Softwoods and Conifers: Energy Values

For fire starting, use softwood kindling

More Stove & Wood Tips

  • Order a mix of woods whenever possible.
  • Use softwood kindling to start a fire. Keep it going with hardwoods.
  • Use wood split to a maximum thickness of 6 inches to ensure burn efficiency.
  • Keep the door to your wood stove closed while the fire is going.
  • Never burn garbage like plastics, paper with colored inks, laminates, or coatings, or painted or treated wood.

Softwoods are useful for starting fires and building small, fast hot fires. The characteristics however that make them useful for starting fires don't necessarily make them good for longer burning fires.

Some wood, especially conifers, have lots of pitch which is very combustible and makes it ideal for kindling. Others, like cedar, smell wonderful. They tend to be less dense than hardwoods which accounts for their quick burning, comparatively low heat output. That said, many softwoods dry more quickly than hardwoods. Given a choice between a lot of dry fir or not completely seasoned oak, pick the fir. You'll have much less difficulty building a good fire and have virtually no creosote build up.

The best fires are a combination of woods. When purchasing wood, look for a good mix of high energy, dense hardwoods and softwoods.

(Million BTU'S)
Ease of Splitting Smoke Sparks Smell Overall Quality
Cypress   Medium Yes Few . Fair
Cedar, White 12.2 Medium Yes Some Excel Good/Excellent kindling
Cedar, Western Red   Medium Yes Many Excel Good/Excellent kindling
Cedar, Eastern Red 19.7 Easy Moderate Many Excel Good/Excellent kindling
Fir, Balsam 11.3 Easy Medium Few   Poor
Fir, Douglas 21.4 Easy Heavy Few Slight Good
Hemlock 17.9 Easy   Many Good Poor
Juniper, Rocky Mountain 21.8 Medium Medium Many Excellent Fair
Pine, Eastern White 14.3 Med/Exc Yes Mod Good Poor/Good kindling
Pine, Jack 17.1 Easy Yes Many Good Fair
Pine, Norway 17.1 Easy Yes Many Good Fair
Pine, Pitch 17.1 Easy Yes Many Good Fair
Pine, Ponderosa 15.2 Med/Exc Yes Mod Good Fair/Good kindling
Pine, Short Leaf 20.1 Easy Heavy Few   Good
Pine, Southern Yellow   Easy Heavy/Sooty Mod Good Good/Good kindling
Pine, Sugar   Easy Yes Mod Good Fair/Good kindling
Pine, Western White 14.3 Med/Exc Yes Mod Good Poor/Good kindling
Redwood   Easy Medium Few   Fair
Tamarack (Larch) 20.8 Easy Medium Many   Fair
Spruce 14.5 Easy Yes Many Good Poor/Good kindling
Spruce, Black 15.9 Easy Yes Many Good Fair

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