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Sassafras Firewood 101: Your Root-Beer Flavored Fuel

Sassafras Firewood

Are you looking for a cozy, fragrant fuel to spice things up in your fireplace? Sassafras firewood might just be what you’re looking for. 

In this article, we’ll tell you about its unique fire-burning qualities and tips on unleashing its full potential as firewood. Read on to learn how sassafras can take your fires to the next level!

Is sassafras a good firewood?

Is sassafras a good firewood
Image: North Carolina Plant Toolbox Extension Gardener

Sassafras is an excellent firewood choice for fireplaces, where you can enjoy a decent 19.5 million BTU heat output and a pleasant root beer-like aroma.

It’s also one of the easiest firewood to split and ignite because of the oil it contains, which catches light quickly. 

However, the wood’s essential oils also cause it to pop and spark as it burns, so make sure your fireplace is covered with a screen or glass to prevent any unwanted fire.

Sassafras wood has a low density and poor coal production, which makes it burn fast. You will need to mix sassafras with other hardwoods to enjoy longer burn times.

Below is an overview of the physical and fire characteristics of sassafras firewood.

Tree NameSassafras
Scientific NameSassafras albidum
Height 30 to 60 feet tall
Life Span30 years
Type of WoodHardwood
Dry Weight (lbs per cord)2,829
Green Weight (lbs per cord)3,740
Seasoning Time6 months
Heat Content (million BTUs per cord)19.5
Sap ContentModerate
Splitting DifficultyVery Easy
SmellSpicy, Root Beer-like scent
Coal ProductionPoor
Creosote Build-upLow

Fire Characteristics of Sassafras Wood

Fire Characteristics of Sassafras Wood
Image: The Spruce

Sassafras firewood is easy to split with moderate sap content and a unique spicy, root beer-like aroma while producing a medium heat output and low creosote build-up. However, it emits mild smoke and has poor coal production.

Let’s take a look at how these fire characteristics apply to sassafras firewood.

1. Easy to Split

Easy to Split
Image: Firewood for Life

Sassafras wood is easy to split, thanks to its soft nature and straight grains. Because of these qualities, sassafras is a great kindling wood.

Using an ax or hydraulic splitter, you won’t have to break a sweat processing sassafras for firewood.

2. Moderate Sap Content

Moderate Sap Content
Image: Lahinch Tavern and Grill

Sassafras wood and bark are naturally filled with oil because of their resin content. 

So, although the sassafras wood is not overloaded with oil, it still has a moderate sap content similar to maple wood. Fortunately, sassafras sap helps the wood give off its distinct root beer-like aroma.

3. Spicy, Root Beer-Like Scent

Spicy, Root Beer-Like Scent
Image: Fermentation Adventure

Sassafras wood contains essential oils that give off a distinct root beer-like scent with spicy undertones as it burns. This makes it one of the fragrant firewood best used indoors. 

You can even place small pieces of sassafras wood in a kindling basket in your home so it can give off its aromatic scent even when not burning. 

4. Medium Heat Output 

Medium Heat Output 
Image: M&A All Seasons Tree Service

Sassafras firewood has a medium heat output of 19.5 million BTUs per cord. Relatively, it can generate the same amount of heat as basswood.

However, sassafras produces an inefficient heat output because its low density makes it burn fast, and its low coal production fails to prolong the heat.

For a cleaner and longer burn, you can mix sassafras with other hardwoods or use them as kindling wood to provide quick heat during warm months. 

5. Low Creosote Build-Up

Low Creosote Build-Up
Image: High’s Chimney Service

Sassafras has low creosote build-up. We recommend using it as kindling wood and mixing it with other hardwoods like oak to have more heat and cleaner burn for your chimney. 

6. Moderate Amount of Smoke

Moderate Amount of Smoke
Image: Vecteezy

Sassafras firewood produces a moderate amount of smoke because of the oil content of its wood.

Make sure to dry out the sassafras wood completely to remove as much oil in its wood as possible. This will also prevent excess smoke when you burn it as firewood.

7. Poor Coal Production

Poor Coal Production
Image: Snowys

Coals are essential to sustain the heat and rekindle fire after burning. 

However, Sassafras firewood burns fast because of its poor coal production. Once the wood burns away, it will leave ashes instead of a coal bed. 

Pros and Cons of Using Sassafras as Firewood

Pros and Cons of Using Sassafras as Firewood
Image: Classic City Arborists

Let’s evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using sassafras as firewood.

Very easy to splitBurns fast
Aromatic scentTends to crack and pop
Quick seasoning timePoor coal production

Sassafras firewood produces a decent heat output of 19.5 million BTUs per cord, enough to provide heat in the fireplace. It has a distinct root beer-like scent with spicy undertones, completing your home’s warm and cozy ambiance. 

This firewood is one of the easiest wood to split because of its soft nature and straight grains, making it durable and easy to work with, whether using hand or mechanical tools.

It also has a quick seasoning time of 6 months, which helps remove as much oil in the wood as possible, lessen spark production and prevent rotting.

Unfortunately, sassafras wood burns fast because of its low density and poor coal production. Instead of producing coal beds, this firewood leaves ashes as it burns away.

It also tends to pop and spark as it burns because of the essential oil its wood contains, so keep your fireplace covered to prevent unwanted fires in your home.

How does sassafras compare with other firewood?

How does sassafras compare with other firewood
Image: Amy Campion

Sassafras seasons quicker than most firewood, like elm wood, in six months. It’s also very easy to split, whether green or dry, compared with cottonwood and is not prone to mold growth compared with birch wood. 

It’s also a common chestnut substitute because of its higher heat output. However, chestnut is still a slow-burning wood that provides more lasting heat than sassafras.

Sassafras also pops and sparks more than most hardwoods, mainly because of its oil-soaked wood and bark. However, sassafras has less oil than pine sap content.

How long should you season sassafras wood?

How long should you season sassafras wood
Image: Wikimedia

Although it has oily wood and bard, sassafras wood takes six months to season. 

Like any firewood, make sure to allow the sassafras wood to dry out thoroughly. This will lessen its tendency to produce sparks while burning and prevent rotting.

Since this wood splits easily, we recommend cutting it into tiny pieces to speed up the seasoning process, ready to be used as kindling wood.

FAQs on Sassafras Firewood

Can sassafras be used for cooking purposes?

Sassafras firewood cannot be used for cooking. The oil from the tree’s roots and wood is toxic and can be transferred to the food when burned for cooking.

What is the sassafras tree?

Sassafras is a hardwood tree native to North America. Its roots are popularly used for making root beer, while its dried leaves are used as spiced in creole and cajun dishes.

What is sassafras wood used for?

Sassafras wood is commonly used in woodworking crafts and projects such as millwork, paneling, posts, cabinetry, furniture and split rails because of its durability.

What are the varieties of sassafras trees?

Sassafras has three remaining varieties – the white sassafras, red sassafras and silky sassafras trees.

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