Looking for cheap firewood options that won’t let you down? You may want to try sycamore wood, a hardwood tree commonly used for firewood. Whether you’re looking to keep warm or cook with wood, knowing sycamore’s qualities as firewood will help you determine whether it’s the right fit for your needs.
Does sycamore make good firewood?
Sycamore makes good firewood. Though not the best, it has good heat output and is also suitable for starting a fire.
Well-seasoned sycamore has a BTU of 19.1 million BTUs per cord, which gives decent heat output. However, for a hardwood, this heat output falls at the lower end of the spectrum, with hardwoods like ash and oak producing between 25-30 million BTUs per cord.
Note: Sycamore is an excellent option for those looking for affordable firewood with moderate heat output for those not-so-cold summer nights.
Sycamore also has moderate resin content. Resin is responsible for creosote buildup in chimneys. Consider using sycamore in your indoor fireplace or wood stove to minimize creosote buildup. Take note, too, that trees with lower resin/sap dry faster.
Note: Excessive creosote buildup inside the chimney reduces the chimney’s ventilation capabilities while also increasing the risk of a chimney fire breakout.
Sycamore catches fire quickly, making it great for kindling. It’s best to mix it with other types of hardwood, though, if you want a fire that burns longer.
Sycamore produces minimal sparks, making it less of a fire hazard than wood varieties that pop a lot when burning. Therefore, if indoor fire safety is a significant concern for you, sycamore may be one of the safer options you should consider.
Note: The ignition of resin pockets causes sparks/crackles. And since sycamore has minimal resin, it doesn’t spark as much.
Still, it’s best to take all safety precautions, even when using low-sparking firewood like sycamore. Always ensure you have a screen installed in your fireplace.
Sycamore firewood is also more affordable than other hardwoods like oak and hickory. You won’t have to spend much to keep your home heated over the winter if you opt for sycamore logs. The average cost is $250-$350 per cord.
On the downside, sycamore firewood produces a fair amount of smoke, which is why it’s best used in outdoor settings rather than indoors. Also, excessive smoke may indicate that the sycamore wood wasn’t well-seasoned.
Sycamore firewood produces decent-quality coal, but it’s not the best. The best coal is that which keeps the fire burning for longer. And since sycamore dies out relatively fast, it can be concluded that it doesn’t have excellent coaling properties.
How to season sycamore
Seasoning is drying freshly-fell wood to the appropriate moisture level for firewood use. It’s an important stage of firewood preparation, as burning unseasoned wood results in a low-quality fire with poor heat output and bad smells.
Here’s how to season sycamore correctly:
- Split the wood- wood dries up much quicker when it’s split than when it’s in log form since more surface area is exposed to sunshine and wind.
- Ensure the wood pieces are elevated- wood seasoned on a platform dried up faster than wood laid directly on the ground since the elevation allows for airflow underneath the stack. Despite the extra effort of building a platform, it’s worth it.
- Stack the wood- when stacking sycamore wood for seasoning, you need to stack them so that there’s optimal airflow and sunshine exposure. As such, ensure proper spacing between the stacks. Also, avoid seasoning your wood in a shady spot, as you want the wood piles to receive maximum sunlight.
- Cover the firewood pile- covering the top of the stack keeps off rainwater or snow while leaving the sides well-exposed for proper airflow. It’s best to use a tarp for this purpose.
Read my guide on how to dry firewood fast here. You’ll get great tips to season your firewood within the shortest time possible.
How long does sycamore take to season?
For the best-burning firewood, it’s best to season sycamore for at least 12 months. However, depending on your region’s climate and seasoning practices, you can still dry sycamore to the desired moisture content of 20% within 6-8 months.
Sycamore trees typically grow on the banks of rivers and streams. As such, they usually have a high starting moisture content. Therefore, to ensure the moisture content is down to the required level, leave it out for at least 12 months or adopt the seasoning tips in the previous section to speed up the drying time.
You can also use a digital moisture meter to measure the moisture content of your stack of firewood every month or so.
Is sycamore easy to split?
It’s challenging to split freshly-fell sycamore by hand since it has stringy fibers and high moisture content. It’s advisable to hire a hydraulic splitter for this purpose as you prepare to stack the wet, green logs for seasoning. For comparison, sycamore is more demanding to split than other hardwoods such as oak, maple, and ash.
Is sycamore wood good for cooking?
Sycamore wood is suitable for cooking. It’s believed that the smell of the firewood used affects the aroma and flavor of the food being cooked, especially when barbecuing meat. As such, nice-smelling firewood is preferred for such purposes, while firewood types with bad smells are shunned.
Sycamore has a mild campfire smell, which is neither too good nor bad. You can, therefore, use sycamore wood for cooking, so long as you aren’t relying on the firewood to determine the flavor. Also, if anything, short-burning firewood like sycamore is best for cooking as you want a fire that dies out soon after you’re done barbecuing/grilling.
Note: Sycamore also has a thin bark, hence won’t leave behind excessive ash buildup inside your wood stove.
- North Carolina State University (NCSU) Extension: Coppiced American Sycamore on Marginal Land as a Viable Short Rotation Woody Crop
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Properties of Wood Related to Drying