Does a hackberry tree make good firewood? The short answer is ‘Yes and No’. Some firewoods far surpass hackberry in terms of heat output. However, this wood is not as useless, as some might claim. It has its applications, and sometimes the hackberry firewood is absolutely irreplaceable. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Hackberry tree features
Hackberry tree (lat. Celtis occidentalis) is a medium-sized tree that is native to North America. Its natural habitat stretches from the East Coast all the way West to Kansas.
You can easily identify it by an unusual bark that has bizarrely shaped step-like protrusions.
From September to October (depending on the local climate) hackberry tree bears fruit, small violet or dark blue berries that will stay on the branches till next spring. Inside the berry, there’s a single pit and a little flesh. The pit can be hard but you can still chew it if you’re careful. This might not sound very appetizing but the unimpressive fruit is edible, very nutritious, and quite tasty.
Despite its usefulness for people and fauna alike hackeberry tree is sometimes considered an unwelcome guest in some communities. The tree grows very well in urban areas and can occasionally suppress other species.
Hackberry wood properties
Hackberry is considered a hardwood. At the same time, in contrast to other trees of the same type hackberry is not deemed very valuable.
The reason is that hackberry wood is prone to rot and parasites. Because of that the furniture made of heckberry wood does not last very long, even if it’s been treated with large amounts of finisher.
At the same time, hackberry is perfectly suitable for smaller projects.
Is Hackberry good firewood?
Hackberry tree does not make very good firewood, mainly because of its low heat output.
The heat output of fuel is measured in BTU or British Thermal Units. When burned a cord of hackberry produces 21 million BTU. In comparison, traditional firewoods like white oak and hickory produce 30 million BTU worth of heat. Eucalyptus firewood has a higher thermal conductivity; its properties are slightly different from hackberry wood.
Another reason why hackberry trees are not used as fuel that often is that it’s quite difficult to store them for a long time.
As I mentioned, hackberry wood is quite prone to rot, so it is important to keep it under the cover in a dry well-ventilated area. This is true for all firewood types but with hackberry, you need to be extra cautious. Let’s compare hackberry firewood a ash firewood frame.
Is Hackberry good for anything?
Nevertheless, hackberry firewood has its advantages.
For one, hackberry burns long and stably. If it is seasoned well, there will be no sparks and very little smoke. And once the fire burns out, you are left with hot quality coals that are going to give off steady heat for hours. Besides, burning hackberry has a very pleasant smell.
All of that makes hackberry wood ideal for indoor use, for example, in wood stoves and fireplaces. The leftover coal is great for grilling and smoking meat.
Contrary to what some people believe hackberry is not at all toxic. So the meats cooked over hackberry embers are perfectly safe to eat.
Another advantage is low wood density. Even though hackberry is classified as a hardwood it is comparatively soft and in addition to that has a straight grain. Because of that it is quite easy to split Hackberry by hand.
Finally, burning hackberry generates a low amount of creosote. Creosote is an oily and toxic combustion product.
When wood is burned creosote rises with the smoke and eventually ends up on the chimney walls.
The creosote accumulation is the main reason why you have to clean your chimney regularly.
Processing hackberry logs
Before you can use it as firewood, hackberry wood just like any other type of wood needs to be split and seasoned.
Seasoning reduces moisture content in the wood which is essential for a couple of reasons.
First, high moisture content impedes the burning process. Unseasoned wood will hardly burn at all. It will just produce a lot of smoke or rather smoke mixed with water vapor.
Moreover, the small pockets of moisture trapped inside the wood will rapidly expand once the temperature starts climbing up, and this will lead to sparking and popping.
Second, the firewood stacked for seasoning just lasts longer. Wood logs piled up out in the open will inevitably start to decay. This is especially true for hackberry wood since, as I mentioned earlier, it is very susceptible to rot.
The good news is that the hackberry is relatively easy to split. In terms of firmness, hackberry compares to birch.
It means that you can split hackberry by hand and won’t need to resort to a hydraulic splitter, for example.
The split wood should be properly stacked. While stacking hackberry firewood, you need to keep a couple of important factors in mind.
First. The stacks should be elevated above the ground level to allow for better air circulation. Stacks of wood will prevent water from properly evaporating off of the ground surface.
It means that excessive moisture will be trapped under the seasoning firewood which will create favorable conditions for fungal infections i.e. rot. So it is probably a good idea to put your hackberry firewood on some wood pallets.
Second. Leave 2-3 inches gaps between the rows of firewood. This will generate additional airflow and thus help your firewood to season faster and more efficiently.
Third. Find a proper place for seasoning firewood. Windy areas that receive a lot of sunshine are the best. So try not to stack your firewood in the shadow, on the Northern side of a building.
Fourth. Even though wind and sun are your best friends when seasoning hackberry wood, it still makes sense to shelter the wood from other elements. Loosely cover the top of the stack with some tarpaulin to protect hackberry from the rain, hail, and snow.
If you’ve done everything correctly, it will take hackberry firewood up to 15 months to season properly. Of course, it is hard to tell the exact duration since seasoning greatly depends on the wood quality as well as the local climate.
For instance, if you live in a humid and cold climate hackberry will only be completely seasoned after two years. In warmer conditions, 12 months will suffice.
If you decide to harvest some dead wood, the seasoning process will take even less time. Dead hackberry will be good to go after just two months of seasoning.
Is hackberry good firewood? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It might not be the best wood in terms of heat output but it certainly does have its benefits.
For example, it is characterized by low smoke production and great coaling properties. That makes it a good firewood for the indoors. After the firewood is mostly burned out, the warm embers will radiate steady and gentle heat for most of the night. That also means that you can use hackberry wood to smoke meat. What about Bradford pear firewood?
All in all, hackberry is a decent firewood choice that is available throughout many states.
Is hackberry wood good firewood?
Traditionally, hackberry is not considered good firewood due to its low heat production. At the same time, it is certainly not the worst, since it burns long and steadily with minimal smoke.
Burning hackberry firewood in combination with other woods will yield the best results.
Is hackberry safe to burn?
Is hackberry wood toxic? No. Contrary to a pretty common misconception, burning hackberry firewood is safe. The smoke has a characteristic and pleasant smell but it is not an indication of some volatile and harmful chemical compounds.
How long does hackberry firewood need to season?
Freshly felled hackberry needs to season for about 12 months. Fallen hackberry logs generally have a lower moisture content and do not have to be seasoned for as long. Two months is usually enough.
Is hackberry wood good for anything?
Even though hackberry wood does not give off as much heat as other woods it can still be quite useful.
It is great for indoor use in warmer climates and during shoulder season. It does not spark or soot your chimney for it produces low smoke. Besides burning hackberry will fill your house with a nice mild fragrance.
In addition to that, the aromatic properties and the high coal production make it perfectly suited for smoking meats.
And of course, you can use hackberry wood for your woodworking projects. It is not as durable as white oak or maple, so you can’t make furniture with it. However, you can opt for some smaller wood articles like picture frames, small boxes, etc.