Is Alder Good Firewood?

Alder is a key part of the birch family and is used to make commercial charcoal. It is also known to be a great natural remedy for insect bites and mishaps with poison oak.

The wood itself is extremely durable and prefers moist areas such as river banks. They are often planted in areas where erosion is rampant or waterside structures that need support. That is why alder forms most of the foundation fillings in Venice.

How does this durable wood fair as firewood?

Though alder is a hardwood, is it a lot lighter and softer than other hardwoods. This means that while it produces decent heat, it will not last as long nor burn as hot as other popular hardwoods. However, it does not create a lot of smoke or creosote when burnt so it is a better choice than most softwoods.

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What Are The Varieties Of Alder

There are a few species of alder but the most popular in the US is red alder which tends to prefer the west coast but can be found across the US.

Another popular alder variety in North America is black alder, though that is more common in Europe.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Alder

Heat per cord (Million BTUs)17.1
Weight dry (lbs per cord)2475
Weight green (lbs per cord)3910
Seasoning time6-8 months
Resin / Sap contentLow
Splitting DifficultyVery easy
Coal ProductionGood
Creosote Build-upMinimal

Does its Wood Split Easily?

Alder is known to grow a very straight, almost knot-resistant grain and so is extremely easy to split.

It is hardwood but is on the softer side, so you shouldn’t have much difficulty splitting through it with an ax.

The only issue you will experience when splitting alder is that it does tend to stain, especially red alder. Make sure you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty in.

How Much Sap Does It Have?

Alder does not produce a noticeable amount of sap. Instead, it prefers to hold onto moisture. Once cut, the wood does turn red because of the sap content.

How Does The Wood Smell?              

Some people say that alder smells quite sweet, though not as sweet as sugar maple firewood as it has considerably less sap.

It is universally agreed that alder has the scent of a true campfire with the perfect hints of smoky and earthy.

Heat Output And Efficiency Of Alder

Alder does have a lower heat output than most hardwoods at 17.1 BTUs.

This can often lead to people ignoring alder as a firewood choice, but 17.1 BTUs is still hot enough to warm your living room on an autumn evening.

In Europe, alder is often used as the main firewood along with birch as it grows fast and is easy to work with and access in most parts of Europe.

Fire Characteristics Of Alder

If you are looking to create an aesthetical fire then alder wood is a great choice. It burns the perfect flame color and moves as though it were animated.

However, as far as heating capabilities go, alder is lacking.

Its BTU is 17.1 is still a good heat output but the softness and light density of alder wood means that the heat will not last long. The fire will burn hot and bright but for a short while, quickly burning through the wood.

Because of the soft nature of alder wood, it makes a great kindling choice as well as great wood for outdoor campfires.

Furthermore, if you season alder properly, you will not experience any excessive smoke when burning it, which is a huge plus.

Is It Okay To Burn Alder In A Fireplace?

If you are looking for wood to burn in the warmer months, then alder will be good firewood.

Its quick but hot burn will create enough heat to keep your room at a comfortable temperature while creating little smoke.

There is the issue of sparking, though. Alder tends to carry a lot of oils and moisture so it needs to be seasoned before burning. Even then, it will spark occasionally.

This won’t cause an issue if you use a fireplace screen but it is something to be wary of as you maintain the fire.

How Expensive Is Alder Firewood?

Because alder is so common in the US, it does tend to be cheaper than other hardwoods. But because it is less desirable firewood, you might have a difficult time finding a good supplier.

According to, a cord of split alder firewood will set you back 425USD

How Long To Season Alder

The thin bark of alder wood will be the first thing to dry, but don’t let that deceive you.

Alder will need 6 – 8 months to fully season. You will want to wait as long as possible to burn alder as any excess moisture will make it poor firewood.

However, alder is quick to rot, seeing’s as it is so prone to moisture. Make sure to properly stack and store alder firewood to prevent rotting.

Pros And Cons of Alder Wood


  • Easy to process
  • Moderate heat
  • Good coaling
  • Very pleasant smell
  • Little sap


  • Burns up quickly
  • Lots of ash production
  • Quick to rot
  • Tends to spark

How Does Alder Compare To Other Firewood?

Alder is often compared to birch firewood in the kind of fire that it creates. However, birch does burn considerably hotter than alder with most varieties reaching 23.2 BTUs.

Though it has a softer wood than most other hardwoods, alder will burn better than pine or cedar and will create far less smoke due to its low sap contents.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Alder Good For Smoking?

Alder’s sweet hints make it a good smoking wood, most often paired with salmon. Though it can be used to smoke red meats too.

Is Alder Sustainable?

Due to its rapid growth and short lifespan of 150 years, alder is more sustainable than other hardwoods. But it does play a key part in the environment it grows in so only chop down alder if you know it won’t have a negative effect on its environment.

Is Alder A Hard Or Softwood?

Though it is a light density, alder is a hardwood.


Alder is the ideal choice of firewood for the cooler months of the year due to its lower heat output than other hardwoods. Be aware that it does tend to spark, though this will be the only real problem you encounter.

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