Wood Heating Showdown: Softwood Logs vs Hardwood Logs

Wood Heating Showdown: Softwood Logs vs Hardwood Logs

With the UK experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of fire-time wood stove users this winter, one question our support staff is receiving more and more often is whether it’s better to use traditional hardwood logs or if softwood logs can be used instead.

Customers want to know which type of log burns longer. Which one has the highest heat output. Which one is less expensive to purchase. Which one burns cleaner (and will produce less creosote). And which one is best for each wood-burning scenario.

In this article, we will answer all these questions and tell you which type of log is best for you.

See Also:

Hardwood vs Softwood Tree Species

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand what exactly differentiates hardwood tree species from softwoods.

Most people intuitively assume that hardwood trees are denser than softwood trees. While this is true in most cases, this assumption isn’t always correct. The true difference between the tree types is in their biology and growth speed, rather than the density of the wood they produce.

Let’s explore.

What Are Hardwood Trees?

The term hardwood is used to refer to slow-growing, flowering trees that drop their leaves in the autumn and sprout new ones in the spring. Examples of hardwood trees include oak, birch, alder, ash, willow, mahogany, beech, and maple.

Due to their slow-growing nature, these trees tend to produce denser wood than faster-growing softwood trees. As a rule of thumb, hardwood logs burn longer, cleaner, and hotter than softwood logs.

Hardwood trees are also a great material for making briquettes. Popular hardwood briquettes include Sawdust Briquettes and Hardwood Heat Logs.

The best types of hardwood to use for making firewood logs are birch and oak, with birch being the more affordable of the two. While maple, walnut, and mahogany may also have great burning characteristics, they are also prized as premium furniture-making materials. As a result of this demand from the furniture industry, using them for your winter heating would be very cost-prohibitive.

What Are Softwood Trees?

Most softwood logs you see on the UK market come from fast-growing, cone-producing evergreen trees. Examples of widespread softwood trees include fir, spruce, pine, larch, yew, hemlock, and cedar.

Softwoods grow much faster than hardwoods and, as a result, create tree wood that is less dense than what you find in most hardwood species. On top of that, softwood trees tend to contain a fair amount of tree sap. This makes them suboptimal for creating regular firewood.

Both of these negatives are remedied when the tree is shredded, compressed, and kiln-dried to produce wood briquettes. Popular softwood briquette products include Night Briquettes, Nestro Softwood Logs, and Fire Logs.

Due to their fast-growing properties, softwood trees are the prime choice for making paper, cardboard, and inexpensive furniture.

Hardwood vs Softwood Tree Comparison Table


Hardwood Trees

Softwood Trees

Growth speed






Burn time

Up to 2 hours

Up to 40 minutes

Heat output



Good for manufacturing logs?



Good for manufacturing briquettes?



Popular species

Birch, oak, alder

Spruce, pine

Also used for

Construction, furniture

Paper, cardboard, furniture, Christmas trees

When Should I Use Hardwood Logs?

If you can afford it, we recommend you only use hardwood logs, such as kiln-dried birch or oak logs, for your winter heating.

Hardwood trees are more energy-dense, which means they will burn hotter, cleaner, and longer than their softwood counterparts.

As an added bonus, they will take up less storage space in your wood store. Hardwoods also tend to contain very little sap, so they are 100% safe to cook on.

Hardwood briquettes are also a great option for keeping yourself warm in the winter, although there isn’t that much difference left between the two after the briquetting process is over.

When Should I Use Softwood Logs?

Softwood species don’t make for good tree logs. However, they can still be used as a cheap alternative in certain scenarios. As they are naturally easier to light, they make for perfect kindling wood to use for setting your hardwood logs on fire. Due to this property of softwood trees, Lekto Premium Wood Kindling is made exclusively from softwood trees.

Softwood trees also make for great wood briquettes. As the briquetting process removes sap and creates a product of very high density, softwood briquettes are generally as good as hardwood briquettes in most scenarios.

When to Use Hardwood Logs Vs Softwood Logs


Hardwood Logs

Softwood Logs

Winter Heating (Logs)

Winter Heating (Briquettes)

As Wood Kindling

Outdoor Cooking

Pizza Ovens

As Campfire Wood