Why Does Burning Wood Pop and Crackle?

burning-wood-pop-crackle Credit: Lindsay Upson/Image Source/Getty Images

Burning wood will pop and crackle if it is softwood, which grows quickly and then dries easily, leaving gaps in the wood where fluids once resided. Softwoods, such as fir, hemlock and pine, contain resin, which can add to the popping sounds and also create potentially dangerous creosote in chimneys.

In addition to fir and pine, woods that tend to pop and crackle included black cherry, cedar, spruce, maple and sassafras. All these woods create beautiful flames that burn out more quickly than those from hardwood fires. When burning softwoods, it is important to have a reliable fireplace screen, preferably glass doors, to prevent burning embers or sparks from flying out of the fireplace.

Softwoods are excellent for use in starting a fire because they ignite quickly. Hardwoods produce more heat than softwoods, however. Hardwoods make for a more efficient fire because they give off as much as twice the amount of heat as softwoods. They also burn much longer than do softwoods.

Start a fire with softwoods, then switch to hardwoods to keep the fire going. Hardwoods, which burn well in fireplaces and outdoor wood burners, include almond, apple, beech, birch, dogwood, hickory, ash, pecan, boxwood, ironwood and oak.