​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (2024)

You're about to light a fire in your fire pit, but before you do, you need to know what the best wood to burn in a fire pit is. While burning any wood lying around is tempting, a cozy and inviting fire pit can quickly go south when you don't select the right fuel. So let the team at Fire Pit Art help guide you to ensure an enjoyable and safe fire for your summer night!

Summary

  • Hardwood (such as oak, maple, or birch) burns slower, cleaner, and produces a longer-lasting fire.
  • Softwood (pine or cedar) ignites quickly and produces a vibrant flame.
  • We recommend softwoods for kindling and hardwoods for the bulk of your fire's fuel.
  • Never burn driftwood, treated or painted wood, wood with vines, green (freshly cut) wood, or allergenic wood (poison ivy, poison oak)

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (1)

Types of Wood for Fire Pits

When selecting the best wood to burn in a fire pit, it's important to know what's available and the differences between them. Generally, you can categorize firewood into two main types: hardwood and softwood. Hardwood, like oak, maple, or birch, burns slower and produces a longer-lasting fire. Softwood, on the other hand, like pine or cedar, ignites quickly and creates a vibrant flame. Both types have pros, but it's also essential to consider their cons.

Safe and Suitable Firewood

Not all wood is equal regarding safety and suitability for burning in a fire pit. While all types of wood will burn, not all will burn safely. Here are some key things to consider when selecting the best wood for your fire pit.

Seasoning

It's best to use something other than green wood (freshly cut wood) when selecting fuel for your fire pit. Green or newly cut wood contains a high moisture content, making it difficult to burn efficiently. Instead, we suggest using seasoned wood. Seasoned wood is wood that you cut and then dry for at least six months. The drying process allows the wood to burn more easily, produces less smoke, and generates more heat.

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (2)

Hardwood vs. Softwood

As mentioned, you can use hardwood and softwood in fire pits. Each has its own pros and cons:

Hardwood

  • It tends to be denser, so it burns longer
  • Difficult to light
  • Burns slowly and leaves behind plenty of coals to assist in restarting the fire.
  • Burn cleaner, meaning the wood creates less smoke and leaves behind less residue than other woods.
  • Due to hardwoods' characteristics, you will have to attend to this fire less often.

Softwood

  • Lighter
  • Ignites more quickly
  • Usually, it burns fast and will leave behind a few coals to assist in restarting the flame.
  • Often create a large amount of smoke and flying ash.
  • Due to softwoods' characteristics, you often need to attend to this fire more frequently to ensure everyone stays safe.

Local Regulations

Check with local regulations and authorities to ensure compliance with any rules or restrictions on burning wood in residential areas. Some locations have specific guidelines, especially regarding air quality and the type of wood that you can burn.

Woods To Never Burn In A Fire Pit

If you want to ensure a safe and enjoyable fire pit experience, we highly recommend staying away from the following types of wood:

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (3)

Wood with Vines

If you're in a situation where you are collecting firewood for your fire pit, never select pieces that have vines of flowers growing around them or out of them. While most of the vines and flowers you find draped on wood are safe, that isn't always the case. Use extreme caution when selecting this source of fuel. You want to ensure you know your plants and if you're looking at a harmless English or poison ivy.

If poisonous plants are on the wood (such as oleander, poison oak, poison sumac, or poison ivy), burning these plants sends the poison into the air. Your family and friends can inhale this toxic smoke resulting in significant health risks, including possible death.

Poisonous or Allergenic Wood

In addition to not burning wood with any leaves, vines, or unknown flowers, we recommend you stay away from wood varieties known to be toxic or cause allergic reactions, such as poison ivy, poison oak, or oleander. Burning these woods releases harmful substances into the air that can be dangerous when inhaled.

Softwoods with High Resin Content

Softwoods like pine or fir with high resin content can produce excessive smoke, sparks, and popping, leading to potential safety hazards. In addition, chances are you'll walk away from an overly smokey evening ready to wash your campfire sweater.

Wood with Excessive Moisture

As mentioned, you should avoid green or unseasoned wood due to its high moisture content. The moisture makes it difficult to ignite, resulting in more smoke and less efficient burning. Trying to burn green wood often results in a frustrating and cold night as you fight the flames to keep working.

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (4)

Driftwood

Salt and water tend to saturate driftwood. The moisture locked into this wood creates a difficult ignition, and the salt-water saturation may release harmful chemicals when burned. The EPA warns against burning driftwood due to the possible toxicity it may cause.

Construction Wood

You should never use construction materials such as firewood. Most construction lumber gets dipped in chemicals to prevent temporary mildew during the construction process. Pine and other processed lumber are the primary wood sources used in construction wood. Burning these woods can cause harmful toxic smoke to those around them.

Treated or Painted Wood

Never burn chemical-treated wood, such as pressure-treated or painted wood. When burned, these chemicals release toxic fumes, posing health risks to you and your guests.

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (5)

Best Practices for Fire Pit Wood Burning

To make the most of your fire pit experience and maintain safety, here are some best practices to follow when it comes to your fire pit fuel choices:

Store Wood Properly

If you have space, store your firewood in a dry and ventilated area, ideally elevated from the ground. This helps in proper seasoning and keeps the wood dry for efficient burning. In addition, storing your wood on a fire pit rack can prevent mold and bugs from forming on your wood.

Use Kindling

Start your fire with small pieces of dry twigs, newspaper, or commercially available fire starters to ignite the larger logs effectively. We advise using hardwood for the bulk of your fire and softwood for your kindling, as softwood ignites quickly and easily and burns hot and fast.

Monitor the Fire

Always practice fire pit safety, and keep a watchful eye on your fire pit, ensuring it remains contained within the designated area. Always have a fire extinguisher, sand, or water nearby for emergencies.

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (6)

Stay Safe, Burn Safe

While fire pits offer warmth and ambiance, being mindful of the wood you choose to burn is crucial. Not all wood is suitable, and using the wrong type can pose safety risks, impacting your family's and the environment's health. By considering factors such as seasoning, wood type, and local regulations, you can ensure a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable fire pit experience for yourself and your guests. Remember, choosing the best wood is a great way to create memorable moments around the fire while prioritizing safety and environmental sustainability.

Follow Fire Pit Art on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest!

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit (2024)

FAQs

​Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Wood to Burn in a Fire Pit? ›

Hardwoods like oak, hickory, ash, and maple are generally the best fuel option but may take longer to catch fire. Softwoods like pine, fir, and cedar can make for good fuel, as well, but may burn faster and put off more smoke than hardwoods. Consider using these more as a fire starter if you have the option.

What is the best wood to burn in a firepit? ›

Seasoned wood will burn more efficiently and keep your fire pit clean. Usually, choosing the best wood for fire pits comes down to hardwoods vs softwoods. Due to their density and dryness, we'd recommend using hardwoods, like beech or ash, since they will ignite a low-maintenance fire that can burn for hours.

What is best to burn in a fire pit? ›

The most common and right assumption is firewood. To avoid lots of smoke and also get the maximum heat from your fire, it is important to use only dry, quality firewood. We would recommend using Seasoned or Kiln Dried Logs which you can source locally or online.

What is the cleanest burning wood for a fire? ›

When hardwoods are burned in good conditions for a fire, they produce very little smoke or unhealthy particulate matter. A few examples of the most popular hardwoods for fires are white oak, ash, birch, red oak, hard maple, beech, hickory, pecan, dogwood, apple, and almond.

What firewood gives off the most heat? ›

When asking which wood burns the hottest the answer is still ash, even if the wood isn't completely dry. Beech: As one of the best fire logs for fireplaces and also topping the best firewood for heat, this is second to ash only because it needs to be seasoned. Hawthorn: Very much like beech.

What wood burns the longest? ›

Mahogany had a time of 34:55, douglas fir 36:18, western cedar 16:56, lodgepole pine 16:30, redwood 29:25, oak 40:03, poplar 24:22, alder 19:13, and juniper with 24:04. Oak turned out to last the longest and lodgepole pine burned out the fastest.

What fire pit gives off the most heat? ›

What type of fire pit gives off the most heat? Wood fire pits give off more heat than propane pits, as wood burns at a higher temperature. Using dry, dense wood will make the fire hotter.

What is the best fill for a fire pit area? ›

Pea Gravel

While pea gravel doesn't compact as tightly as crushed limestone, it can still be used effectively around the fire pit area. Regular raking is necessary to keep the surface smooth and even, as the gravel may shift over time.

What wood doesn't smoke? ›

Hardwoods like oak, maple, cherry, ash, and birch are considered the best types of firewood for the fireplace because they ignite quickly, produce little smoke, and have a high heat output, making them ideal for warming homes and creating a cozy atmosphere.

What is 1 type of wood that you should avoid burning? ›

#1) Softwood

Because of its high resin content, you shouldn't burn softwood in your fireplace. Trees are classified as either softwood or hardwood, depending on their method of reproduction. Softwood trees reproduce by dropping cones, and are evergreen.

What are the worst woods for firewood? ›

Wood from toxic trees and woody shrubs - some trees and shrubs are just not meant to be burned (e.g., cherry, elder, horse chestnut, laburnum, oleander, rhododendron, and yew, etc.,) Wood with vines or ivy - these plants are toxic, and burning them is a bad idea.

What firewood pops the most? ›

Not only does fir and pine smell like Christmas trees, these types of logs create a pleasant crackle and pop in your fire. These are softwoods which dry quickly, are easy to split, and create lovely crackling fires. Before burning fir or pine, be aware that the popping throws a lot more sparks than other firewood.

What is the best firewood to burn overnight? ›

Oak. Oak is seen as the romantic choice and is our longest burning firewood. With a slow and steady burn, it was once used for yule logs during midwinter traditions and kept burning for twelve nights after Christmas eve. Oak generates more heat while producing a low rolling flame.

What firewood takes the longest to dry? ›

Softwood that is split and stacked in a dry place takes 4-6 summer months to dry to an acceptable moisture level. Hardwoods take at least 12 months to dry after being split and stacked. Stack the wood on lumber rails or pallets to get it up off the moist ground.

Which firewood creates the most creosote? ›

Contrary to popular opinion, the hardwood's, like oak and poplar , created MORE creosote than the softwoods, like tamarack and pine. The reason for this, is that if the softwoods are dry, they create a hotter, more intense fire. The draft created by the hotter fire moves the air up the chimney faster!

Can I burn any wood in a fire pit? ›

In regards to wood, not all types of firewood are proper to burn. You don't want to burn treated wood, deck lumber, painted or stained wood planks, shipping palettes, or driftwood. These types of wood have usually been treated with chemicals that can be potentially dangerous and toxic to inhale.

What should I put in the bottom of my wood burning fire pit? ›

In conclusion, choosing the material to place at the bottom of a fire pit requires considering ventilation, heat resistance, and protective properties. Materials such as sand, fire bricks, or slabs are excellent choices that can improve burning efficiency, extend lifespan, and ensure safety.

What is the best wood to burn on an open fire? ›

Most types of hardwood, for instance Ash (generally regarded as the best), Birch, Beech, Oak and Elm can be used. However, avoid burning woods with a high resin content. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the wood, then the greater the heat output and the longer burn time – the time between refills.

What is the best bottom for a fire pit? ›

The best materials to put in the bottom of your fire pit are gravel, paver base or fire bricks.

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Maia Crooks Jr

Last Updated:

Views: 6101

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Maia Crooks Jr

Birthday: 1997-09-21

Address: 93119 Joseph Street, Peggyfurt, NC 11582

Phone: +2983088926881

Job: Principal Design Liaison

Hobby: Web surfing, Skiing, role-playing games, Sketching, Polo, Sewing, Genealogy

Introduction: My name is Maia Crooks Jr, I am a homely, joyous, shiny, successful, hilarious, thoughtful, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.