Aspen is the name given for a collective species of poplar trees and so is part of the poplar tree family. It is often mistaken for a birch due to its similar bark and leaves. The tree itself prefers moist soils, using the earth’s water to grow up to 100 ft tall.
Aspen may have a very light density but is still a hardwood. It generates enough heat (16.5 BTUs) to produce a decent fire. However, it is a quick-burning wood so that fire will only last for a few hours at most. Considering its decent coals and minimal smoke production, aspen is fair firewood to use.
What Are The Varieties Of Aspen
Though aspen refers to several trees, there are only 2 that are widely available in the US: quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen.
Quaking (or trembling) aspen is more likely to be found in the north and west of the US. Whereas bigtooth aspen is more prominent in the east and south. That being said, aspen species perform fairly evenly as a source of heat, so it won’t really matter which aspen wood is local to you.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Aspen
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||16.5|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||2387|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||3655|
|Seasoning time||6 – 12 months|
|Resin / Sap content||Low|
|Splitting Difficulty||Very easy|
Does its Wood Split Easily?
With an extremely straight grain and a light-density wood, your maul will splice through aspen wood as easily as butter.
It is even easier to split when green. Little sap and a low moisture content mean that the wood will not create a mess when split, either. Unlike pine logs which are very messy to work with.
How Much Sap Does It Have?
Some softwoods with similar BTU rates often have a higher sap content just as juniper and cedar. However, aspen is still a hardwood. So, aspen does not have a noticeable sap content as it is so low.
How Does The Wood Smell?
Aspen has a noticeably horrid smell when wet. This can make it unpleasant to work with when splitting and first seasoning the wood.
Though once it has been fully seasoned, aspen firewood released no smell aside from a standard firewood smell.
If you would like more fragrant firewood to make your home smell delicious, then you should favor a wood with a high sugar content like sugar maple.
Heat Output And Efficiency Of Aspen
As a wood of a very low density, aspen does not generate a lot of heat. At most, it will only release around 16.5 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per cord of wood.
For hardwood, this is a poor heat generation. But compared to softwoods, aspen performs fairly well.
Fire Characteristics Of Aspen
Despite being a hardwood, the light density of aspen means that you will only get around 2 hours of burning time before needing to add more wood. During that time, the firewood will burn hot and create large flames, though they are not particularly aggressive flames.
With such a low sap content, aspen firewood produces little to no smoke. However, it does have a high moisture content when first cut, so ensure that the wood seasons fully before burning it in your fireplace.
Minimal smoke also means that aspen is not at risk of creating a creosote build-up, making it a better-quality wood to burn than conifers. Aspen wood is clean-burning firewood similar to Poplar wood.
Aspen does produce poor coals. The coals will not allow aspen wood to burn for much longer than a few hours but they will stay hot for a while after your aspen wood has burnt out, so you can rebuild a better, stronger fire without starting from scratch.
Is It Okay To Burn Aspen In A Fireplace?
Aspen is very easy to separate from its bark and acts as the perfect fire starter for any fireplace. Simply strip the bark from the wood while splitting or just before you bring the logs into your home, after the bark is removed, chop it up to thin pieces and use it as kindling.
Burning aspen firewood in your fireplace is a safer choice than burning pine or fir. Aspen has a low sap content so will neither spark, smoke nor create an excessive build-up of creosote making it the perfect firewood for open fires.
However, aspen is a fast-burning wood and so will not heat your home for long. To keep an aspen wood fire burning longer, mix it in with some other firewood that burns slower. Or, have a lot of chopped aspen ready to burn.
How Long To Season Aspen
Due to its low density and low moisture and sap content, aspen wood does not take long to season.
You will only need to wait 6 – 12 months for your aspen wood to dry out before it is ready to burn. This is considerably quicker than most hardwoods which take years to season.
Keep in mind that aspen is prone to rotting. So, ensure that you store the firewood off of the ground and check it often to monitor any molding or rotting.
Pros And Cons of Aspen Wood
- Very easy to prepare
- Good kinlding
- Little creosote production
- Fair coals
- Low heat generation (compared to hardwoods)
- Quick to burn
- Prone to rotting
How Does Aspen Compare To Other Firewood?
Though aspen is a type of poplar, it generates more heat than most poplar species like poplar balsam. However, tulip poplar is still the better burning wood with a BTU of 17.1 compared to aspen’s 16.5.
Aspen performs just as well as the poorest performing pine variety (white pine), though poses fewer safety issues due to being significantly lower in sap.
For hardwood, aspen does not burn as long or as hot as most oak varieties but is easier to prepare.
Frequently Asked Questions:
When Should I Split Firewood?
Typically, dry firewood is easier to split as there is less moisture holding the wood fibers together. Though some firewoods are better split when green, especially words that are denser. For example, oak and locust should be split while still green.
How To Prevent Firewood From Rotting
Firewood will rot quicker when it is exposed to moisture. So, make sure that your firewood is stored off the ground and is well sheltered from the rain in an area with good airflow.
Aspen is fair firewood to use in your indoor fireplace or outdoors, providing a hot flame for a decent amount of time. During that time, it will not smoke or spark but will produce good coals so that you can build a lasting fire with better quality firewoods.
I am the guy behind Theyardable.com. I grew up on a homestead and I am here to share the knowledge I have and things I learn while living in the countryside.