Is Hackberry Good Firewood?

A steady wood fire burning during a chilly winter night is the stuff you read about in books. And it feels great stacking a bunch of wood to last you through a chilly season. You need reliable firewood that burns without a crack and has enough coal. What’s that reliable wood? Is hackberry good firewood?

Hackberry makes good firewood because it burns with a sweet non-choke fragrance, has low smoke production, and is non-toxic. The wood has a moderate Janka rating of 880lbf, making it good enough to burn in different fireplaces.

But, there’s more to it, especially when choosing the best wood for your fire. I’ve explained further why hackberry makes great firewood and some tips to help you season your firewood fast.

Does a hackberry tree make good firewood?

Is hackberry good firewood

Hackberry makes good firewood as it has several desirable qualities for burning. 

Firewood is ranked using several metrics. 

  • BTU
  • Pitch/sap production
  • Toxicity
  • Density
  • Dryness

BTU (British Thermal Units) measures the energy needed to burn firewood. A high BTU score means the wood can sustain heat for a more extended period. Hackberry has a 21.2 BTU that gives off relatively high heat. For comparison, White Oak, a superior option, has a 25.7 BTU.

Good firewood comes from trees with little amounts of sap or pitch. Too much sap would make it difficult to sustain a wood fire. Hackberry has minimal sap. It also won’t clog your chimney if you burn it in indoor fireplaces.

Toxic trees produce toxic fumes that make them undesirable for use as firewood. But, hackberry is a non-toxic tree. It produces clean smoke that won’t poison your surrounding. Since it’s relatively heavy, hackberry burns without excessive sparks and smoke.

As such, it’s considered an environmentally-friendly firewood option. The burn also emits a pleasant smell due to hackberry’s natural fragrance. 

Wood density determines the longevity of its embers when it is used as firewood. Hackberry is a medium-density wood. While it might not be as dense as favorites such as birch, it makes good firewood in other aspects. 

Finally, hackberry makes good firewood because it dries fast and produces clean smoke. However, you wouldn’t want to keep it for too long.

Where can you burn hackberry firewood?

Hackberry firewood performs well in the fireplace and in wood stoves. When burning hackberry firewood in the fireplace, ensure that it has been properly seasoned. It takes between 6 and 12 months to season wood for fires. 

Unseasoned hackberry wood contains excessive moisture that turns into water vapor when burned. The water vapor then mixes with other gases as it rises up the fireplace chimney, finally condensing to form tar on the chimney’s walls.

You can also use hackberry wood in an outdoor grill during your backyard barbecues. When smoking meat, this hardwood infuses the steak with a mildly sweet aroma reminiscent of cherry fruit. It also shortens the time it takes to smoke meat since the heat that it produces is relatively intense.

Note that you can use the coal from hackberry that you’ve already burned in your fireplace and use it for cooking in an open fire. Hackberry coal burns hotter and longer since it is dense hardwood.

When burning hackberry in an enclosed space, ensure there’s proper ventilation. While it may be true that it produces minimal smoke, the carcinogens from the smoke can slowly build up to toxic levels, especially if the hackberry firewood is left burning continuously for a long time.

Can you split hackberry easily?

Hackberry is relatively easy to split. It has a Janka rating of 880lbf which indicates a relatively low force needed to split wood.

However, it will likely blunt the sharp edges of your cutting tool. Here’s how hackberry compares to other firewoods in terms of hardiness.

WoodJanka hardness rating
Hackberry880 lbf
White oak1360 lbf
Red oak1290 lbf
Hickory1820 lbf
Hemlock540 lbf

While it’s easy to split hackberry, it can be challenging to start a fire with it. Hardwoods like hackberry don’t light up as easily as softwoods.

How long does hackberry take to dry?

Well-dried hackberry, seasoned for at least one year, burns steadily due to balanced water content.

When burning firewood, the goal is to have a steady flame that isn’t sputtering. To achieve this, you have to season your hackberry wood logs properly. Hackberry wood that has not been aged for at least one year burns poorly with a sputtering flame since it has high water content. 

Under the right drying conditions of good sunlight and wind exposure, hackberry takes 3-6 months to dry and be ready for burning. However, hackberry firewood that has been seasoned for one year is preferable. This is because the original timber moisture content varies from one hackberry tree to the next, and the 3-6 month timeline may not be enough in some cases.

Seasoned wood has a moisture content of 20% or lower. You should be able to see cracks at the edges of the split hackberry logs once it’s well-seasoned and ready to burn.

Note: If your hackberry wood was derived from a dead hackberry tree or dead hackberry branches, you can immediately burn the wood, as it already has a low moisture content.

How to season hackberry for firewood

  1. Split the hackberry wood to allow the insides to dry. 
  2. Cut the logs into 16-inch lengths.
  3. Stack them in rows of three. 

Stacking the hackberry logs allows for proper aeration and prevents moisture from being trapped between them. You should stack the hackberry logs about 6-12 months before the intended usage period.

References

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