Maple is an iconic tree in the forests of Europe and North America. Its leaves adorn the Canadian flag, and its syrup adorns the top of our pancakes. It is one of the most valuable (and beautiful) hardwoods in North America for the wide variety of products it can produce, including beautiful veneers and stunning flooring. But the one maple product of interest here is firewood. Is maple firewood any good, and what are its qualities? In this article, we will dive into everything you need to know about cutting, splitting, drying, and of course burning maple logs! But first, here’s a bottom-line-up-front summary of how maple stacks up as a fuel source:
Is Maple a Good Firewood?
Overall, maple is an excellent choice for firewood, earning a score of 4.3/5 on our grading scale. With a high heat output, a slow burn rate, easy splitting, and fast drying, maple has all the attributes that make for a great, enjoyable, and warm burn. It’s only real downside is that it does not have quite the same heat content as other hardwoods like oak, but it makes up for with with easier drying and handling.
How Much Heat Does Maple Produce?
Maple Contains a heat content of 25.5 BTU/cord, making it one of the more energy-dense woods. However, certain species of maple, such as red maple and silver maple, will have slightly less BTUs. Even then, maple will still put out a desirable level of heat to keep you warm all through the fall and winter months!
How Fast Does Maple Burn?
Like other dense hardwoods, maple burns at a slow and steady pace, releasing its heat over a long time frame and producing an excellent bed of coals while doing so. However, certain maples like red maple and silver maple will burn slightly faster, so be aware of that when stocking firewood. That said, for practical purposes like being able to heat your home through the night without having to restock your stove, maple works nicely. As with all firewood, maple will burn best when free of rot, so for best burn rates, choose good quality, sound wood.
How Easy is Maple to Split?
Despite being a dense hardwood, maple is easy to split, having a straight grain with easily separable fibers. Like any tree, however, the more knots and twists, the harder splitting will be, as anyone who heats their home with firewood knows. Luckily, maple is a species that self-prunes, discarding old branches quickly. This quality makes maple slightly less susceptible to knots than other species.
If you want the easiest splitting possible, it is best to split maple once it is dry. Once the wood starts checking (cracking at the ends), its fibers separate more easily, making for a quick and hassle-free job. However, waiting until wood is seasoned to split it will result in longer seasoning times, so it is a trade-off. This must be accounted for when planning the logistics of your firewood preparation.
How Long Does It Take Maple Firewood to Season?
Maple requires approximately 6-12 months to season to a satisfactory level, depending on the size of the logs and the climate it is drying in. If maple is split into smaller pieces, it will dry relatively quickly, whereas larger pieces will take longer to dry. Compared to other hardwood species, maple has a low to average moisture content of 65%, which makes for a relatively swift drying process.
Will Fresh-Cut Maple Burn?
As annoying as it can be to have to wait months to burn a nice piece of maple, it is necessary. Freshly cut maple is simply too green to burn. Unlike softwoods, it is very low in resin content, which is great for reducing smoke and creosote, but the low resin content makes it almost impossible to ignite without seasoning. Even if it could burn after being freshly cut, it is best to burn all firewood after an appropriate period of seasoning.
How Hard Is Maple to Cut?
Though maple is a dense hardwood (and despite sugar maple’s more colloquial name “hard maple”), maple can be sawn through with relative ease and little frustration. However, it will dull saws faster than other, less-dense woods. With proper sharpening and maintenance, it won’t cause any problems. A well-tuned saw will rip through a cord of maple with ease!
How Much Smoke Does Maple Produce?
In terms of smoke content, maple firewood is an excellent choice. Maple produces a relatively low amount of smoke, and the smoke it does produce has a nice, almost sweet aroma. In fact, maple is a popular choice for backyard smokers, as it adds a nice flavor to beef and poultry. Like any firewood, maple will smoke more when it is wet, rotten, or oxygen deprived. To minimize the amount of smoke your fire produces, use dry, clean wood and allow your fire plenty of oxygen to create a clean burn.
Is Maple Good For Campfires?
Because of its low smoke and hot burn, maple is a great option for campfires, especially when paired with marshmallows or something else to cook! The aromatic smell of burning maple logs can impart a nice taste to any food you cook over an open campfire, and maple’s lack of snaps and pops prevents ash from being thrown up at your marshmallows. This is why I personally always bring maple on camping trips. When you are cooking on a campfire, nothing beats maple.
Is it Safe to Burn Maple Indoors?
Maple is a great and safe wood to burn indoors. With high heat, a slow burn, and low smoke production, maple is a top-tier wood for indoor woodstoves in fireplaces, especially if you have respiratory sensitivities to other, harsher species of firewood. Moreover, maple is not prone to snapping, sparking, or popping, so there is less risk of fire from displaced embers. For these reasons, maple is a top choice to burn indoors, particularly for open fireplaces.
How Fast Does Maple Firewood Grow
Hardwood grows relatively slowly, making it slightly more difficult to manage a crop of sugar maple for firewood than oak or other hardwood species. However, with proper management, thinning, and crop tree selection, the growth rate of maple trees will be enough to supply your fuel needs. Properly managed, an acre of maple will grow approximately .5 cords per acre per year. Assuming you need 5 cords of firewood per year, one would only need 10 acres of maple-dominated forest land to harvest firewood sustainably.
Is Maple Firewood Expensive?
While maple lumber is considered a premium product, firewood comes from pulpwood, which is the lowest quality of forest products. Because of this, maple firewood will typically be no more or less expensive than any other type of firewood, typically costing around $200 for a seasoned cord. That said, firewood itself can be expensive depending on whether you buy it whole tree, cut and split, or seasoned.
How to Identify Maple Firewood
The easiest way to identify maple is when it is still a tree. However, even when it is cut into pieces, there are still some tricks you can use to pick out maple pieces.
The first trick is to look at the bark. Young maple bark will be grey with white splotches. Mature maple bark will have thick plates that raise up from side to side or top to bottom. However, silver and red maple bark will be much thinner. Norway maple bark will have bark that resembles ash.
The wood is another good way to identify maple logs. Most maple species will have a grey heartwood and a very light sapwood. The heartwood in maple also tends to be more irregularly shaped than other species, but this is not always true.
Maple doesn’t have a particular category where it soars above all other species, but it has no definitive downsides, making it one of the most desirable firewood species in the forest. It is a species that is deserving of having a spot in your woodpile!