What Type of Wood Is Best to Burn in My Fire Pit?

Selecting the right firewood for your fire pit is crucial for safety and enjoyment. These are your best options.

Selecting the right firewood for your next bonfire can make or break the experience for everyone involved. Deciding how you plan to use your fire pit will help you select the best wood to burn.

Does It Matter What Wood You Burn in a Fire Pit?

While there are many safe wood options for burning in your fire pit, they won’t all burn the same. Before selecting a wood type, consider the fire’s purpose: Is it for ambiance, or are you cooking dinner over the open flame? The answers to these questions will influence your wood purchase.

Using the correct firewood will make the experience more enjoyable for the person maintaining the fire as well as those sitting around it. Choose a wood that’s easy to ignite and burns as cleanly as possible. This often comes down to the wood’s density and moisture levels.

In general, hardwoods are denser and dry more easily. That means they will create a low-maintenance, steady fire that lasts for hours, whether you’re at a campsite or in your backyard. Softwood is less dense. While it’s easier to light and usually more affordable, it will burn quickly, so you’ll need to buy more wood and tend to it more often.

Choosing the wrong wood could result in:

  • Difficulty lighting a fire;
  • Excess smoke;
  • Dangerous sparks or embers;
  • Releasing potentially hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere, a risk to you and the environment.

The Best Types of Wood To Burn in Your Fire Pit

Bradley Hite, owner of Firewood Nashville, and other experts recommend these hardwoods to burn in your fire pit for their ease of lighting, limited smoke production and inexpensive price.

Ash

This is one of the best options for a steady, long-lasting fire. Ash is easy to find and affordable. It can take longer to ignite, but once it gets going it will produce a lot of heat for chilly nights.

Beech

Beech is your best bet for a warm fire. It’s high density, and when properly seasoned it burns hot, with a delicious smell.

Cherry

If you want ambiance without stoking the fire for hours before your guests arrive, Hite recommends cherry. He says it will light quickly, allowing you to spend more time enjoying the fire than building it.

Maple

This popular pick is dense, so it will burn for hours. It’s a great wood for cooking because it will add flavor to your meal.

Oak

This popular wood is easy to find around the country and burns long and slow without a ton of smoke. It’s easy to split, although it can take years to properly dry out.

Pine

If you’re looking for inexpensive wood that will set the mood, pine is an excellent choice. It splits easily and crackles when burned to add ambiance. But experts say pine works best as kindling rather than as fire logs because it burns so quickly.

The Worst Types of Wood To Burn in Your Fire Pit

Not all kinds of wood are safe to burn in a fire pit. Often, wood that you find at your campsite or around your home will not burn well, and can even be dangerous to your health.

Green Wood (freshly cut)

This is any type of wood that has been recently cut and hasn’t had a chance to season or dry out. This makes it nearly impossible to light and burn steadily. Each type of wood will dry at different rates, but stacking and covering green wood will eventually lead to ideal wood for burning.

Driftwood

If you find wood washed up on the shore, don’t put it in your fire pit. This wet wood, especially from the ocean, won’t burn well and can create potentially hazardous toxins, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Construction Wood

Much of the wood used to build homes is treated with chemicals, making it unsuitable for burning in a fire pit. It can also contain screws, nails, glue and other finishes that pose additional risks.

Mackenzie Edwards
In addition to her work with Family Handyman, Mackenzie is a contributing commerce writer for Bustle Digital Group's lifestyle sites. She also owns and operates a copywriting studio in Nashville, TN. Mackenzie is an avid DIYer, sharing her budget-friendly home improvement hacks with her growing social media and blog audience.