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Your 101 to Sweetgum Firewood

Your 101 to Sweetgum Firewood

Sweetgum firewood is a popular choice for lumber because of its unique reddish-brown color with intricate white and black grain patterns. But what happens when you burn sweetgum wood? 

Let’s look at its fire-burning properties and compare it to other firewood. 

Is sweetgum a good firewood?

Is sweetgum a good firewood
Image: Gardener’s World

Sweetgum is a great kindling firewood that will keep you warm during shoulder seasons. It gives off a decent 20.6 BTU heat output with medium smoke and little creosote output.

The fire that sweetgum firewood creates burns hot yet fast because of its low coal production. On the bright side, you can mix it with other firewood to extend its burn time.

Seasoned sweetgum firewood is best used in fireplaces with a screen or closed doors to keep your home safe from the pops and sparks the fire will be creating. 

Here’s a breakdown of the physical and fire-burning characteristics of sweetgum wood.

Tree NameSweetgum
Common Names• Liquid Amber

• American storax

• Hazel pine

• Bilsted

• Redgum

• Satin-walnut

• Star-leaved gum

• Alligatorwood
Scientific NameLiquidambar styraciflua
Height 60 to 75 feet
Life Span100 to 150 years
Type of WoodHardwood
Dry Weight (lbs per cord)2,250 to 2,950
Green Weight (lbs per cord)3,850 to 4,550
Seasoning Time12 months
Heat Content (million BTUs per cord)20.6
Resin ContentHigh
Splitting DifficultyDifficult
Coal ProductionLow
Creosote Build-upLow

Fire Characteristics of Sweetgum Firewood

Fire Characteristics of Sweetgum Firewood
Image: Edge of the Woods Nursery

Sweetgum firewood is difficult to split, has high resin content and produces a moderate heat and smoke output, a yeasty smell and poor coals.

Let’s take a look at how each fire characteristic affects sweetgum as firewood.

1. Difficult to Split

Difficult to Split
Image: Wikipedia

Sweetgum is a challenging wood. It’s filled with interwoven grains, making it a very difficult task.

The best you can do is split sweetgum while it’s still green; otherwise, the wood will harden once seasoned. 

We recommend using a hydraulic splitter to get a clean and consistent splitting of sweetgum. 

2. High Resin Content

High Resin Content
Image: K-State Research and Extension

Sweetgum has high resin content that causes fire to crack, pop and spark while burning. 

Using this firewood for outdoor burning is best to prevent unwanted fires inside your house.

3. Yeasty Smell

Yeasty Smell
Image: Burly Beaver

Sweetgum wood has a yeasty smell that most people liken to beer. But don’t worry because as long as it’s fully seasoned, the drying process will tame the pungent scent.

4. Moderate Heat Output 

Moderate Heat Output 
Image: Gud Gear

Sweetgum firewood produces 20.6 BTU million per cord, making it an excellent heat source during mild winter. It even matches black ash and douglas fir in terms of heat output.

5. Moderate Smoke Output

Moderate Smoke Output
Image: Food Fire Friends

High resin content contributes to sweetgum’s moderate smoke output. 

As the firewood burns, the fire tends to evaporate the remaining moisture and resin in the wood, thereby releasing a medium amount of smoke. 

Although it has a mid-range heat output, sweetgum still burns quickly because it cannot sustain the heat without enough good-quality coals. So, this is not your firewood if you want fires to last overnight.

6. Low Coal Production

Low Coal Production
Image: Countryside Turf and Fencing

Hardwoods produce coal to extend its burning time, but unfortunately, sweetgum produces poor coal and burns fast that it cannot make the fire last through the night. 

A great workaround that you can do is to mix sweetgum with other long-burning woods to increase the heat output and extend its burning time.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Sweetgum as Firewood

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Sweetgum as Firewood
Image: Tree Guide UK

We’ve rounded up the pros and cons of using sweetgum firewood. Check out the table below.

Moderate heat outputProne to rotting
Good for kindlingExcessive sparks
Low creosote productionMedium smoke
Difficult to split
Fast burning

Sweetgum is an excellent choice of firewood to keep you warm during cold nights. You can easily ignite it and enjoy a 20.6 BTU heat output. 

It also produces little creosote, so you won’t have to worry much about the black, flammable tar filling your chimney.

When burning sweetgum inside your home, it’s better to place it in a fireplace with a screen or door to prevent unwanted fires because of the popping and sparks that its fire produces. It will also limit the spread of smoke throughout your home.

One downside of this firewood is its low coal production which causes it to burn fast. So, for optimum use, you can mix sweetgum with other firewood to increase its burn time.

Sweetgum is also a difficult wood to process. It has interwoven grains that make it hard to split and cause it to take at least 12 months to season thoroughly.

Finally, sweetgum is prone to rotting, so make sure the wood is fully seasoned before molds grow.

How does sweetgum compare with other firewood?

How does sweetgum compare with other firewood
Image: Arbor Day Foundation

Compared to other popular hardwoods, sweetgum has a lower BTU, difficult splitting and poor coal production, which is why some find it not worth keeping in their homes. 

Here’s how sweetgum compares with other popular firewood.

FirewoodHeat Output (BTU million per cord)Splitting DifficultyCoal Production
Green Ash20EasyGood
Bur Oak26.2EasyGood

How long should you season sweetgum wood?

How long should you season sweetgum wood
Image: Mother Earth News

Sweetgum firewood needs 12 months to be fully seasoned. After a year of seasoning, the sweetgum firewood will turn darker with cracks on end and its moisture level will go down to 15%.

It takes this long because the intertwined grains of sweetgum firewood cause excessive wood warping, limiting airflow. 

FAQs on Sweetgum Firewood

Can I burn sweetgum on a stove?

Sweetgum can be used as firewood for stovetops, providing enough heat to cook food even during mild winters.

Can I burn sweetgum in a firepit?

Sweetgum is a great wood to be burned in a firepit since it burns hot and fast. Make sure you keep an ample distance to protect yourself from the pops and sparks it will produce.

Is sweetgum useful for anything?

Sweetgum is a popular commercial wood for making furniture, veneer flooring, plywood, crates and other wooden items.

What are the varieties of sweetgum trees?

Common sweetgum varieties include the American sweetgum, Fruitless sweetgum, sweetgum Worplesdon, sweetgum Variegata, Oriental sweetgum, sweetgum Lane Roberts, and Chinese sweetgum.

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