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Is ponderosa pine good firewood or should you avoid burning this plentiful and abundant tree?
Ponderosa pine trees cover the entire western United States.
From the border of Canada into Mexico, you can find these trees towering above you.
They can grow up to 200 feet, making them quite an attractive choice for firewood.
A single tree could provide a massive amount of wood for the winter season!
However, there’s more that goes into determining when to use certain woods than simple availability in bulk quantities.
For example, ponderosa pines are low-density softwoods that will burn well but won’t burn for a long time.
This makes them a great choice for campfires, fireplaces, and cooking fires, but they won’t provide overnight heat in a wood stove.
The qualities of ponderosa pine make it a good choice for certain firewood applications while being a poor choice for others.
Let’s look at all of the different qualities of this widely available wood and discuss how it can serve a helpful purpose.
Ponderosa pine is the most widely distributed pine tree in the western United States.
This is one of the best features of using this wood; you can get it almost anywhere!
You may often hear ponderosa pine trees referred to as western-yellow pine, blackjack pine, or bull pine.
All of these common names refer to the same tree, Pinus ponderosa.
It’s a low-density softwood that can grow to over 200 feet in size.
This insane height can provide a massive amount of wood from a single tree.
It’s easy to get, and sometimes you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a ponderosa pine forest.
That makes using this as firewood an easy answer, but there are some other things to keep in mind.
In general, it’s best practice to season ponderosa pine for a minimum of 9 months, but ideally for as long as twelve.
Obviously, this will vary depending on the climate you live in and where you are seasoning your wood, but overall, leaning towards a full year of seasoning is going to be the best for a variety of reasons.
Resin and Sap Content
The resin content of ponderosa pine is very high.
During the seasoning and drying process, a cord of ponderosa pine will shed over 1,000 pounds in water and sap weight.
This is one of the main barriers to using ponderosa pine.
Seasoning ponderosa pine for a full year is incredibly important to turn it into useful firewood.
When it isn’t seasoned properly, the resin and sap that remains will lead to high creosote buildup, difficulty to split, and an overall poorer performance in burning.
Is Ponderosa Pine Good Firewood To Split?
Ponderosa pine can be split easily, as long as it is seasoned properly.
This is incredibly important due to the high sap content that is holding the wood tightly together.
When seasoned for a sufficient amount of time, ponderosa pine becomes a great and easy wood to split.
This makes the high availability of the species a great resource rather than a nuisance and difficult job that lies ahead of you.
There’s a huge discussion around the causes of creosote buildup.
A lot of people believe that all pines will lead to a large amount of creosote, but that isn’t always true.
Creosote buildup is typically dependent upon the seasoning of the wood.
If you burn green wood, the creosote will be high due to the sap and resin content.
If you season the wood properly, there will be little sap left in the wood and there will be less creosote.
A lot of creosote issues come from not burning a fire hot enough as well.
Ponderosa pine will burn quickly and can burn hot enough to make creosote a non-issue.
No matter what wood you are burning, make sure that you are taking the proper precautions to avoid creosote buildup.
Season your wood properly, clean out your chimney, burn a creosote log often, and pay close attention to your system.
The BTU value of ponderosa pine is where the wood proves to be a little less effective at heating homes, although many people will still use it.
Per cord, ponderosa pine has between 15.2 and 17.1 million BTUs to offer.
This puts it in the upper-middle range when compared to its other softwood relatives.
It is also a bit more heat-tolerant than other pines, meaning it will still burn a little bit longer.
But, when you look at this BTU level up against hardwoods that will burn low and slow for hours on end, you’re getting about half the BTUs possible.
Because of the low BTU level that ponderosa pine provides, it may serve better as kindling that burns hot and fast, or as wood for the backyard fire pit or a fireplace.
Overall, when you’re choosing firewood out of all the pine species, ponderosa pine is one of the best.
If you’re hoping for a high BTU, it won’t give you much if you also have some hardwoods on hand.
One of the best features that ponderosa pines have to offer is the pleasant aroma of fresh baking cookies.
Many people describe the scent of ponderosa pine as butterscotch, while others will tell you it smells like vanilla.
Either way, it’s an incredibly pleasant smell to have around and will fill your home if you’re using it or storing it inside.
The strong smell comes from a certain chemical in the sap that is part of a much larger ecological web.
The stronger the smell, the more sap there is.
Again, it’s important that you are getting the wood as free of sap as possible before burning.
You can try to gauge this with the smell!
Overall, ponderosa pine is a relatively good choice for burning as firewood.
It won’t provide a long burn, but it works well in a fireplace, or fire pit, and can still be used to heat a house efficiently.
When seasoned properly, the ponderosa becomes one of the best pines to burn because you’ll never have a problem getting enough of it!