Basswood is a hardwood tree, native to eastern North America. As a deciduous tree, it sheds its leaves annually and can grow up to 100 feet tall. The wood from basswood is soft with a fine grain, like that of cottonwood.

Are you wondering if you should use basswood in the fire? With a low BTU factor, some might say no. We’re about to take a close look at whether or not it’s worth burning in your next fire.

Is basswood good for firewood?

If you have basswood firewood readily available, then it is fine for use in fires. It burns hot and fast, splits easily, and doesn’t produce any sparks or strong smells. However, because of its low BTU rating, it’s not the best wood to use if you want a long-lasting, hot fire. For that, you’re better off using other hardwoods like oak or maple.

  • It’s low BTU (13.8) which is lower than most other firewood types.
  • Basswood is fantastic for splitting but use it in the first year or two as it will start to become punky.
  • Basswood is light and burns hot and quick. Use it for stoking up a smoldering fire and in campfires.
  • It doesn’t produce a lot of sparks and is therefore good for indoor fires
  • Basswood has little to no scent when burned
An infographic about basswood or linden firewood statistics

Basswood firewood burn qualities

Let’s have a closer look at basswood’s individual qualities to see how it compares.

1. Heat output

Firewood is a great way to stay warm during the winter months but not all firewood is created equal. If you want your house or campfire to provide enough heat for practical use, then look out for those with high BTU ratings.

Basswood rates low in this department so it wouldn’t be of use for a long, persistent fire. Though not as popular, burning during the cooler seasons (spring or fall) makes for an excellent choice. It’s often thought of as “shoulder wood” and should be mixed with higher quality material to avoid quick incineration.

Check out the table below which compares the heat output of basswood to a range of other firewood types.

Wood varietyHeat per Cord (Million BTUS)
Eastern red cedar13.0
Basswood13.8
Horse chestnut13.8
Alder17.5
Juniper21.8
Mulberry25.8
Bur oak26.2
Osage orange32.9

2. Smoke

Basswood can give off a good deal of smoke which you don’t want if your eyes are easily irritated by smoke. If you don’t supplement it with higher quality wood like oak, a smoky room may result.

Keep in mind you’ll need to split basswood early to allow it to completely dry out to control any persistent smoke.

3. Ease of splitting

This is one of the main advantages of basswood. It’s lightweight, dry, and easy to split with a budget axe. If you’re new to firewood or don’t have access to a log splitter, basswood is a good option for kindling. You won’t have trouble chopping small pieces that are essential for starting fires.

4. Sparks

Basswood produces low amounts of sparking and popping, which makes for a more relaxing fire. No heart-wrenching min explosions to worry about as you’re dozing off in front of the television.  

Be sure to keep an eye on the fire in case any stray embers get out of control. No one wants a burn on their carpet or, worse yet, to start a forest fire.

5. Aroma

Basswood doesn’t produce much of an odor as it burns. For some, this will be fine, but those wanting a pleasant-smelling wood should consider hickory if it’s available.

6. Coaling

Firewood that makes good coals as it burns is highly desirable. It means the fire will keep giving off heat for longer and you won’t need to add new logs as often.

Basswood isn’t great for coaling, so we suggest using it with a better-quality wood like maple or beech. That is unless you’re happy to keep feeding the fire through the night (and sometimes the day too).

7 Creosote build-up

Creosote is a black, tarry substance that can be dangerous at high levels and can block the chimney if left long enough. It’s important to be vigilant about chimney cleaning. Thankfully basswood doesn’t produce a lot of creosote, so your job will be made easier.

Keep in mind proper seasoning and splitting of creosote will also help keep creosote to a minimum.

A basswood tree on a white background
Basswood trees are popular with honey bees.

How long does it take to season basswood?

As with all firewood, basswood must be properly seasoned before burning. It needs to be cut and split at least six months in advance so that the wood has time to dry out completely.  If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a smoky, inefficient fire.

5 tips for seasoning oak:

  1. Cut the wood in late spring or early summer so that it has plenty of time to dry out before winter.
  2. Split the logs into smaller pieces so that they’ll lose moisture more quickly.
  3. Store the wood in a dry, sheltered place where it won’t get wet.
  4. Covering it with a tarp will help to keep the rain off.
  5. Make sure that the wood is completely dry before burning, as wet wood will create more smoke and creosote.

Commonly Asked Questions

How do I identify basswood trees?

The leaves of the Basswood tree are asymmetrical and heart-shaped with a serrated edge. They are arranged alternately along the branches and have a dark green color.

  • The tree’s bark is smooth and dark gray.
  • The flowers are small, yellow, and grow in clusters.
  • The fruit is a brownish drupe that matures in late summer.

Is basswood hardwood or softwood?

Basswood is a softwood, meaning that it grows rapidly and has a thin bark. It is also less dense than most hardwoods, making it easy to split with even the most basic tools. The flipside to this is it makes the wood less durable and more prone to insect infestation and decay.

What does basswood look like once seasoned?

Basswood that has been properly seasoned will be a light brown color and will feel dry to the touch.

Fast facts

  • Basswood is a hardwood and has the botanical name Tilia americana from the family Malvaceae.
  • It blooms generous yellow flowers in summer that are very attractive to the honey bee.
  • The tree is also known as American linden, beechnut.
  • Even though it’s classified as a hardwood, basswood is very easy to split by hand with an axe. Many people use this type of wood for carving due to its pliability.
Flowers from a linden or basswood tree
Pollinators love the linden tree’s blooms.

Summing Up

Basswood is a good choice for firewood if you’re looking for something easy to split with a nice fragrance and easy to get started in the fire. When it comes to heat output, basswood is much lower than popular firewood varieties.

Overall, basswood is a decent option for firewood, but it’s definitely not the best. If you have other options available, you may want to consider those first. If you can get it for free, it’s worth the effort to split it.

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