Knowing what to burn in a wood burning fireplace may seem cut and dried (no pun intended), but there’s likely more to it than you think. Is any wood suitable fuel for your fireplace? Do some wood varieties burn better than others? Is tossing cardboard, paper products, and the like really a big deal?

We’ve got answers.

What Should You Burn?

The fact of the matter is – what you burn matters. And there’s only one thing that you should use to fuel your fires – seasoned wood.

Properly seasoned firewood will give you a hot, clean fire that should emit no visible smoke.

After your firewood is cut, it should be given adequate time to season – meaning it needs to dry until the moisture content is reduced to 15-25 percent – before it’s burned in your fireplace.

All wood contains water, but excessive moisture content leads to incomplete combustion. Basically, your fire will expend energy trying to evaporate off the excess water, leading to reduced heat output, increased smoke, and greater build-up of creosote in your chimney. Since all these are undesirable, seasoning is a must.

Properly seasoned firewood will give you a hot, clean fire that should emit no visible smoke.

How Can I Tell if Wood Is Seasoned?

Seasoned firewood:

  • a close up view of a pile of dried out wood logsis pale gray/beige in color
  • has noticeable cracks and splits
  • has darkened edges
  • feels lighter in weight than green wood
  • produces a hollow knocking sound – rather than a heavy thunking sound – when struck together

These are all signs that your logs are ready to be burned. That said, looks can be deceiving, so the most accurate way to test logs is by using a moisture meter. This tool can be picked up at most big box or home improvement stores, and when used correctly should deliver a precise reading of the moisture content of your firewood. A moisture content between 15% and 25% is the ideal reading you want for your firewood.

Does the Species of Wood You Burn Matter?

The species of wood does make a difference as wood varieties do burn differently, but generally speaking, both hardwoods and softwoods are appropriate for use in your fireplace.

Softwoods are less dense than hardwoods. As a result, you’ll get less heat for the size of the logs than if you were burning hardwood. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Softwoods are useful for kindling because they’re generally much easier to get going than hardwoods, and they’re also useful on evenings where you don’t need quite as intense a blaze or when you’re thinking about winding the fire down for the night.

Your hardwoods, by contrast, take more effort to light but will burn longer and hotter, meaning you’ll be making fewer trips to the woodpile.

Which type of woods you use is up to what’s most readily available to you and what best meets your needs. If it’s softwoods you’re after, look for spruce, cedar, and pine. Looking for hardwoods? Stock up on varieties such as maple, cherry, walnut, apple, and beech.

What Not to Burn

The easiest way to say what not to use in your wood burning fireplace is to say what you should use. Seasoned firewood is the only appropriate fuel for use in your fireplace. 

Many other items you may consider using are unwise choices for a variety of reasons. 

  • a close up view of wood logs burningMany release toxins when burned, and the effects can be amplified within the confined space of your home. 
  • Other items will generate dark smoke, which can cause damage to your home and respiratory distress.
  • Another undesirable potential effect is dangerous burning qualities, such as unpredictability, excessive heat, or fire that is difficult to contain.

What exactly should you avoid? Not only should you leave materials like styrofoam, plastic, paper, charcoal, and cardboard out, but even wood products like plywood and treated wood. Also, never use kerosene, gasoline, or any other accelerant to help ignite or encourage your flames. These can be dangerous, and are also capable of causing some real damage to your fireplace and chimney.

How to Season Wood

To season firewood on your own, know that cutting it shorter tends to speed the process along. Split your logs, then store them with as much exposure to air as possible. In addition to storing your firewood well, the main ingredient for seasoning wood is time, so be sure to allow 6 – 12 months from cutting to using your firewood. It’s ready to use when it’s lost about two-thirds its weight. That’s about all there is to it!

Once firewood is seasoned, be sure to continue storing it well to avoid it becoming damp or mildewy. Stored correctly, it should last 3-4 years.

Properly Storing Your Firewood

Firewood should ideally be stored off the ground. Cover the top of your woodpile to protect it from snow and rain, but keep in mind that exposure to sun and wind is a friend to your firewood. Leaving the sides of your pile open will prevent moisture from being trapped and promote curing.

Rotating your firewood is a good practice, as well. This will keep greener firewood near the bottom and cured firewood near the top, readily at hand. Another tip? Remember that you aren’t the only one who likes your firewood. Termites and other insects may be attracted to it, so consider keeping your main stash of firewood further away from your house.

Keep Your Fireplace Running Smoothly By Relying On Us

Even when you’re diligent about using your fireplace well, soot and creosote will eventually build up. Call in our experts for routine chimney sweepings and maintenance to keep your chimney clear and working optimally. With proper care, your fireplace will be hosting cozy fires for years to come!

Get started by reaching out to us online or by calling 518-500-4048 now.

Northeastern Masonry & Chimney
Average rating:  
 0 reviews