Despite being known as the national tree of Canada, maple (acre) has uses beyond its sweet syrup. A maple tree can live for 300 years, if not longer. Their signature leaves create a stunning array of colors every fall and add a dash of beauty to any landscape.
As firewood, maple is very good. With some varieties generating a BTU as high as 26.8, you can warm your home easily. It is a slow-burning wood too, so the heat can last all night with little smoke or sparks to worry about
What Are The Varieties Of Maple Wood?
Even though there are more than 100 species of maple all over the world, there is only a handful that make good firewood and that are available in the US:
Sugar maple firewood – One of the most beloved trees in the US, the sugar maple tree is responsible for a large amount of maple syrup in grocery stores. It is a hardwood maple and thus produces great firewood, on par with ash and birch.
Red maple firewood – You have probably seen a red maple tree in one of your local parks as they are the favored tree to plant in both urban and forest areas. They are a softer wood than sugar maple but still hold out as decent firewood.
Silver maple firewood – Not many firewood fans are keen to use silver maple even though it is one of the most common maple species in the US. It grows exceedingly quickly but the silver maple’s roots are very shallow, often causing property damage.
Another maple variety that could be used as firewood includes box elder.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Maple Wood?
Here is a quick breakdown of maple wood’s characteristics:
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||20.1 – 26.8|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||2197 – 3890|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||3825 – 4760|
|Seasoning time||18-24 months|
|Resin/ Sap Content||Moderate – Low|
|Splitting Difficulty||Easy-Moderate (when green)|
|Smell||Pleasant, not overly sweet|
|Coal Production||Very good|
Is Maple Easy To Split?
In most cases, it is best to let the wood dry before splitting as seasoned wood will have less moisture to resist your hydraulic splitter. But with maple, that is not the case.
Green maple – or freshly cut maple – splits very well. You could use a maul to split it. It is a fairly durable wood so will not splinter or break apart. Maple becomes very difficult to split once it is dry, even if you use a hydraulic splitter.
So, make sure to split the maple while it is still green.
You will defiantly want to split sugar maple while it is green instead of waiting for it to season as it is already a moderately difficult wood to split.
Though you could leave silver maple to season before splitting if you forget to do it beforehand. It will still put up a fight with your hydraulic splitter but won’t be as bad as sugar maple.
How Much Sap Content Does it Have?
It would be fair to assume that, seeing as maple trees produce so much syrup, their sap content would be considerably higher than other woods. But that is not the case.
In fact, pine is still way sappier firewood than most maple species. Although, maple does have noticeably more sap than hardwoods like oak and alder.
On average, for every 1 gallon of maple syrup that is produced, 40 gallons of maple sap is needed. So, maple really does not have as much sap in them as you would think. But the sap it does produce is very sweet.
Maple trees that are still growing or that are less than 40 years old yield a lower quantity of sap anyway. To avoid any excess sap, use younger maple wood.
What Does Maple Smell Like?
Though maple syrups are notoriously sweet-smelling, that sweetness is not translated to the wood once it is burnt.
Maple does release a very pleasant smell but it is not overwhelming sweet nor that fragrant. If you want a wood that will release a stronger smell, go with cherry or tulip poplar.
Of course, many people say that maple wood smells like maple syrup, but that could just be because of the association.
As a deciduous tree, maple wood does tend to carry more moisture.
However, this moisture is dried out during the long seasoning process. So, it is less of an issue compared to other high moisture woods.
Maple will still produce an effective flame once seasoned and is generally unaffected by its moisture content.
Heat Output and Efficiency
Because there are so many types of maple, they can be split into two categories based on their heat output and efficiency: hardwood maple and softwood maple.
Generally, hardwood maple types that are of lower density than oak will still produce a substantial amount of heat. Sugar maple, for example, generates the most heat of any maple species, reaching a BTU of 26.7. This is close to that of ash and is higher than black walnut.
Even softwood maple, like silver maple, produces a substantial BTU of 20.1, which is more heat than chestnut and poplar.
Maple also has the advantage of being a slow-burning wood, so once it reaches its optimal heat output, it can maintain that heat for a longer amount of time. Though in the case of softwood maple, like silver and red maple, you may have to add more to the fire to keep it going for longer.
Fire Characteristics Of Maple
Seeing as maple is extremely popular in the US, it is already used for a range of tasks. But how can it be used when made into firewood?
There are several factors that can contribute to a quicker build-up of creosote, including excess smoke, high sap content, and slow-burning wood.
Maple is a slow-burning wood. While it may not produce a lot of smoke all at once like fir wood, it will still produce enough smoke over its burning period to create a build-up of creosote.
Those species of maple that have a slightly higher sap content such as sugar maple will produce more creosote than that red or silver maple.
Amount Of Smoke
As firewood, most maple burns clean. Though with maple, the higher the sap content, the more smoke it will produce.
Silver maple burns with very little smoke generated. The bit of smoke that it does create is usually clean, easily carried away through the chimney.
Likewise, red maple does have a sweeter sap than silver maple but will not create an unmanageable amount of smoke.
Sugar maple is by far the worst maple to generate smoke. It is a considerably sweeter smoke than other maple varieties and can often be suffocating because of that.
Does It Produce Coals?
Typically, low-density woods do not produce very good coals as they burn too quickly and do not produce any coals.
However, most species of maple create very high-quality coals – much better than the coals of pine or birch firewood. This allows maple to carry on burning for longer, even if it is of the softer variety.
Is It Okay To Burn Maple In A Fireplace?
Maple is a safe wood to burn in a fireplace, especially if you use the softer varieties. There are minimal sparks created when maple burns and the level of smoke that is produced is manageable.
As a slow-burning wood with good coal production, you can leave maple burning and warming your home overnight with no issue. Though you may want to replenish the fire of a silver maple before you head to bed.
So long as you are aware of what kind of maple you are burning and know the level of creosote it is likely to produce, you can burn maple in a fireplace with no issue.
How Long To Season Maple Wood?
It is better to split maple as soon as it has been cut and set it out to season directly under a roof and off the ground. This is because, even though dense in nature, it is not a rot-resistant wood.
Luckily, maple dries quicker than most premium firewoods. Especially red maple. It will only take around 18 months to fully season, so as soon as it is ready, use it.
Even sugar maple will not take much longer than 24 months to be ready to burn. Which is a considerably quicker seasoning time than oak, which can season up to 3-4 years
Is Maple Firewood Expensive?
Maple is fairly expensive firewood to buy, but considering the quality, it is to be expected. For a cord of split and seasoned maple firewood, you can expect to pay around 450-500USD depending on the area you live in.
Pros And Cons Of Using Maple as Firewood
Every firewood has its advantages and disadvantage. Maple is no different
- Ideal fireplace wood
- Minimal smoke
- Pleasant smell
- High BTU
- Hard to split when dry
How Does Maple Compare To Other Firewood?
Despite its ability to make great syrup, maple is not as resinous as pine, so is safe to use in a fireplace. It will also burn for a long time and maintain its heat better than softwoods such as cedar or fir.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Type Of Maple Burns The Best?
Sugar maple produces the highest BTU of 26.8 but can create a lot of smoke along with creosote. Still, red and silver maple can also be a great choice, creating a moderate heat of 23.2 and 20.1.
How To Make Maple Smell Stronger?
Despite producing a very sweet sap, you will not get much of a sweet smell from maple while burning it. You can, however, mix other fragrant woods with maple to create a stronger smell.
Which Firewood Burn The Longest?
Most dense hardwoods like maple, oak, and hickory are very long-burning woods that can burn through the night, leaving a nice bed of coals behind to reignite the fire.
To conclude, maple is quite a deceptive wood. It does not produce as sweet a smell as you would expect, nor does it have a lot of sap. But it does create a substantial amount of heat over a longer time than many other 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.