Maple and oak are popular firewood options, but which is best for your home? Each has its pros and cons, which we’ll look at in this comparison guide.
If you don’t have time to read, skip down to the summary table for fast answers. Click the play button below if you’d prefer to listen to the main points.
Is maple or oak the best firewood?
Oak and maple are dense hardwoods that burn clean, providing good heat and excellent coals. While oak typically provides better heat output than maple, it takes longer to season and doesn’t give off a pleasant fragrance as it burns. Maple makes ideal shoulder season wood in climates where winters get bitterly cold.
Oak provides more heat than maple as it burns, although some species aren’t miles apart. Either is a good option for keeping a home warm. If sugar maple is on offer, this is one of the best varieties of maple for heat.
- Red maple outputs 18.7 million BTUs per cord, while silver maple offers 18.0.
- The bigleaf maple is a higher 22.7, and the sugar maple rates at 24.0 thanks to its density.
- Red oak produces 24.6 million BTUs per cord, and white oak offers 29.1.
Logs of oak and maple burn clean, giving off very little smoke. You don’t have to worry about sore eyes, whether sitting at home or huddling around a campfire. One exception is the sugar maple, known to get a bit smoky.
Seasoning firewood properly before burning it is essential. If the wood’s moisture content is higher than 20%, it’ll billow out smoke and offer less heat.
Hardwoods like maple or oak can be back-breaking work to split, while others are easy. A big part of this variance comes down to which species you’re working with.
Maple varies in difficulty depending on the species. Softer varieties like red and silver are easy to split. Always process the wood while green; once it dries out, the wood fibers harden and become less yielding. If you’re struggling to split the wood, look for fine hairline cracks, which are the weak spot of maple.
Oak is generally a little easier to split than maple. This is especially the case for red oak, which has straight grains that easily break apart. White oak isn’t always easy and will need a powerful maul or splitting axe.
Need help splitting wood? Check out our firewood splitting tips to up your game.
Oak takes longer to season than maple, so factor this in when deciding which firewood to use. White oak contains a lot of water, which takes much longer to season. Allow two to three years for best results. Red oak will only need 18 months to dry out.
Softer maples like silver and red will only need 12 months to season. Denser sugar maple will benefit from 2 years of seasoning.
Quick tip: Learn some creative ways to stack firewood for improved airflow that speeds up the seasoning process.
Maple and oak burn with very few sparks or pops. You won’t get a fireworks display like many softwoods that contain a lot of sap and resin.
Both types of wood are suitable for burning outdoors. Campfires will fire off fewer embers, so the chances of a forest fire are much less. There’s also less opportunity at home to get carpet and rug burns from popping wood.
Oak and maple emit a pleasant mild fragrance while burning. They won’t give off any pungent smell. People that want heat without too much accompanying smell will love either type of firewood.
Anyone who enjoys smoking meat or barbecuing will find maple and oak good options. They don’t burn too fast, and there’s minimal creosote. For flavor, most home chefs prefer maple firewood. It is ideal for cooking pork, poultry, and seafood. Sugar maple is delicious for smoking turkey.
Discover more top-rated cooking firewood here.
Oak and maple are dense hardwoods that produce excellent coals. A large log will burn in a wood stove for much of the night. There’s less need to add more fuel to the fire frequently.
Creosote is a flammable black sludge deposited inside chimneys as the fire burns. Wood that gives off a lot means regular cleaning is needed. Leaving it to build up is dangerous and could result in a house fire.
Maple and oak both produce minimal creosote. To get a clean-burning flame, they must be sufficiently seasoned before use.
Seven species of maple are critically endangered, and fourteen are classified as endangered. You can get the list of endangered maples here.
Some oak species are endangered, but the United States has sizeable white and red oak populations.
Comparison Summary Table
|Varies by species
|Varies by species
|Red and white oak are not endangered
|Many species are critically endangered
Oak and maple are two of the best types of firewood. They burn hot and clean with coals that give off heat for longer than most alternatives.
If you must choose only one, we recommend oak as it produces better heat. But we’d happily use either in our woodstove.
If the firewood is green, you’ll need to consider seasoning time. Oak takes at least two years which may be too long for some. Using it too early will result in a smoky fire that uses its energy to burn off the water content rather than give out heat.