It’s hard to watch a species of tree get wiped out by pests, especially one as majestic as the ash. Throughout the state of New Jersey and other parts of the U.S., the emerald ash borer is rapidly wiping out millions of ash trees.

Whether you’ve got a distressed tree or it’s just getting old, you may decide to lop it down. If you’re wondering whether ash firewood compares to other popular varieties then keep reading. This guide will look at whether ash is worthy of your fire.

Is ash good for firewood?

Ash is worthy firewood that burns clean, produces good coals, and has few sparks. White ash offers relatively high heat output but is often difficult to split, while the green ash variety offers less heat, but is easy to split.  

  • White ash firewood provides more heat than green ash.
  • Ash doesn’t have much fragrance.
  • It is a good type of wood if you want low smoke and sparks.
  • Seasoned green ash weighs a lot less than white ash.
An infographic about ash firewood

Ash firewood burn qualities

1. Heat output

The heat output offered by ash firewood varies depending on the variety. You’ll get 20.0 million BTUs of heat per cord out of seasoned green ash. Compared to other firewood this is average, comparable to birch and cherry. But it’s not as good as apple, oak, or mulberry.

White ash provides 24.2 million BTUs which is approaching the top firewood varieties like bur oak at 26.2 and beech at 27.5.

If you use one of the common types of ash for firewood, you’ll stay warm, whether you’re sitting around a campfire or relaxing at home. Check out the following table comparing the heat output of ash to various other common types of firewood.  

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Green ash20.0
White ash24.2
Bur oak26.2

2. Smoke

A smoky fire that stings your eyes isn’t ideal. Thankfully, ash is a hardwood, so it emits low levels of smoke. You can sit back and enjoy the warmth without any discomfort. Ash certainly burns cleaner than softwood like pine or hardwoods like sycamore.

Like any firewood, it’s important to season ash before tossing it into the fire. Green wood will contain a lot of moisture causing plumes of smoke. The fire will also use a lot of energy to evaporate the water, meaning you won’t get as much heat.    

3. Ease of splitting

Splitting ash wood will vary in difficulty depending on the species. Green ash is considered one of the easiest types of wood to split. You’ll make easy work of chopping a cord, even with a hatchet. White ash takes more power to split, so you’ll want a powerful splitting axe or maul to make life easier.

4. Sparks

Sparking and popping wood has the potential to burn a house down or start a forest fire. Luckily, ash won’t cause a fire hazard as it doesn’t pop or spark much. This hardwood burns clean, but you’ll need to ensure the wood is sufficiently seasoned. This process will result in a denser wood with less water and sap.

5. Aroma

Ash has a mild fragrance that is pleasant, but not overwhelming. It won’t make the ideal wood for smoking meat and barbecuing, but it’s fine for your wood heater. Ash is also perfect for the campfire, offering plenty of heat without any unwanted smell. 

6. Coaling

If firewood coals well, then the fire will keep producing heat for longer. Ash does okay for its coaling, outperforming wood like pine, willow, and spruce. It’ll keep producing heat through the night, but won’t be as effective as beech, cherry, maple, or American elm.

7. Creosote build-up

Ash firewood burns clean and doesn’t produce a lot of creosote. This is a feature of most seasoned hardwoods that are often low in sap, resin, and moisture. 

Creosote isn’t usually a big issue for chimneys after 6 months. But over time, it can build up to levels that start blocking the chimney. Too much creosote is also a health risk so it’s in your interest to keep it to a minimum.

Tips for seasoning Ash

Seasoned wood has been thoroughly dried, in most cases for over a year. Burning Ash that hasn’t been seasoned is not a good idea unless you are out of options. The smoke will be overwhelming, and you’ll get much lower BTU output as the fire needs to evaporate the excess water.

There are ways to speed up the seasoning process, like living in a hot, dry climate. If you don’t have weather on your side, then follow these tips to speed up the seasoning of ash wood.

  • Cover the wood: use a tarp to protect the stacks from rain and snow while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
  • Split the firewood: by splitting the logs, you increase the surface area that gets exposed to sunshine and wind.
  • Stack piles in the right place: accelerate drying time by facing the exposed wood towards the wind and avoiding shady areas.
  • Space out the rows: create a series of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one to assist with air circulation.
  • Raise the wood: lay the wood on some planks or pallets to allow airflow under the wood.

Commonly asked questions

Green vs white ash – which firewood is best?

Green and white ash trees are both excellent types of firewood. The white variety produces more heat than green, but it is often more difficult to split. You’ll also find that white ash is heavier than green once dried.

Ash vs oak – which is best?

Most types of oak will burn hotter in the fireplace than ash with the added benefit of superior coaling. We suggest using ash to start the fire as it is easier to get started burning, then toss in a large oak log that’ll burn at a slower rate. You may also like to check out our full oak vs. ash firewood comparison guide.

How hard is it to split ash?

The green species of ash firewood is easy to split if you process it before seasoning. White ash will take extra work splitting, but it’s not as difficult as some catalpa and beech.

How do I identify an ash tree?

You’ll know it’s an ash tree if it has compound leaves that have 5-9 leaflets growing directly opposite each other. If the tree is mature, then also check the bark for diamond-shaped ridges.  

How long do I season ash?

To get the best heat from your firewood, it’s best to season ash for 6-18 months. The wood’s water content should reduce to 20% or less, which you can test using a moisture meter.

Fast facts about ash trees

  • The botanical name for the ash tree is the Fraxinus, part of the family Oleaceae.
  • There are 45-65 species of ash that are mostly medium to large deciduous trees.
  • The Emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle that has killed millions of trees throughout the United States.

Summing up

With ash trees dying from disease all over the country, you may have one that’s been felled on your property. It is a reasonable choice for firewood that can be used in home fires, BBQ pits, and campfires.

While you won’t get as much heat from ash as you do beech, hickory, or oak, it still has its place in fires. The hardwood burns clean and produces minimal smoke without any unwanted smells.

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