Red maple (Acer Rebrum) gets its name from its appearance; its leaves, twigs, barks, and seeds are all red to varying degrees, making it a distinguishable tree in any landscape. Red maple is more common on the eastern coast of the United States and the central US but is considered one of the most abundant species that is native to North America.
Seeing as it is so common, is it worth using as firewood?
Red maple is good quality firewood, with a high BTU generation of 23.2 million per cord– just slightly below oak. It can burn for a long time due to its quality coals and high density. As a downside, red maple’s high sap content can cause creosote to build up in chimneys. Though if you use it as campfire wood then that won’t be an issue.
What Are The Varieties Of Red Maple Wood?
Being a sub-species of maple, red maple does not have its own varieties but is often categorized by where it grows. That is why it takes on many names such as swamp maple or water maple.
Some industries such as the lumber industry also refer to red maple as softwood maple even though it possesses the qualities of hardwood.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Red Maple Wood?
Let’s take a look at a breakdown of red maple:
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||23.2|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||3359|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||4250|
|Seasoning time||18-24 months|
|Resin/ Sap Content||High|
|Coal Production||Good quality|
Is it Easy to Split?
Just like any maple firewood species, red maple is easier to split when green, but can also be easily split when seasoned.
Red maple grows much like silver maple, so has time to toughen up. This makes it difficult to break through when splitting once seasoned.
How Much Sap Content Does Red Maple Have?
Though the harvesting season for red maple is short, red maple still generates a substantial amount of sap that is very sweet.
In comparison, red maple produces less sap than sugar maple firewood, but it does produce noticeably more than horse chestnut or tamarack logs would.
How Does It Smell?
Due to having a very sweet sap, red maple does smell sweet, though some of that initial sweet smell is muted during seasoning.
Some people say that red maple smells like blooming cherries, so if you like the smell of cherries in particular then this is a great wood for you.
Maple as a species tends to carry more water than other tree families, but red maple is one of the varieties that hold a lower amount of moisture in its wood.
It still has a higher water content than oak, while dries out quickly due to lower density.
Heat Output and Efficiency
If you season red maple for long enough, it could burn for almost as long as oak. Though it does not reach as high heat output.
Red maple produces a BTU of 23.2, which is very high for a wood that tends to be softer. Oak, which is a dense wood, generates a heat of between 24.6 and 29.1.
As for where red maple stands with other maples, it is a more efficient source of heat than silver maple but is not as effective at keeping your home as warm as sugar maple.
Fire Characteristics Of Red Maple
So, now that we know what kind of wood red maple is, how does it’s flame fair?
Understanding how much creosote a wood produces is vital to making sure you are burning wood safely. Creosote is a black tar-like substance that is extremely flammable, clinging to chimneys and fireplaces.
As for red maple, it does a quick build-up of creosote due to having a high sap content. But pine and sugar maple does produce more creosote, so red maple is a safer choice of firewood.
Amount Of Smoke
Red maple does produce more smoke than silver maple or oak.
Red maple has just the right level of sweetness in its smoke that makes it ideal for cooking food. Meats and vegetables will absorb the smoke and take on a delicious, smoky flavor.
If you do not intend to cook outdoors with red maple it’s nevertheless good firewood if used sparingly.
It won’t produce a suffocating amount of smoke, but it will be more than silver maple.
Does It Produce Coals?
Maple is known for creating lots of high-quality coals and red maple is no different. It produces enough coals to keep its fire going for longer than other light woods like poplar.
Red maple coals are also very effective at reigning a fire once it goes out and is a good source of heat overnight.
Is It Okay To Burn Red Maple In A Fireplace?
With high levels of sap, red maple does tend to pop and spark a bit. If you use a safety screen for your fireplace or use a log burner for heating, there should be no issues burning red maple from time to time.
You will have to clear out your fireplace more regularly when using red maple due to the amount of smoke and creosote that it creates.
If you don’t want to deal with cleaning your fireplace often then try using similarly priced oak instead.
How Long To Season Red Maple Wood?
Mostly because of its sap level, red maple wood will need to be seasoned for anywhere between 18-24 months. This is longer than the seasoning time needed for silver maple or box elder, but it is a short seasoning time for hardwood.
Luckily, red maple does not take to mold and so will not rot if you leave it to the season for too long, just become overly dry.
Pros And Cons Of Using Red Maple as Firewood
- Pleasant smell
- Moderately short seasoning time
- High heat production
- High-quality coals
- Easy to process
- High sap content
- A moderate amount of smoke
- Moderate sparks
How Does Red Maple Compare To Other Firewood?
Though red maple is often called a soft wood, it performs like hardwood. It can produce a hot fire nearly equivalent to that of oak and can burn for a long time with the high-quality coals it produces. It is certainly better performing than silver maple.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Maple Makes The Best Kindling?
Silver maple is the quickest to ignite of the maple varieties, making decent kindling if you are in a pinch.
Which Smells Better: Sugar or Red Maple?
It depends on how fragrant you like your wood to be.
Sugar maple produces sweeter sap than red maple so creates a sweeter smell. Red maple has a more diluted scent, alluding more to blooming cherries than maple syrup.
In summary, red maple is medium-quality firewood. Its hot flame and ability to burn for almost as long as oak makes it a create choice during cold winter months. On the other hand, if you plan to burn it often, make sure to keep on top of any creosote build-up.
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.