There are many types of maple trees in the US, like sugar maple, hard maple, bigleaf maple, red maple firewood, and silver maple. Maple species are used to produce maple syrup, can make good firewood, and are considered shoulder woods. Silver maple, in particular, is one species of maple used for firewood. Its wood burns long, and silver maple generates heat, so is good for outdoor firewood.
Small silver maple trees can be cut and split into pieces for use as firewood. The wood itself is relatively soft, like other maple species, such as softwood varieties of maple. Silver maple is good firewood that produces moderate heat, though it is considered lower quality than hardwood maple or hard maple.
Whether or not silver maple is the best wood choice depends on the characteristics you want in firewood. In our guide, you can learn more about what makes maple good for firewood. By the end, you’ll better understand the different maple varieties and which wood to use for firewood. (Read Can I Use Propane Instead Of Butane)
What Are The Varieties Of Silver Maple Wood?
There are two main varieties of silver maple trees:
Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)
They are also known as soft maple, white maple, creek maple, and water maple. This is the most common type of silver maple tree.
Sempervirens silver maple (Acer saccharinum ‘Sempervirens’)
A cultivar of silver maple selected for its attractive foliage. It has finely cut leaves that emerge earlier and stay greener later in the season than the species.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Silver Maple Wood?
Silver maple wood has the following properties:
- Soft: It’s one of the softest maple varieties, with low density. Silver maple is rated 2 out of 4 on the Janka hardness scale.
- Lightweight: This firewood choice is light and easy to split. A cord of seasoned silver maple weighs around 2,100-2,400 pounds, thus making silver maple wood good to cut and transport.
- Pale color: The sapwood is almost white, while the heartwood is light tan to pale brown.
- Diffuse porous: The growth rings have a more uniform structure than ring-porous hardwoods like oak and ash.
- Prone to rot: The wood deteriorates readily when exposed to elements.
Is Silver Maple Easy To Split?
Splitting silver maple can be done quickly by hand and with mechanical splitters. The wood has short, small fibers that separate readily along the growth rings. The lightweight character of silver maple logs also makes the wood easier to handle.
Even large-diameter silver maple rounds split cleanly into well-formed pieces. Rotten sections may cause some trouble, but silver maple is among the easiest woods to split for firewood.
Silver maple contains a relatively high amount of sapwood, the newer wood just under the bark. Sapwood has more moisture and less energy content than heartwood.
High sapwood percentage causes silver maple firewood to hiss and sizzle more when burning wood than dense hardwoods. Silver maple is one of the fastest seasoning trees for firewood.
What Does it Smell Like?
Freshly cut silver maple produces a mild, pleasant scent. It does not have a strong odor like some other hardwood species.
Seasoned silver maple firewood is nearly odorless when dry. It does not release much fragrance when burned, so silver maple is a good choice for indoor fireplaces or wood stoves.
Due to its low density, silver maple dries out faster than most other hardwoods. Properly stacked and stored silver maple firewood can reach 20% moisture content within 6-12 months.
For ideal burning, moisture levels should be reduced to under 20%. Dry silver maple firewood is lighter in weight and will feel cracked or checked on the end grains when split. (Read Do Gunshots Echo)
Heat Output and Efficiency of Silver Maple
In terms of heating ability, silver maple firewood falls short of harder, denser woods like oak, ash, or hickory. Per cord, it provides around 74% of the heat energy of white oak.
The lower BTU content is due to the wood’s low mass and lack of resin. Soft maple firewood burns faster and requires more frequent loading and adjustment to maintain heat output. Overall it rates as moderate-quality firewood.
Fire Characteristics Of Silver Maple
Here are some key things to know about how silver maple burns:
- Catches fire and ignites easily due to soft texture
- Burns fast with a high flame
- It has a short burn time and needs frequent reloading.
- It makes decent coals but is not as long-lasting as hardwoods.
- Produces snap, crackle, and sizzle from the high sap content
- Leaves a modest amount of ash
The fast-burning nature of silver maple lends itself to more creosote accumulation in wood stoves and chimneys. The soft wood does not form as much char or penetrate logs, resulting in unburned vapors that condense as creosote.
To reduce creosote with silver maple, use smaller pieces of silver maple, split pieces, and make fires hot enough to maintain secondary combustion. Also, inspect and clean your chimney at least once per season when burning soft maple frequently.
Amount Of Smoke
Silver maple puts off moderate to high amounts of smoke when burning. The soft texture and high sapwood percentage causes it to smolder more than denser woods. If smoke is a major concern, it’s best to avoid using silver maple in urban or suburban areas where neighbors are in close proximity. The smoke may not be as much of an issue for rural areas or occasional campfires.
Does It Produce Coals?
Silver maple does form coals as it burns, but they tend to be short-lived compared to woods like oak, hickory, or locust. The coals don’t last long enough to cook over or provide sustained heat output. For best results, use silver maple coals soon after they form by raking them to the center of the firebox. Don’t expect lengthy coal beds for overnight heating or cooking. Mixing in some harder wood helps prolong the coals.
Is Silver Maple Good To Burn In A Fireplace?
Silver maple is an acceptable wood to burn in fireplaces. It should be seasoned properly to a moisture content below 20% to minimize smoldering and creosote buildup. The soft texture, snap, and crackle sound aren’t ideal for a quiet, meditative fireplace setting. But the bright flames and ease of lighting make it a good occasional or emergency use wood.
Mix silver maple with hardwood like oak, ash, or hickory in the fireplace for best results. Avoid burning it where smoke may bother neighbors or trigger asthma. (Read Killer Instinct Ripper 415 Review)
How Long To Season Silver Maple Tree Wood?
If you are asking, how long does it take for wood to be ready? Here are general seasoning timelines for how long to leave your silver maple firewood to dry:
- 6 months: Keep a firewood rack in the open air and protect it from rain and snow. This wood you burn gets moisture down to 25-30%.
- 9-12 months: Stacked in a location with good sun and wind exposure. Expect 20-25% moisture content, where firewood will burn slower.
- 18 months: To make sure that your silver maple is ready. Stick to 18 months to get moisture levels below 20% for premium burning firewood and an increase amount of heat output.
- 2+ years: Only needed during wet years or if the wood was cut late in the season. Achieves 15-20% moisture content to make silver maple good wood for burning.
How To Store Silver Maple Until Good Maple Firewood
Follow these tips for properly seasoning and storing silver maple for firewood:
- Cut wood to length and split it into smaller pieces by early spring.
- Stack off the ground on pallets or timbers with spacing between pieces.
- Arrange the stack to allow airflow on all sides.
- Keep covered from rain and snow, but allow open ventilation.
- Check moisture levels regularly by weighing and using a moisture meter.
- Since silver maple would rot, bring the wood to be burned into a garage or enclosed space until the wood is good to use on the fire.
With adequate time and dry storage, silver maple firewood is one of the best for efficient burning.
Pros And Cons Of Using Silver Maple Firewood
Here are some advantages and disadvantages to help show whether silver maple will meet your firewood needs:
- Widely available throughout its range
- Inexpensive compared to other hardwoods
- Splits very easily by hand or machine
- Seasons quickly due to low density
- Catches fire and lights easily
- Burns faster and provides less heat than hardwood
- Prone to popping and crackling when burning
- Produces less usable coals than dense woods
- More prone to smoke and creosote buildup
- Rotts quickly when exposed to elements
How Does Silver Maple Compare To Other Firewood?
Silver maple makes great wood for fires, and here you can see how it stacks up against other common types of firewood:
- Oak: Much denser and burns slower and hotter than silver maple. Produces excellent coals. Oak is superior firewood.
- Ash: Comparable to oak in many respects. Slightly less dense but still burns slowly with good heat.
- Birch: Has nicely burning qualities but is still denser and longer lasting than silver maple with good coals.
- Elm: Similar to silver maple in density and burn qualities, but harder and more resistant to rotting.
- Aspen/Poplar: It is very low-density and behaves like silver maple when burning. No real advantage over maple.
So while it’s not at the bottom of the list, silver maple ranks in the lower tier of firewood selections. It can’t match up to top-notch hardwoods like oak, hickory, and beech. But in some cases, its availability and ease of use make it a decent option.
Conclusion: Silver Maple, Good for Firewood?
Silver maple is considered medium to low-quality firewood, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided entirely. It can provide adequate heating and ambiance for occasional fires or supplement primary wood supplies if seasoned correctly.
It’s also a good starter wood for learning to process firewood yourself. The soft texture lends itself to easy splitting by hand or with a gas splitter. And silver maple often costs less per cord than premium hardwoods.
Just be mindful of its high moisture content, lower density, and faster burn rate. Mix it with harder woods when possible, and don’t rely solely on silver maple to heat your home through harsh winters. With proper seasoning and realistic expectations, silver maple can fill a niche in your firewood stacking plan. (Read Barnett Penetrator Crossbow Review)
How long does silver maple firewood last when burning?
When used in a wood stove or fireplace, expect silver maple logs to burn in under 1 hour. It has a shorter burn time than dense hardwoods like oak or hickory.
Does silver maple wood spit sparks?
Silver maple spits sparks and embers more than other woods because of its high sap content. Take precautions around flammable surfaces.
Can you use silver maple in a wood furnace?
It can be used in wood furnace applications, though harder woods like oak are preferred for sustained overnight heat output. Mix in some silver maple for easy starting fires.
Does silver maple firewood smell strong?
Silver maple has a mild, subtle scent when burning. It’s suitable to burn silver maple in a fireplace indoor indoors since it doesn’t emit a strong odor.
Is silver maple sustainable as firewood?
As a fast-growing type of wood, silver maple is considered sustainable firewood and good shoulder wood when harvested responsibly and allowed to regrow or regenerate naturally.
How do you know when silver maple firewood is ready to burn?
Silver maple as firewood should be split and air-dried until the moisture content is reduced to 20% or less. This makes the wood lighter and creates visible cracks on the end grains.