Is Hackberry Good Firewood? The Truth About This Wood

If you rely on firewood for heating or enjoy the cozy ambiance of a crackling fire, you’ve likely wondered which types of firewood are the best to use. One lesser-known but intriguing option is hackberry firewood.

Hackberry, a hardwood tree that grows in various regions, has gained attention for its potential as a source of heat and comfort. But is Hackberry good firewood?

In this post, we’ll explore hackberry firewood’s characteristics, pros, and cons to help you decide if it’s suitable for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Is Hackberry Good Firewood?

Hackberry is generally good firewood. When properly seasoned, it has a moderate to high heat output and produces little smoke and creosote. It burns well and has a relatively low moisture content, making it easier to ignite and creating less creosote buildup in chimneys than other wood types.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) has served as firewood for many years due to its availability in the central/eastern United States. Early settlers used Hackberry as a source of firewood because of its relatively easy accessibility and abundance in the wild.

Over time, Hackberry has remained in use as firewood in many parts of its native range and beyond. It has gained a reputation as a reliable and efficient wood for heating purposes.

Hackberry wood has been highly valued for its moderate to high heat output and relatively low moisture content, making it suitable for use as firewood.

When correctly seasoned, Hackberry burns efficiently, producing substantial heat while emitting minimal smoke and creosote.

Characteristics of Hackberry

Hackberry is a deciduous tree species native to North America. It belongs to the family Cannabaceae and is prevalent in the central and eastern regions of the US and parts of Canada and Mexico.

The hackberry tree is medium to large, typically reaching 40 to 60 feet, although it can grow up to 100 feet tall in certain conditions. It has a rounded crown, dense canopy, and a moderate growth rate.

The bark of the hackberry tree is grayish-brown and rough with corky ridges. The leaves are simple, alternate, and serrated, with an asymmetrical base and a rough texture. They are dark green during the summer and turn yellow in the fall.

The hackberry tree produces small, inconspicuous flowers in the spring, followed by small, fleshy fruits that are purple to black and are a favorite food source for birds.

Hackberry wood is generally considered to be good firewood due to its relatively high energy content and moderate density. However, it is not as commonly used as oak or hickory for firewood.

Hackberry trees can be found in mixed hardwood forests, along riverbanks, and in open woodlands, which makes them a potential source of firewood in those areas where they are abundant.

Physical Characteristics of Hackberry Firewood

The color of hackberry firewood is typically light to medium brown with streaks of yellow or gray. It may darken with age and exposure to air.

Hackberry wood has a moderate density, with an average dry weight of around 35 to 40 pounds per cubic foot. It is not as dense as hardwoods like oak or hickory, but it still provides a good amount of heat when burned.

The moisture content of hackberry firewood can vary depending on how well it has been seasoned. Freshly cut hackberry wood may have a high moisture content of around 50% or more, which makes it less desirable for immediate use as firewood.

Properly seasoned hackberry firewood, allowed to dry for at least 6 to 12 months, can have a moisture content of 20% or less, making it suitable for burning.

Burning Characteristics of Hackberry Firewood

The burning characteristics of hackberry firewood can vary depending on moisture content, wood density, and how well it has been seasoned. Generally, hackberry firewood has the following features:

Heat Production and BTU Value

Hackberry firewood produces moderate heat, with an estimated BTU (British Thermal Unit) value of around 20-22 million BTUs per cord. It can provide a decent amount of warmth when burned in a fireplace, but it may not be the most efficient firewood in terms of heat production.

Ease of Ignition and Splitting

Hackberry firewood is moderately easy to ignite but may require additional kindling or starter wood to get a fire going, especially if it has higher moisture content.

Hackberry wood is relatively easy to split due to its moderate density and straight grain. You can split this wood with an ax or a splitting maul.

Smoke and Creosote Production

Hackberry produces a moderate amount of smoke when burned. The level of creosote buildup may vary depending on the moisture content of the wood and how well it has been seasoned. Proper ventilation and regular chimney maintenance are necessary to prevent creosote buildup.

Coaling and Sparking Tendencies

Hackberry Firewood has moderate coaling tendencies. It forms a moderate amount of glowing embers that can continue producing heat after the flames die. This can provide long-lasting warmth in a fireplace or wood stove.

This wood doesn’t produce excessive sparks or popping, making it relatively safe for indoor fireplaces.

Aroma and Flavor of Hackberry Smoke

The aroma and flavor of hackberry smoke are mild and neutral. This wood doesn’t have a distinctive or strong scent when burned.

It suits people sensitive to strong wood smoke odors or flavors. It may be less desirable for those who enjoy the aromatic experience of burning different types of firewood.

Advantages of Hackberry Firewood

Is Hackberry good firewood? Here are the reasons for using the hackberry tree for firewood.

Availability and Affordability

Hackberry trees are commonly found in many regions, making hackberry firewood readily available. This can make it a cost-effective option for those relying on firewood for their heating or cooking needs, as it may be more affordable than other types of firewood.

Low Ash Content and Minimal Residue

Hackberry firewood has a relatively low ash content, producing less residue than other types of firewood. This can reduce the amount of ash buildup in your fireplace or wood stove.

Suitable for Indoor and Outdoor Fires

Hackberry firewood is known for its versatility, as it can be used for outdoor and indoor fires. Hackberry firewood can provide efficient and reliable heat for various applications, whether used in a wood stove, fireplace, fire pit, or campfire.

Potential for Cooking and Smoking

Hackberry produces a pleasant and mild flavor when burned. This makes it a popular choice for grilling, smoking meat, and other culinary applications, adding an extra dimension to your outdoor cooking experience.

Disadvantages of Hackberry Firewood

Below are some drawbacks of this firewood.

Lower BTU Value than Other Hardwoods

Hackberry firewood generally has a lower heat output than oak, hickory, or maple. You may need to burn more hackberry wood to generate the same amount of heat, which can result in more frequent reloading and reduced efficiency.

Variable Quality and Performance Due to Moisture Content

The moisture content of hackberry firewood can vary greatly, affecting its performance as firewood.

Green or freshly cut hackberry wood may have a high moisture content, making it difficult to ignite and burn efficiently. It may also produce more smoke and creosote, increasing maintenance requirements and potential hazards in your chimney or flue.

Potential for Insect Infestation and Decay

Hackberry firewood is susceptible to insect infestation and decay if not properly stored and seasoned. Hackberry wood may attract insects such as beetles and termites, which can infest your firewood stack and spread to other areas of your property. This is unlike other insect-repelling woods

If hackberry wood is not properly seasoned and allowed to dry out, it may decay and become less effective firewood. 

Soot Buildup and Maintenance Requirements

Hackberry wood may produce more soot and creosote, increasing your chimney’s maintenance requirements.

Soot buildup can reduce the efficiency of your fireplace or wood stove and may require more frequent cleaning to prevent potential fire hazards. This can add to the overall maintenance and cleaning responsibilities of using Hackberry for firewood.

Tips for Using Hackberry Firewood

If you plan to use hackberry firewood, here are some practical tips to ensure you get the most out of it.

First, make sure the wood is properly seasoned. Hackberry wood retains moisture, so it’s crucial to let it dry for at least 6 to 12 months.

Split the wood into smaller pieces to speed up the drying process, and stack them in a well-ventilated area for optimal airflow. Well-seasoned hackberry firewood will burn efficiently and produce minimal creosote buildup in your chimney.

When storing hackberry firewood, please keep it dry and covered. Avoid placing the Hackberry directly on the ground, as it can absorb moisture and lose its effectiveness as firewood. 

Consider using a woodshed or covering your woodpile with a tarp to protect the wood from the elements and keep it ready for use.

Hackberry wood can be challenging to split due to its density, but it makes excellent kindling. Use smaller pieces of hackberry wood as kindling to start your fire, as they ignite easily and produce a hot flame. Once the fire is going, add larger pieces of Hackberry for a longer burn.

Mix hackberry firewood with other hardwoods like oak, hickory, or maple to optimize your fire. These hardwoods provide a longer burn and more heat, while hackberry wood adds a pleasant aroma to your fire. Mixing different types of firewood can result in a well-balanced fire with consistent heat output.

When arranging the wood in your fireplace or stove, ensure proper airflow. Avoid packing the wood too tightly, as it can restrict airflow, resulting in a smoldering fire with less heat output. 

Stack the wood loosely or use a fire grate to allow for adequate airflow, which will help the Hackberry wood burn more efficiently.

So, Is Hackberry Good Firewood?

Hackberry is decent firewood. It burns slowly with moderate heat and minimal smoke. However, its lower energy content and potential challenges with splitting may make other hardwoods more suitable for those seeking higher heat output or ease of use.

Proper seasoning and adherence to local regulations and safety guidelines are always recommended for efficient and safe wood burning.