Fire is an integral part of the world we live in for a number of reasons but to get your fire burning right, you need to consider the different types of wood. If you are looking to create the perfect fire, then you might want to look at hardwood vs softwood. In this article, we will help you to make the right decision when it comes to firewood.

Hardwood Versus Softwood – Identifying Them

You might have thought that all wood is the same, but this is not the case. Hardwood and softwood are both different types of wood but how can you tell the difference between them?

Hardwood - What is it?

Hardwood is a flowering plant which means that it produces flowers. All seeds are found within the fruit and they also have a seasonal life cycle. As a result, they lose leaves during autumn and then remain dormant through the winter. Then, when spring arrives, they will grow new leaves.

They are trees that grow relatively slowly but the wood they produce is considered dense.  It includes the likes of birch, oak and ash as well as maple and mahogany. When considering hardwood vs softwood for fires, it always helps to know how the wood burns. Due to how dense hardwood is, it means that it can burn for longer. Additionally, it also generates more heat when compared with softwood.

Hardwood can keep your fireplace burning and your home warm

Hardwood can keep your fireplace burning and your home warm

Softwood – What is it?

Now we are exploring hardwood versus softwood, it can help to understand what softwood is. Softwood comes from trees that have unencased seeds, also known as gymnosperm trees. Some of the most common types of softwood trees include the likes of trees that produce cones and conifers. Unlike hardwood, the wood that these trees produce is not as dense.

Softwood trees grow at a faster rate than hardwood trees. While this wood is also used in manufacturing the likes of paper, it can also be used for firewood. If you are wondering what type of softwoods can be burned then it includes the likes of fir, spruce, and pine.

Hardwood – When Should You Use It?

Hardwood vs softwood is open for debate but when it comes to using hardwood for fires, it should be your go-to choice most of the time. This is down to the fact that softwood is not suitable in the same way as hardwood. So, let’s look at where hardwood can be used and why it is a better option.

Indoor Fireplaces and Wood Burning Furnaces

When using an indoor fireplace, you need to create a fire that generates heat and burns for a long period. This is where hardwood stands out in the hardwood versus softwood debate. Even if you want the aesthetics of a fire and not the heat, then softwood still won’t be the right option. This is because it can generate a lot of smoke and leave a resin that can build up in your chimney.

As for a furnace, as far as hardwood versus softwood goes, softwood isn’t an efficient option. A furnace will be difficult to keep burning for a long period if you use softwood, which is why hardwood is a perfect choice.

Different wood can be used for different types of fires, depending on your needs

Different wood can be used for different types of fires, depending on your needs

Cooking, Campfires and Wood-Fired Hot Tubs and Saunas

You might assume that firewood is only used for indoor fires but that is not the case. It is also used for cooking and heating other types of equipment. This is the exact reason why understanding the differences between hardwood and softwood can help you.

If you are looking to set up a campfire, softwoods are not a good option. It smokes a lot and is not ideal for cooking with. Your food will taste smokey and it won’t look good either. As for generating heat to keep your camp warm, hardwood is the ideal choice. It burns for longer and that means you won’t have to keep replacing wood through the night. We, therefore, recommend hardwoods for cooking.

For wood stoves, you need to take the same approach as a campfire or an indoor fireplace. Your stove might direct smoke away from your home, but the resin will still cause problems.

Hardwood is also ideal for use in a pizza oven

Hardwood is also ideal for use in a pizza oven

Furthermore, it won’t burn for long enough which means that it is not an efficient way of heating the home.

A sauna or hot tub is all about relaxation, so the last thing you want is a stench of smoke. It is recommended that when it comes to hardwood vs softwood, you opt for hardwood to heat your sauna or hot tub. You can get the fire started using softwood as it makes excellent kindling, but hardwood will give you heat that lasts longer. For your hot tub, if you want to heat the water quickly, you can choose to use a mixture of softwood and hardwood.

Softwood – When Should You Use It?

If the hardwood versus softwood debate is still unclear, then it is time to find out where softwood can be used. In fact, softwoods are generally ok for certain outdoor fires and nothing more.

Outdoor Fires

For an outdoor fire that is going to be used for a short period, then softwood is generally ok to use. If you want to toast marshmallows or keep yourself warm while watching the sunset on the beach, then it is fine. It is a great option for helping to get your fire started. It contains the right amount of sap content which is why it’s great for starting fires.

Garden Firepits

Garden firepits are in fashion and in the UK, they are generally used for decoration purposes. So, during the summer, you might want to enjoy a BBQ or a few drinks with friends around a fire. This is where softwoods such as cedar can be used as they will offer a small amount of warmth but a pleasant scent.


If it is a campfire in the wild that you need then softwood will suffice. The majority of hardwood vs softwood debates put hardwood on top, but softwood does have its uses. It’s ok to use for a campfire ring but not for cooking. However, you will need to keep an eye out for embers that can float away from the fire. These pose a fire risk, so you should ensure that clothing and tents are kept away.

You Can Burn All Wood, But It All Burns Differently

As you might have guessed, hardwood versus softwood brings up several differences between the two. There are some woods that burn for longer, generate more heat and are cleaner than others. Other woods will have resins and sap that cause embers while some can make for good coals, which again, helps it to last longer.

In general, hardwoods should be your choice when it comes to stoves and fireplaces. When we look at hardwood versus softwood, hardwood can generate as much as 50% more heat. If this is what you require, then you might want to consider oak and maple among others.

Of course, softwood is not considered redundant. As mentioned, it does make for excellent kindling, but it does burn quickly although it can do a job if you want quick heat too. Therefore, if you are finding yourself slightly stuck when it comes to hardwood vs softwood, understanding the differences can help you to make an informed decision.

Hardwood will allow you to cook for longer over a campfire

Hardwood will allow you to cook for longer over a campfire

Hardwood vs Softwood – The Verdict

If you are looking for firewood for the likes of stoves, fireplaces, or saunas then the hardwood versus softwood debate is clear – hardwood is the right option. The moisture content is lower and that enables hardwood to burn longer, making it clear which is the right option as far as hardwood versus softwood goes. Hardwood is also a cleaner form of fuel because of its density which means that it lasts longer and is more economical.

Cost is always a factor when it comes to hardwood vs softwood. In general, hardwood can cost more and there are two main reasons for this. Hardwood trees take more time to mature with some trees taking as long as 30 years, although a pine sapling can mature in eight years. The other reason is that when we compare hardwood versus softwood, it can generate the same heat if we look at it pound for pound. However, you need double the amount of softwood as a result of its lack of density and fast burning time.

While softwoods season at a quicker rate than hardwoods, they are great for kindling, so they can be used alongside hardwoods to get your fire started. Despite all of this, there is no denying that hardwood vs softwood is clear-cut. If you want a fire that burns longer, generates more heat and is more efficient, hardwood is a perfect choice.

Contacting Cozilogs

If you have any questions about the advantages of hardwood versus softwood as firewood, please contact us. Also, get in touch to learn more about Cozilogs' hardwood offerings and which might be the best of our products to meet your requirements.

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Image Credits: Pixabay, Taryn Elliot, Maria Ilaria Piras,  Vinicius Benedit and Oscar Helgstrand