Wood to Avoid in Your Fireplace

November 27, 2019 5:20 am Published by Leave your thoughts

It’s getting to be that time of year again, when curling up in front of a warming fire is a nighttime ritual you, your loved ones and your pets all look forward to! And while many fireplace owners know there’s a degree of maintenance that comes with wintertime use, it’s also important to pay mind to the type of wood you’re burning. Specifically, you’ll want to think about firewood not meant for fireplaces.

As you get ready to start stacking wood for the winter, make sure you’re avoiding timber not meant for indoor fireplaces. What you put into your fireplace (timber) has a big impact on the fire—how long it burns, how safe it is and how your chimney weathers the winter. Here are a few examples of wood to avoid in your fireplace:

  • Soft woods: Soft woods tend to produce a lot of smoke and burn very fast, which makes them less-than-ideal candidates for an interior fireplace. Not only will you burn through firewood faster than you care to pay for it, soft wood will coat your chimney with soot at an alarming rate, which means more cleanings and more money spent on maintenance.
  • Endangered wood: You’re not likely to pick up a bundle of rare wood at the hardware store, so you won’t have to worry too much about burning endangered species. But if you forage for your own wood, make sure you’re not hacking down any Blue Ash, American Chestnut or the like. These are protected trees, and you’ll face heavy fines if you’re caught burning them.
  • Driftwood: Don’t burn driftwood that washes up on your local beach. Not only is it a poor source of fuel for your fire, it’s bound to give off pungent aromas when burned. Driftwood may not even burn if it’s rotted enough, so don’t even bother with it.
  • Treated lumber: You might have some old lumber laying around the house from a recent construction project or hobby. Don’t burn it! Treated lumber has chemicals that prevent it from burning, so your attempts may be futile. Worse than that, it may be treated with a chemical that becomes toxic when burned. The last thing you need is a chemical release in your home fireplace.
  • Scrap wood: There’s no telling what scrap wood has been through. Old pallets may have rusty nails you don’t see or paint enamel still present that becomes toxic when burned. Never put scrap wood in your home’s fireplace. Only use fresh-chopped or store-bundled firewood.

It’s also smart to recognize and avoid native-area woods that may release irritants when burned, such as Mexican elder (releases cyanide when burned) and anything with “poison” in the name, like poison oak or poison sumac (releases urushiol when burned).

Your best bet is to buy firewood from a reputable local dealer who can guarantee safe, well-chopped and perfectly-sized logs. If you prefer to forage for yourself, stick to pines and hardwoods you can safely chop and haul. Always be mindful of the wood you’re burning and take care to use only safe timber in your fireplace.

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