The X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) study of three heat-treated North American wood species (jack pine, birch and aspen) was carried out to evaluate chemical modifications occurring on the wood surface during artificial weathering for different times. The results suggest that the weathering reduces lignin content (aromatic rings) at the surface of heat-treated wood, consequently, the carbohydrates content increases. This results in surfaces richer in cellulose and poorer in lignin. Heat-treated wood surfaces become acidic due to weathering, and the acidity increases as the weathering time increases. Three possible reasons are given to account for the increase of acidity during weathering. The lignin content increases, whereas the hemicelluloses content decrease due to heat treatment. Heat-treated woods have lower acidity to basicity ratios than the corresponding untreated woods for all three species because of the decrease in carboxylic acid functions mainly present in hemicelluloses. The wood composition changes induced by weathering are more significant compared to those induced by heat treatment at wood surface. Exposure to higher temperatures causes more degradation of hemicelluloses, and this characteristic is maintained during weathering. However, the wood direction has more effect on chemical composition modification during weathering compared to that of heat treatment temperature. The heat-treated jack pine is affected most by weathering followed by heat-treated aspen and birch. This is related to differences in content and structure of lignin of softwood and hardwood. The use of XPS technique has proved to be a reliable method for wood surface studies. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.