What is oak firewood like?
If you, like many people, depend on wood for heating your home during the cold winters, the best strategy is to use wood that burns well and is readily available.
To cut to the chase, oak is one of the very best woods you can use in a wood stove to heat your home. It ticks all the boxes, being slow-burning while putting out the maximum amount of heat.
Oak makes excellent firewood as it:
- Burns clean
- Burns slowly
- Generates a lot of heat
- Is available in sufficient quantities in the US
It is particularly well known for its slow, extended burning capacity. Well-seasoned oak used as firewood will burn far longer than any softwoods, and put out much more heat. Oak falls into the category of hardwood, which is superior for wood stove burning.
When we say that the wood burns clean, that means it does not give off much smoke (especially if it’s dry). The wood will crackle and pop if seasoned well – something I love to hear!
How can you identify an oak tree?
They have massive trunks, and their branches look quite gnarly. Different varieties of oak trees can be either evergreen or deciduous as there are over 600 different species in the world. The United States alone has nearly 55 oak tree species, with a few characteristics common in all these species.
The easiest way to identify an oak tree is to look for acorns. A tree that produces acorns is undoubtedly an oak tree. Look out for the many animals that feed on acorns, such as squirrels, deer, chipmunks, crows, wild turkeys, rabbits, quail, and rabbits.
Oaktree bark varies from species to species but is frequently formed of small, scaly, and hard bits of bark. It is very different from the bark of other trees. For example, pine tree bark has flaky, large pieces, while birch trees have bark that looks like wallpaper.
Oak trees have long lives, and most live for more than 200 years. They are generally very large and tall, growing up to a height of 70 feet and a diameter of over 9 feet.
Oak Tree Varieties Used For Firewood
There are two main categories of oak trees; Red Oak and White Oak.
White Oak varieties include the Chestnut Oak, Eastern White Oak, Post Oak, and Bur Oak. Their acorns reach maturity in a year, and they have rounded leaves.
The common Red Oak varieties are the Black Oak, Northern Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, Southern Red Oak, and Pin Oak. The acorns on these trees gain maturity in two years, while their leaves often have a point towards the end of the lobes.
Both varieties of oak trees produce wood that is good for use as firewood.
Is Oak Wood Hard To Split?
Green Oak is quite solid and heavy, but it is important to split the oak and start the seasoning process.
You have to let the rounds sit for a few months and then split them. This will make the splitting a little easier but not a lot. This is because oak tends to remain wet even after the bark is taken off.
Red oak often has a straight grain that split nicely, while White Oak is harder to split. However, if the Oakwood you are using has many knots, it will be quite hard to split, irrespective of being Red or White Oak.
When oak is frozen, it is easier to split and comes apart more easily (for those in a very cold climate). Before you start splitting with an ax, place the oak on a stump instead of on the bare ground. This is because the ground absorbs a lot of your energy, making it more challenging to split.
The easiest way to split oak for firewood is to use a hydraulic splitter. If you have a large volume to split it might be worth renting or buying one.
How Long Does Oak Take To Season?
Oak takes a long time to dry, so it is important to split it as soon as possible. Your Oak firewood will be good after two years of drying, and you can even wait for 3 or 4 years.
Firewood has to be seasoned well if you want to get the maximum energy from it. Your wood will be correctly seasoned when its moisture content is 20%. To find out how much moisture content your wood has, you can get an inexpensive moisture meter.
If you burn green wood, the heat amounts generated will decrease because the heat produced by the fire will be used for evaporating the moisture. Because oak has quite a lot of moisture content, you will waste a lot of heat.
Does Oak Burn Clean?
Oak burns slow and long, and it will burn clean if it is well-seasoned.
When you use Oak firewood that has been seasoned correctly and holds the right amounts of moisture, your fire will last longer and give out the maximum heat.
If your oak is burning with a lot of smoke, this means that your wood is green and not seasoned well. You will also see your firewood hiss and sizzle and even burn out quickly.
All wood fires create creosote and hardwoods such as oak in particular. This is because it burns slowly, and the smoke lingers in the chimney. There is more possibility for creosote to build up. It is important to clean the chimney a minimum of once a year to prevent chimney fires.
In addition to how much heat the firewood produces, it is also important to consider the kind of aroma it generates. Oak firewood produces a sour smell, similar to vinegar. This smell is quite distinctive, and you may not want to use it for smoking food.
The Heat Efficiency And Output Of Oak
Various Oak species can produce nearly 24.0 – 25.7 million BTUs per cord. BTU or British Thermal Unit is the amount of energy needed to heat a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
One cord of firewood equals 128 cubic feet, which means firewood stacked 8 feet long and 4 feet high. One cord of oak is approximately equal to these sources of heat:
- Heating oil – 179 gallons
- Propane – 272 gallons
- Natural gas – 23,963 cubic feet
- Electricity – 7,283 kilowatt-hours
Other Uses Of Oak
Oak hardwood is the best for firewood, but it is also used extensively in many different ways:
- household flooring
- and much more
You can choose among the several different varieties of oak available all across the United States. However, you may have to choose from the Oak species found in your part of the country.