Is Elm Good Firewood? – What you need to know

Elm is a popular type of firewood that people often use to heat their homes during the winter months. However, there is a lot of debate about whether Elm is a good firewood or not. Some people swear by it, claiming that it burns hot and produces very little smoke. Others say that it is a terrible firewood that is difficult to split and produces a lot of smoke.

To answer the question is Elm good firewood we will need to consider a few key factors. One of the most important factors is the heat output of the wood and how easy it is to split.

In this article, we will take a look at the pros and cons of using Elm, providing valuable insights into its characteristics and effectiveness as a heating source to answer the question is Elm good firewood?

Key Takeaways

  • Elm firewood offers a lower heat output compared to other hardwoods
  • Splitting and seasoning elm can be challenging
  • Elm produces a moderate amount of smoke when burned

Overview of Elm as Firewood

Elm is a type of hardwood tree commonly found in North America and Europe. It has been used as firewood for centuries, offering unique qualities that distinguish it from other types of firewood. While some people prefer elm for specific situations, others may not find it as desirable due to its specific characteristics.

The first consideration when assessing elm as firewood is its heating capacity. Elm firewood generally has a medium to high heating value, with the most common species – American Elm or White Elm – producing the best coals. Red Elm, which grows quickly and is considered invasive in some areas, has the highest BTU rating among elm species. This makes it a decent choice for heating purposes, especially in colder climates.

Elm Good Firewood

However, Elm firewood is known to be somewhat difficult to burn. Compared to other wood types, it has a tighter grain, making it challenging to catch fire and maintain optimal burning conditions. Additionally, elm firewood tends to have a higher moisture content due to its closed-grain structure. Properly seasoning the wood, by allowing it to dry for an extended period, becomes essential for an improved burning experience.

Another factor to consider when asking, is Elm good firewood, is the ease of splitting Elm firewood. Red Elm is generally the easiest species to split, while the other elm varieties may require more effort. A well-sharpened axe or hydraulic log splitter is recommended to make the task more manageable.

Heat Output and BTUs

When discussing if Elm is a good firewood, a crucial factor to consider is the heat output emitted by burning. BTUs (British Thermal Units) provide a way to measure this heat output, making them the key indicator when choosing suitable firewood. Comparing elm to other popular woods, such as hickory, cherry, beech, and maple, will give a better understanding of its overall performance.

Elm firewood is known for its low heat output, with around 20 million BTUs per cord of seasoned wood. This BTU rating does not match up to that of dense hardwoods like hickory and oak, which offer significantly higher heat outputs. Hickory, for example, is renowned for its excellent BTU rating, providing long-lasting, hot, and powerful heat sources. Cherry, beech, and maple also tend to outperform elm in terms of BTU ratings, making them preferable for many users.

When it comes to heat output, here’s a summary of the average BTUs per cord for the discussed species:

  • Hickory: 24-28 million BTUs
  • Cherry: 20 million BTUs
  • Beech: 23-24 million BTUs
  • Maple: 18-22 million BTUs
  • Elm: 20 million BTUs

Answering the question is Elm good firewood in terms of heat output and the ability to provide warmth, then Elm is not the top choice. Although it is commonly used, it falls short in comparison to other popular firewood species such as Hickory, Cherry, Beech, and Maple.

Splitting and Seasoning Elm

Splitting Elm firewood can be quite challenging due to its interlocking grain and surprising strength. This characteristic makes the wood difficult to split, even with a sharp axe or a maul. For those who are not experienced in splitting wood, elm can be particularly frustrating. However, with determination, it is still possible to split elm firewood by hand.

Another option to make the splitting process more manageable is to use a hydraulic wood splitter. This machine can save time and effort by applying consistent pressure to split the wood more efficiently. In any case, patience and persistence are essential when working with elm firewood.

Once the elm wood is split, it needs to undergo the seasoning process. Seasoning refers to the process of allowing the moisture content in the firewood to naturally decrease over time. Elm typically takes 12-24 months to become fully seasoned and ready to burn efficiently.

It is essential to store the split wood in a dry, well-ventilated area during this time to avoid any moisture-related issues such as mold or rot. Stacking the wood off the ground and under a cover, while allowing airflow through the stack, can aid in speeding up the seasoning process.

  1. Stack the split logs in a location with ample sunlight and airflow. Arrange the logs in a way that allows air to circulate between them.
  2. Cover the top of the stack to protect it from rain and snow. Ensure that the sides of the pile remain open to allow air to circulate freely.
  3. Monitor the seasoning process by checking the wood’s moisture content regularly. Elm generally takes longer to season compared to other firewoods, such as oak or maple. It may take between six months and a year for elm to reach its optimal moisture level.
  4. Optimal moisture level for seasoned elm is below 20% moisture content. Using a moisture meter can help accurately measure the wood’s moisture level.

Burning Quality and Smoke

Elm firewood is known to produce a moderate level of smoke when burned. While the amount of smoke is not exceptionally high, it can still be an issue for people with smoke sensitivities or in areas where air quality is a concern. To reduce smoke production, ensure the wood is properly seasoned and well-dried before burning it.

As for the ash produced by elm wood, it is relatively low in volume compared to other firewood types. This makes cleanup a little easier. However, it is still crucial to regularly clean your fireplace or stove of accumulated ash to prevent buildup and maintain optimal burning efficiency.

Burning elm wood can also lead to the formation of soot on the walls of the fireplace or stove and the chimney. This can be mitigated by ensuring proper airflow in the burning area and keeping the fire temperature high. Regular cleaning of the stove and chimney is recommended to prevent excessive soot buildup, which can become a fire hazard.

Finally, when it comes to sparks and coals produced by burning elm wood, it is essential to maintain proper fire safety precautions. Elm can produce hot coals, which are perfect for maintaining long-lasting, steady heat in your fireplace or stove. However, the presence of sparks could potentially lead to accidents. Using fireplace screens and keeping a safe distance from the fire while it is burning can help to minimize any risks associated with sparks from the burning elm wood.

Elm Firewood Alternatives

When looking for alternatives to elm firewood, there are several options to consider that might be better suited for your needs. These alternatives vary in their heat output, burning characteristics, and ease of splitting.

Oak is a popular choice for firewood because of its high heat output and slow-burning properties. It is also relatively easy to split, making it an ideal choice for those who require reliable and efficient firewood.

Hickory is another strong option, known for its high energy content and long-lasting burn time. It produces a lot of heat and is a favorite among firewood users who appreciate its pleasant aroma when burned.

Birch is a great choice for firewood due to its relatively high heat output and clean burning properties. It is easy to split and lights quickly, which can come in handy when you need a fire started fast.

Maple is another excellent alternative, as it has a high heat output and is very dense. This means it burns hot and lasts for a long time, similar to oak and hickory.

While not as popular as oak or hickory, cedar is worth considering for its balance of heat output and ease of use. Cedar lights easily, burns hot, and releases a pleasant aroma when burned, making it an appealing choice for some.

Pine is a softer wood, and while it may not have the highest heat output or burn as long as some of the other options listed, it does light quickly and can be a good choice for kindling or supplementing your firewood supply.

Aspen can also be used as firewood, but its heat output is lower compared to some of the other options. However, it is still a decent choice for those who are looking for a more readily available and easy-to-split firewood option.


In summary, while elm firewood has a lower heat output and BTU rating compared to other hardwoods such as hickory, cherry, beech, and maple, it can still be used effectively as firewood under certain circumstances. It is important to consider factors like heat output, splitting difficulty, and smoke production when choosing firewood for your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does elm firewood have a distinct smell?

Yes, elm firewood has a distinct, somewhat intense, and stinky smell when burned. This may not be appealing to everyone, but it is a characteristic of this type of wood.

How long should elm firewood be seasoned?

Elm firewood should be seasoned for at least 12 months before it is used for burning. This long seasoning process allows the moisture content to decrease, making the wood burn more effectively and efficiently.

How to identify elm firewood?

To identify elm firewood, look for the unique features of the wood such as its tight grain and fibrous texture. Elm may also have an interlocking grain pattern and a mix of dark and light coloration in the wood. It’s essential to inspect the wood for signs of rot or insect damage, which should be avoided.

What is the BTU of elm firewood?

Elm firewood has a relatively low heat output compared to other hardwoods. American elm produces 20 million BTUs per cord of seasoned wood, red elm produces 21.6 million BTUs, and Siberian elm produces 20.9 million BTUs. On average, elm firewood produces around 20 million BTUs per cord.

How does red elm firewood compare to other types?

Red elm firewood has a slightly higher BTU output compared to American and Siberian elm, at 21.6 million BTUs per cord of seasoned wood. However, this is still lower than dense hardwoods like oak and hickory. Its performance as firewood may also be influenced by factors such as seasoning duration, storage conditions, and proper burning practices.

Is Siberian elm suitable as firewood?

Siberian elm is suitable as firewood, producing 20.9 million BTUs per cord of seasoned wood. However, it can be challenging to split due to its fibrous texture, and it produces a moderate level of smoke compared to other hardwoods. In comparison to other elm varieties, it has a slightly higher heat output than American elm, but still lower than red elm.

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