When you think of birch trees, you will probably picture a white birch (Betula papyrifera). Its white, paper-thin bark is mostly spotted in the northern areas of the United States, closer to Canada. Where it does grow, it grows in abundance. But is it worth using white birch as firewood?
Many people overlook white birch as it does not burn as hot as yellow or river birch, but that is what makes it the perfect firewood. Producing 23.8 million BTUs per cord, It will provide enough heat to keep you warm without burning uncontrollably hot.
What Are The Varieties Of White Birch?
White birch does not have any varieties of its own as it is a variety of birch trees. But you may hear it be called paper birch in wood-centered communities.
This name is in reference to its thin bark that peels away from the tree in layers.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of White Birch?
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||23.8|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||3448|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||4250|
|Seasoning time||12-18 months|
|Resin/ Sap Content||Moderate|
|Splitting Difficulty||Very easy|
|Smell||Sweet / neutral|
Does White Birch Split Easily?
Seeing as it is on the softer side of the birch spectrum, white birch is a lot easier to split than river or yellow birch.
Its wood is not as strong and will not resist a fair hit with a hand maul. Of course, a hydraulic splitter will make splitting a much quicker chore.
How Much Sap Does it Have?
All birch firewood varieties have sap though not as much as maple or pine. White birch does have moderate levels of sap, but it does not exceed what you would expect from other birch trees.
It is best to cut down a birch tree in autumn as this is when the sap content of the tree will be at its lowest.
How Does it Smell?
Birch usually has a very pleasant, sweetish smell. This smell is often not overwhelming, but just the right level of aromatic to create a comfortable environment.
White birch will have a hint of the sweet smell that most birches do. However, this smell will not be as strong and will be less noticeable once the white birch dries.
Heat Output And Efficiency Of White Birch?
Though it does have one of the lowest BTU outputs of the birch variety, white birch does provide the perfect amount of heat.
Its 23.8 BTU is ideal for those cold winter nights and will not become overwhelming as the hot burning river birch can often become.
White birch still provides a hotter heat than grey birch – which burns a moderate 21.3 BTUs – so is generally the more efficient source of heat.
Fire Characteristics Of White Birch?
As one of the lightest birch firewoods available, white birch will burn up way quicker than yellow or river birch. However, its fire will be mighty and hot even though you will have to use a lot more white birch firewood than river or yellow birch firewood.
Such a short burning time means that white birch is less likely to create as many quality coals as other birch woods. But it will still create coals and they will remain hot enough to use hours after burning.
Though it has as much sap content as most birches, it will still not pop or spark, so there is one less thing to worry about.
Its paper-thin bark acts as the perfect fire starter, catching the light as quickly as paper. So, if you need to get another firewood burning, use white birch bark as kindling.
Does White Birch Burn Clean?
One of the more noticeable things about white birch is that it will not burn as clean as other birch types. This is because its paper-thin bark holds a surprising amount of water and is harder to season than other birches.
If not split and seasoned, white birch can create more smoke which in the long term can lead to a quicker build-up of creosote within your chimney.
However, a white birch fire is short-lived. Even though its smoke will not be as clean as river birch, it will most likely create less creosote for the same amount of wood. Of course, for the same amount of wood, you also get less heating value.
Is It Okay To Burn White Birch In A Fireplace?
Out of all of the birch firewood available, white birch is arguably the best one to use in a fireplace since its BTU rating falls right into the middle between softwoods and premium quality hardwoods.
Its heat output is the perfect, cozy temperature to keep you warm during the winter. And, because of its quick burning time, it will also be able to provide a quick warm fire in the autumn when the nights drop just a little too cold.
How Long To Season White Birch?
Seeing as white birch tends to hold onto its moisture a little bit more than other birch woods do, you will need to ensure that you have split the wood or scored the bark to allow this moisture to fully try out.
If you do not, you will find that your white birch will quickly rot and mold.
However, if properly prepared, then white birch will only take 12 months to season. As is the case with most birch woods.
Pros And Cons Of White Birch
- Perfect heat output
- Very easy to prepare
- Quick to ignite
- Quick burning
- Less fragrant
How Does White Birch Compare To Other Firewoods?
White birch is not the coolest burning birch wood but does not burn as hot as river birch. Still, its 23.8 BTU matches red maple and black walnut.
Though you will not be able to experience this heat as long as you would with denser woods as white birch will burn out quicker. If you mix white birch in with longer burning woods such as oak or hickory, you will create a longer-lasting fire.
One of the drawbacks of white birch is that its scent is not as strong as other firewoods available. River birch, sugar maple, and cherry will all produce a stronger scent than white birch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Birch A Hardwood?
Yes, birch is one of the most common hardwoods found in North America.
How To Make A Fire Burn For Longer?
If you are using a quick-burning wood, simply mix it in with some longer-lasting woods when you build your fire. Oak, hickory, and chestnut will provide a slower burning fire when paired with any wood.
While some people think that white birch is a poor firewood choice, it is one of the best. Its ideal heat output will see you through the winter months, as long as you have enough to burn throughout the winter.
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.