The spruce tree is a large coniferous evergreen that can reach a height of over 100 feet. Found in most parts of northern North America, the wood is popular for construction, paper pulp, and furniture. If you’d like to know if spruce is good firewood then keep reading. We’ll take a close look at how it compares to other popular varieties of wood.
Is spruce good for firewood?
Spruce firewood produces less heat than most popular alternatives, making it a better option for shoulder season firewood. Keep in mind it has poor coaling properties so you’ll need to keep feeding the fire regularly to keep it blazing.
- Low heat output and fast burning.
- Easy to split with practically any type of axe.
- Produces moderate levels of smoke and a lot of sparks.
- Emits a slight fragrance when burning.
Spruce firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
Looking at heat output will usually be your first consideration when evaluating firewood. Whether you’re sitting around a campfire or relaxing at home, you want it to provide adequate warmth.
Spruce outputs 15.5 million BTUs per cord which is at the lower end of the spectrum. That’s at a similar level to white pine and cottonwood, all soft types of wood.
The heat produced by spruce is a lot less than beech, apple, hickory, rock elm, and black locust. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t burn it if you’ve got some old logs lying around. It’s okay for kindling or burning in the shoulder season when temperatures are still mild.
Check out the following table comparing the heat output of spruce to various other common types of firewood.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
Spruce gives off moderate levels of smoke, so you may end up with a smoked-out house and sore eyes if you’ve got an open fire. If you’ve got a wood stove or fireplace with a door then smoke won’t be a big issue.
All firewood needs to be adequately seasoned before it gets tossed in the fire. Green wood is high in water content and will billow out smoke as it burns. Unseasoned wood is also much less efficient as the fire uses all its energy to evaporate water instead of giving off heat.
3. Ease of splitting
Spruce has a straight grain and is soft wood that is easy to split. If you’re unlucky, you may get stumps that are riddled with knots, making it much harder to split. For most though, splitting is a simple task.
Any axe should make quick work of splitting spruce, but to make life easier you can also invest in a splitting axe or maul.
You’ll want to split spruce when it’s green as this will speed up the drying process.
Spruce produces a lot of sparks as it burns, a lot like larch and mulberry. Inside a wood stove, you may enjoy the fireworks display, but you’ll need to take care if you’re camping or have an open hearth. Too much popping and sparks can create a fire hazard. Embers could burn the carpet or your skin.
Spruce doesn’t give off any fragrance as it burns, unlike some other popular firewood like cherry. For many, this won’t be a deal-breaker as the subtle smokiness that any fire gives off is enough.
Meat smokers and barbecue enthusiasts may want to combine spruce with another variety of firewood like apple or hickory.
Firewood that produces good quality coals will provide longer-lasting heat. Unfortunately, spruce ranks in the bottom few for coaling. That means you’ll need to keep feeding the fire frequently if you want to keep its heat intensity up.
The next day you’ll need to restart the fire from scratch as there won’t be any remaining embers glowing from the previous night.
7. Creosote build-up
Creosote is a type of black tar that slowly gets deposited on the inside of chimneys as the fire burns. Softwoods like spruce are notorious for producing higher levels of creosote. As this byproduct of the fire will clog up the chimney over time, you’ll need to clean it more regularly than if you burned hardwood like oak or hickory.
How long does it take to season spruce?
Spruce will take six months to season in hot, dry climates while 12 months is recommended for those living in cooler, damper areas. Burning firewood too soon will result in smoky fires that don’t reach anywhere near their heat potential.
The required seasoning time will be reduced if you can find old spruces that have been dead for years. Much of the moisture content will already have been removed from the wood.
Tips for seasoning spruce
There is a range of options for speeding up the seasoning of spruce. Living in a warm, dry climate is an excellent starting point. You can also accelerate the drying time by following these tips:
- Chop the firewood: splitting the logs will increase the surface area that gets exposed to wind and heat.
- Create gaps in the rows: build stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one to help circulate the air.
- Position in the right place: speed up drying time by facing the stack towards the wind and avoiding shady areas.
- Cover the wood: use a tarp to protect the stacks from rain and snow while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
- Lift up the wood: lay the spruce on some planks or pallets to create airflow beneath.
Commonly asked questions
When is the best time to chop spruce for firewood?
It is best to chop down a spruce and process it for firewood between winter and early spring. During this cold time of year, there is lower sap and moisture content, resulting in wood that seasons quicker.
Is spruce good for smoking meat?
Spruce has little or no aroma and isn’t recommended for smoking meat as your food won’t get any additional flavor. Better options for meat smoking include cherry, hickory, or apple.
How can I identify a spruce tree?
If you’re unsure whether the tree is a spruce look at the needles which are four-sided and individually attach to the branch. Another way to identify a spruce is to look at the cones. They are easy to bend and are covered in smooth thin scales.
- The botanical name for spruce is Picea; it is from the family Pinaceae.
- Some of varieties of spruce include white spruce, black spruce, Colorado spruce, Norway spruce, Serbian spruce, and Sitka spruce.
- The trees grow quickly, with some species growing as much as 60” in 12 months.
- The Wright Brothers used spruce to produce their first aircraft.
- The tree has whorled branches and their leaves shed after 4-10 years.
Spruce is a niche firewood that doesn’t get talked about a lot in firewood forums. With a heat output rating of 15.5 million BTUs, it won’t match popular wood like oak or rock elm for heat. But that shouldn’t stop you from using it. The wood is burns easily, making it great for kindling. It’s also a suitable choice for keeping the house warm in the shoulder season.
Spruce burns quickly so if you use it without another slower-burning firewood, you’ll keep busy adding more to the flames. Other not-so-good features of spruce are poor coals, smoke output and popping.
If you’re looking for firewood with a nice fragrance, then spruce won’t be an ideal choice. It has almost no smell and won’t be very good for smoking food with.