Maple Vs. Oak Firewood: Which Is Best?

It’s a clash of titans! Maple vs. oak: Which is the best firewood? Oak burns hotter than maple, but oak’s longer drying time probably makes maple more desirable. Let’s look into the qualities of each type of wood so you can make the best decision on what species of wood you would like to burn.

Does Oak or Maple Burn Hotter?

Both oak and maple firewood provide astounding heat outputs, but oak has a slight edge on maple. A cord of oak contains 29.1 million BTUs per cord, whereas maple only contains 25.5. That said, there are slight differences in the specific species. Red oak, for example, contains only 24.6 million BTUs per cord, which loses to maple, albeit barely. In general, however, oak species are going to contain more heat than maple. Luckily, both oak and maple are slow-burning species, so they are about equal on the pace of the burn. Likewise, they both burn well with a low smoke content.

Which Is Easier to Split?

Both Oak and Maple split fairly easily, however, maple splits easier than oak, so the advantage here is given to maple. This is due both to maples lower density and its ability to self prune. Oak, especially if it is open-grown, will have more knots, which can be incredibly difficult to split.

Interestingly, oak and maple firewood is best split at different times. Maple is easier to split after is has dried or “seasoned” for around 6 months. Oak, on the other hand, is best split when it is still green. When oak dries out, its fibers seemingly bind together more, making splitting a difficult task.

Maple splits easier than oak firewood.

Which Dries Faster?

When it comes to whether oak or maple firewood dries faster, maple has the clear and substantial advantage. Maple, like most species, can be seasoned to a desirable moisture content in the span of about 6 months. Oak requires more time–up to two years! Especially with longer drying times, the exact amount of time needed will depend largely on climate, but no matter where you live, maple is going to dry much faster than oak. This problem can be overcome by splitting oak into smaller pieces, which will be able to dry substantially faster, but then of course you add a lot of work for yourself. Given that oak is already tougher to split, that’s not a fun combination. This is by far the biggest drawback to burning oak.

Which Grows Faster?

For those growing their own firewood, growth rates can be an important factor as well. Firewood that grows faster has the obvious benefit of creating a more sustainable fuel supply. When it comes to growth, oak has the clear advantage. Not only is its yearly growth rate superior, but oak can regenerate through sprouting at its stump and roots, meaning that its stump and roots send up new shoots that will form new oak trees! The can be incredibly advantageous for any landowner looking to grow and regenerate oak ad infinitum.

Oak grows faster than maple.

Whether You Should Burn Oak or Maple Firewood Depends on Your Priorities

Both oak and maple make terrific firewood, but both come with notable pros and cons. For those looking to maximize their heat output per cord or for those who grow and harvest their own firewood, oak is an excellent choice. However, if the substantially longer drying time is intolerable (as it is for many), maple is a great substitute. The choice is yours!

Zachary Lowry

A forester from northern Maine, I spent my early career working for large timberland owners, managing forest land and investments in the form of managing timber harvest operations as well as planning and managing precommercial thinning, planting, and herbicide application programs. These days I work on my own land and help timberland owners large and small manage theirs.

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