E. obliqua.
Burns slow with a small flame. Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Tulip Oak 77 800-925
8.6% (tangential); 3.6% (radial) for A. actinophyllum ssp. actinophyllum. 9.0% (tangential); 3.3% (radial) for A. trifoliolatum. 8.9% (tangential); 4.4% (radial) for A. peralatum.
Burns slow with a small flame.
Tulip Plum 83 930 N/A
Provides good warmth.
Turpentine 84 945 13.0% (tangential); 6.5% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Western White Gum 85 860-1055 4.9% (tangential), 2.8% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
White Beech 47 515-545 3.7% (tangential); 1.6% (radial) for G. leichhardtii only.
White Cheesewood 32 335-400 4.0% (tangential); 2.5% (radial).
White Cypress Pine 60 673-675 2.6% (tangential); 2.4% (radial).
Great for use in the spring and autumn, as it makes heat control easier and doesn’t overheat the house. Provides good light.
White Mahogany 90 1010
6.0% (tangential); 3.5% (radial) for E. acmenoides. 5.4% (tangential); 2.8% (radial) for E. umbra ssp. carnea.
White Stringybark 90 1010 7.1% (tangential); 3.2% (radial).
Forms coals, so it’s good for use in woodstoves or slow combustion heaters, as it allows a fire to burn overnight.
Yellow Box 91-95 1090 N/A
Yellow Gum 90 1010 N/A
Yellow Walnut 57 640 3.8% (tangential); 2.1% (radial).
Provides long-lasting light and warmth.

With all this valuable information in hand, choosing firewood for your wood stove or fireplace will be a breeze. It’s recommended that you try a variety of firewood and then choose the most appropriate, including a mix of hardwoods and softwoods.

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