Burning wood in a fireplace has long been a passion of many homeowners. The nice, relaxing crackling of a fireplace has been a mainstay in cultures for centuries.
These days, it serves a more practical purpose in cutting down heating costs, as well as a great source of lighting in the event that the power goes out.
We've amassed four of the best types of woods to burn in a fireplace, as well as those that we advise you to stay away from.
Oak is quite possibly the best wood for fireplace. A lot of this has to do with its density and its energy content. Wood is generally measured in British Thermal Units, and oak ranks pretty high on this list, with red oak probably being the highest.
Regardless of the type that you choose, you can expect a slow-burning, low flame that burns very evenly throughout the log. However, one of the common issues is that it takes a long time to dry, often times taking a couple of years.
It's for this reason that most experts suggest that you only use fully seasoned oak to assure that you're not getting wood that doesn't burn evenly. Also, wood that's too wet will also produce an unpleasant and possibly even harmful amount of smoke.
Also, oaks are over-forested, so it's best to responsibly source your wood to make sure that you're not subject to unsavory logging practices. A good rule of thumb is to only get oaks in the winter, whereas you'll want softer woods for the other months.
Ash wood can be a bit harder to get your hands on, but it's assuredly worth it. It's generally found in mixed cords, which are ash bundled with other hardwoods such as hickory or oak. In any event, ash is super user-friendly and doesn't kick out that much smoke.
With ash, unlike oak, you don't have to worry about it being too wet when you want to burn it. That usually means that it's safer and longer-lasting than many types of woods.
This is especially pleasant for an indoor fire. Many experts agree that the best ash comes in gray or whitish wood.
The Douglas Fir is a wood that's plentiful in North America. A lot of this has to do with much of the climate, but it's also pretty easy to grow and cut down. Since it takes no time from being planted and harvested, you should also get a good price when you're trying to source it.
This high-energy wood cuts great and creates a decent and steady amount of heat. What's more is that this type of heat shouldn't be relegated to any particular time of year, as it's pretty prevalent and it doesn't take much time for it to dry.
However, this is generally a hit during the holiday season because it gives off that noteworthy evergreen scent. Give this wood a chance if you don't want to worry about availability, smoke level, or price point.
Fruit woods offer a whole different world of home fireplaces, offering a variety of different things that other woods simply cannot, opening up options for both cooking and special occasions. For example, apple and cherry woods give off amazing fragrances for meats and vegetables.
They're also great for holiday parties, as they can impart a fragrant and festive air that adds a new level to a party or celebration during the fall. However, these woods are known to be a bit expensive due to their ability to be used both for cooking and heating a home.
Of course, like with anything that's special, you're probably going to spend a little more for them. We suggest you calling around to any local orchards or farms to get the best possible price. We definitely they're worth the effort you put in!
Woods to Always Avoid
While the list above includes some great woods that are great in any fireplace, there are more than enough that you should stay away from.
Some can be dangerous, while others can be downright toxic, or otherwise just not the best wood for fireplace.
While some softwoods are good to burn, there are a number of them that we think are worth avoiding at all costs. For example, pines, cypresses, and many firs aren't good for you - at least in the home.
The reasoning here is that they burn very quickly and kick up a lot of smoke. This smoke will quickly fill both your home and your chimney with ash and creosote. If left untreated, your chimney may catch fire and cause a whole host of problems.
If you must burn many softwoods, it's probably best to keep them outside and well away from your home, as they can work decently well in a fire pit or bonfire.
While this isn't a problem in some areas of the country, driftwood is also another thing that you want to stay away from. It's great kindling, but it may have a high level of salt content. Salt can quickly damage your chimney and may even make you a bit queasy.
Furthermore, you can't easily verify what "found wood" has in it. It may be pressure treated or contain plastics that can harm you, your chimney, or the people that you love.
Most driftwood has unknown origins, but if you can verify that it came from somewhere that it's safe to burn, you should ditch it.
For most, it's just not worth the risk. Burning wood can always come with risks.
Chemically Treated Wood
As the name implies, chemically treated wood can cause many problems for your personal health. A good example of this is pressure-treated lumber. You can usually tell by it's reddish-brown or maybe even green coloring.
While it may look nice, the chemicals used to treat it are toxic to humans. When this type of wood is burned, it releases these chemicals into the air.
Plywood is much the same way. It's filled with harmful glues, which will expel some nasty smoke into the air.
We also think that you should stay away from the myriad of paint, adhesive, or synthetic woods for the same reason.
All of these woods may be laying around or cheap to source, but they're absolutely not worth burning due to the harmful effects they will undoubtedly have on you.
Unseasoned wood may have its place, but it's not in your fireplace. Fortunately, unseasoned wood is generally too wet to burn, so there's a chance that you may not be in any imminent danger. It generally takes wood a year or two to completely dry.
If by chance you can burn it, you'll immediately notice that it gives off too much smoke. Additionally, depending on which unseasoned wood you're attempting to burn, this smoke can also be extremely high in creosote. As earlier stated, this wood can set your chimney on fire.
You know if you have unseasoned wood because it's lighter than seasoned wood. It also makes a very distinguishable crackling sound when struck with another piece of wood. While many woods do that to a degree, this sound is generally higher and much more pronounced.
(The Basics) How to Wood Burn: