11 Kinds of Wood that Should Not be Burned in a Fireplace + BONUS MATERIAL - Down to Earth Homesteaders (2022)

I know it’s tempting to burn anything that will produce heat, but as you will read below it’s important to understand that burning some types of wood can put your health at risk.

Here is a list of 11 kinds of wood that should not be burned in a fireplace. Some of these varieties shouldn’t be burned because they produce harmful toxins which are very dangerous for you to breath. Others are very flammable and can put your at risk for a chimney fire.

Take a look at the 11 wood types below to find out more and then check out the 7 other common household items that you should avoid burning.

11 Kinds of Wood Not to Burn in Your Fireplace

1. Green Wood or Unseasoned Wood

Wood that makes the best firewood for a fireplace is seasoned wood not green wood. Depending on the species of wood, needs to season for about 12 months. Green wood if burned in a fireplace will typically result in a lot of smoke and creosote build up in your chimney. All firewood will create some amounts of creosote, but green wood will produce the most.

Creosote is nothing more than a condensation of small, unburned particles contained in the smoke that coats the chimney surface as it exits. The creosote will stick to the sides of the chimney and can ignite, causing a chimney fire. It’s best not to burn green wood in your fireplace if you can avoid it.

2. Non-Local Wood

If you are buying firewood, be sure to only buy local wood. Ask the seller where he got the wood from and don’t buy it if the wood came

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from more than a few miles away. This is especially important if you live in an area that is currently being invaded by an invasive wood pest, such as the emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle, or the gold-spotted oak borer.

These pests move slowly on their own, but with our help they can put new forests at risk. Buying non-local wood and stacking and storing it on your property, can give these insects just the right opportunity to damage more forests and the trees on your own property. By buying local wood you can feel fairly confident that nothing foreign or destructive will be introduced to your trees.

3. Christmas Trees

This might seem like a funny one to put on the list, but you would be surprised at how many people burn their old Christmas trees in their fireplace. So what is the real danger? Well, Christmas trees have an abundance of dry needles that can catch on fire super quickly and the tree has a ton of sap, which is super flammable and full of creosote that can clog up your chimney. Because Christmas trees are loaded with sap that burns quickly and pops, embers may rise quickly through your chimney and can start a chimney fire. It’s best to avoid burning this tempting firewood in your indoor fireplace.

4. Driftwood

While you will get beautiful blue and lavender flames burning driftwood, it is not recommended to burn in your fireplace. When burned it is a big source of dioxin, which is a toxin to humans. Instead of burning driftwood in your fireplace use it as a decoration piece in your home as a memory of your trip to the coast.

5. Poisonous wood

I think it goes without saying that you do not want to burn any woods in your fireplace that have the word “poison” in their name. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, etc. They release an irritant oil into the smoke and can cause big problems to you especially if you are allergic to them. Breathing in the smoke can cause lung irritation, and severe allergic respiratory problems.

6. Oleander

Oleander trees are beautiful to look at but toxic in all its parts. You will also see it grown as a shrub and is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden plants. It also goes by the name Nerium. They typically grow along rivers and streams and have beautiful flowers either white, pink, or red.

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Humans and animals are sensitive to its toxicity. Ingestion of the plant can affect your gastrointestinal system, your heart, and the central nervous system. Don’t burn your food over it, don’t toast marshmallows on a stick from it, and don’t breath in its smoke.

7. Endangered Species

Just as there are endangered animals in our world there are also trees that are at risk of extinction. It’s best to avoid burning them if you have any other options available to you. The Maple-Leaf Oak, Florida Yew and Fraser Fir are just a few to mention. The decline in some populations of tree species is due to logging combined with a lack of fire. Some trees, like the Longleaf Pine, must experience a forest fire for its seeds to germinate. Longleaf Pine are listed as endangered, but some say they should be qualified as critically endangered if a thorough assessment was done.

Other trees, such as Red Oak, fall prey to attacks from funguses. It spreads overland and through root grafts between trees. It doesn’t take very long, just a few months, for the tree to die. The Fraser Fir is in danger because of an insect called the balsam woolly Adelgid. Once the tree is infected with the insect it basically starves to death.

8. Plywood, particle board, or chipboard

A lot of inexpensive furniture is made with particle board, also called chipboard, and held together with high-strength adhesive. It’s a bad idea to burn adhesives because you will be breathing in smoke that is filled with toxins. If you are bent on getting rid of your unwanted furniture, best to set it on the curb with a free or for sale sign. Hopefully, someone will pick it up quickly!

Similarly, plywood should not be burned in your fireplace. Don’t burn it at all inside or outside. The layers of sheet material is glued together. This glue when burned creates toxic smoke that is harmful to your body. If you have a building project, best to calculate as accurately as possible how much plywood you need so you don’t have extra lying around. If you just really need to get rid of it take it to a land-fill. That is much better than burning it.

9. Painted or stained wood

It might be tempting to burn whatever wood you can get your hands on, but think twice before burning painted or stained wood in your fireplace. Painted or stained wood can contain toxic chemicals that are released when burned and are dangerous for you to breathe. Often times you will find people wondering what to do with their painted or stained wood after a remodel or a building has been torn down.

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10. Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure treated wood contains wood preservatives that are intended to extend the life of the wood and prevent it from rotting, weathering and being eaten by insects. Often times people use pressure treated wood for building decks of other outdoor structures that they want to be beautiful and last for years to come. You should never burn it though.

When you burn it in your fireplace it releases all of those toxic chemicals into the air for you to breathe. It’s best to repurpose pressure treated lumber or dispose of it in a landfill.

11. Wood Pallets

I know it’s tempting to want to burn any kind of wood you can get your hands on, but please don’t burn wood pallets in your fireplace. Some pallets are treated with chemicals, which you don’t want to breathe and have fill your home. Nowadays there are tons of things you can do with old wooden pallets to repurpose the wood. If you aren’t a crafty person, consider giving them to someone who is. They can make bookshelves, coffee tables, swings, shoe organizers, and all kinds of things out of old pallets.

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1. Cardboard

Fireplaces are designed to burn wood but sometimes we treat them like a trash can and throw whatever we have lying around into them. What about cardboard? Is it ok to burn cardboard in your fireplace? Well, actually, its not a good idea. For one, cardboard contains man-made chemicals, which when burned can release hazardous fumes into the air that are harmful for us to breath. Also, there is the danger that the cardboard can float into the air as it is burning and leave the fireplace if a screen is not in place. You may also cause an outside fire if the cardboard pieces travel up the flue and out the chimney. It’s best to avoid burning cardboard in your fireplace.

2. Trash

Just like burning cardboard in your fireplace, burning trash in your fireplace is not a good idea. Trash will give off chemical emissions that are not healthy for us to breath and depending on what kind of trash it can produce a very unpleasant smell in your house. I know it’s tempting to treat your fireplace like an incinerator, but don’t. This includes table scraps, cereal boxes, egg crates, wrappers, etc.

3. Plastic

Should you burn plastic in your fireplace? No, no you should not burn plastic in your fireplace. For one, it creates hazardous fumes that you should not breath and black yucky smoke. Plastic will not burn up completely, which will leave you with a mess in your fireplace. Not a good idea to burn it in your fireplace. Many types of plastic can be recycled. Just check with your local recycling center. You might try making something out of your plastic milk jugs or coke bottles or just throwing them away to end up in the landfill.

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4. Paper

I’m sure you can picture lighting a piece of paper and then watching it catch a draft and go airborne. This will happen to you if you burn paper without a screen on your fireplace. The danger with paper is that it can also go up and out your chimney and cause an outdoor fire. Be very careful if you choose to burn paper in your fireplace. One way to help minimize flying fire balls is to tightly twist your paper tightly before igniting them.

5. Magazines

While burning paper in your fireplace isn’t the best idea, as noted above, the main concern with burning magazines is the ink printed on the paper. When burned the ink releases harmful chemicals into your home. Best to find some other was to dispose of your unwanted magazines than to burn them in your fireplace.

Rather than burning all of those unwanted magazines you might try donating them to bless someone else’s life. Some places that would benefit from your second-hand magazines would be your local library, nursing home or retirement community, or doctors and dentist offices.

6. Styrofoam

You probably have an excess of styrofoam lying around your house. It’s everywhere and commonly used as padding for packaging items, even food items. A lot of vegetables come on a styrofoam tray that you are left to dispose of. If you burn it you will be releasing a gas that can effect the nervous system. It doesn’t burn well, but rather burns with a black sooty flame. Best to keep it as packing material for a future package or find some other way to dispose of it like donating it to a craft shop in town.

7. Coal

Coal burns much hotter than wood, so you can really get into a lot of trouble if you try to burn coal in your fireplace. Coal, when burned, gives off carbon monoxide, which can be poisonous. If you want to burn coal for a heat source you need to invest in a coal fireplace.

Conclusion

So be a little bit picky when you choose what to burn in your fireplace. You don’t want to cause a chimney fire or release harmful toxins into the air for you and your family to breath. Just because it’s free wood doesn’t make it a great and healthy source of heat. When in doubt, it’s best to do a little research before stoking your fire with toxic wood.

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Have I missed anything? Please let me know down in the comments!

FAQs

11 Kinds of Wood that Should Not be Burned in a Fireplace + BONUS MATERIAL - Down to Earth Homesteaders? ›

11 Kinds of Wood Not to Burn in Your Fireplace
  • Green Wood or Unseasoned Wood. Wood that makes the best firewood for a fireplace is seasoned wood not green wood. ...
  • Non-Local Wood. ...
  • Christmas Trees. ...
  • Driftwood. ...
  • Poisonous wood. ...
  • Oleander. ...
  • Endangered Species. ...
  • Plywood, particle board, or chipboard.

What wood should you avoid burning? ›

Pine, fir, and spruce: cone-bearing trees make for a beautiful sight in the forest, but their wood shouldn't make up the bulk of your firewood pile, especially for indoor fires. Beneath their bark, conifers have a sticky, protective substance called pitch or resin that you won't find in trees like oak or maple.

What should not be burned in a fireplace? ›

Any type of household plastic, whether its bubble wrap or a plastic cup, should not be burned in a fireplace. Plastics release toxic chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, and heavy metals, that are dangerous for your health and bad for the environment.

Can you burn all types of wood? ›

First understand that all types of wood will burn, but not all wood will start a fire easily. Some kinds of fireplace wood and logs will produce more creosote than others. We can actually make our fireplace and chimney prone to flue fires by burning the wrong kind of wood!

What kind of wood should be burned in a fireplace? ›

Hardwoods such as maple, oak, ash, birch, and most fruit trees are the best burning woods that will give you a hotter and longer burn time. These woods have the least pitch and sap and are generally cleaner to handle.

What woods are toxic? ›

Summary
WoodBotanical nameToxic parts
Red sirisAlbizia toonaDust
AlderAlnus spp.Dust
CashewAnacardium occidentaleDust, wood, sap
Peroba rosaAspidosperma perobaDust, wood
96 more rows
Jul 22, 2022

Can you burn cedar in a fireplace? ›

You should not use most cedar species in any stove or fireplace you value. Obviously, the wood will burn, but it should be used only in an open outside area where smoke and explosive heat are of less concern. Remember that most cedar species are loaded with volatile oils that are extracted for many uses.

What should you not burn? ›

Paper or Boxes with Colored Print

Like cardboard or painted wood, boxes and paper with colored print or other markings on them can come packed with chemicals. Here are a few examples of boxes you should never burn: Cereal boxes. Pizza boxes.

Is it OK to burn pine in a fireplace? ›

Yes, you can burn pine in a fireplace, but for safety considerations, it is highly recommended to season it before you use it. Burning unseasoned pinewood can be hazardous and can put a person's health at risk.

Can I burn scrap lumber in my fireplace? ›

You don't want to think something is legal, only to find out that you could be subject to fines for moving just a bit of scrap wood. Treated wood is highly toxic when burned. Make sure to keep any treated wood separated from the clean 2x4s pile to avoid accidentally burning hazardous chemicals like arsenic.

Is it OK to burn moldy wood? ›

Is it Dangerous to Burn Firewood with Mold? The simple answer is: Yes. I know that's probably not what you wanted to hear, especially if you have a whole cord that's been infected with mold, but burning moldy firewood is undeniably dangerous.

Can wood be too old to burn? ›

As long as firewood is left to sit in the right conditions and free from moisture it won't go bad for many years. Once firewood has been seasoned for the right amount of time it should be stored off the ground, under a form of cover and open to the atmosphere to ensure that it doesn't rot.

Can you burn wood from a dead tree? ›

You can use dead trees for firewood, but you should take into consideration the type of tree as some make better firewood than others. Specifically, hardwood trees are often better than softwood species as firewood.

What wood causes the most creosote? ›

Softwoods like fir, pine and cedar make more smoke, and therefore more creosote.

Can you burn Cherry wood in a fireplace? ›

Cherry—Cherry wood is one of the most popular woods to burn in fireplaces due to its pleasant, non-smoky aroma. It is very east to split, tends to burn at a medium heat, and does not produce much smoke. However, it tends to spark a little more than the average hardwood and can cost a little more than the average wood.

Can you burn eucalyptus wood in a fireplace? ›

Overall, eucalyptus is a good choice for firewood.

The wood produces heat somewhat comparable to oak and it leaves a nice bed of hot coals.

What is the most toxic wood? ›

Those woods are usually the more exotic tropical hardwoods, such as rosewood, padauk, and teak, but sassafras (a relatively common found wood) can cause breathing problems, nausea, or even cancer.

Which woods are non toxic? ›

Non-Toxic
  • Acacia.
  • Apple (Pesticide residue likely)
  • Ailanthus – Tree of Heaven.
  • Almond.
  • Aralia/Fatsia japonica.
  • Ash – Fraxinus.
  • Aspen – Populus.
  • Bamboo.

Is Purple Heart wood poisonous? ›

Questions often asked about purple wood include its toxicity and whether it is safe to use in some applications. However, it is not known to be dangerous, and although it might cause some reaction in a small percentage of people and animals, it is not poisonous.

What is the best smelling firewood? ›

Some of the best slow-burning and fragrant wood for your fireplace include:
  • Apple.
  • Beech.
  • Black Locust.
  • Blackthorn.
  • Bitternut Hickory.
  • Cherry.
  • Hawthorn.
  • Hophornbeam.

Is cedar wood poisonous? ›

The Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), also known as aromatic Cedar. Caution- Eastern Red Cedar is actually quite toxic if ingested. Be sure to know the difference between the two trees if you're planning to use for medicinal purposes.

Why do natives burn cedar? ›

Cedar is one of the most important Native American ceremonial plants, used by many tribes as an incense and purifying herb. Cedar is especially associated with prayer, healing, dreams, and protection against disease.

Can you burn egg cartons in fireplace? ›

It's tempting to just toss items like bubble wrap, paper cups, plates, egg cartons and other trash into the fireplace just to get rid of it quickly. Stop. Just stop doing that. You could be releasing dioxins, which can lead to respiratory problems, headaches, even cancer when inhaled in a closed environment.

Can you burn fence wood in a fireplace? ›

If the fence is wood, check if it's treated with chemicals, painted or coated with any substances. If it is then it's not OK to burn. The wood has to be natural and free of any treatments or coatings to generally be considered safe to burn. In other words the fence has to be bare wood.

Is it OK to burn cardboard in fireplace? ›

Cardboard in all forms (including pizza, cereal, and shipping boxes) should never be burned in your fireplace. These materials are often treated with wax, plastic, ink, paint, and other materials which can release toxic fumes when burned.

What to put in a fire to make it smell good? ›

Place small bundles of rosemary on the outer edges of the fire to give a sweet, pine scent. For a sharper aroma try dried sage which leaves a lingering, lighter scent.

Can I burn Christmas tree in fireplace? ›

DON'T: Burn your Christmas tree in your fireplace or wood stove. The sap from fresh trees can sometimes create a fire hazard in your chimney or vent piping.

Is pine wood toxic to burn? ›

A new class of chemicals emitted from burning pine trees has been discovered, findings that could change the way we look at the impact of forest fires on public health. Scientists have discovered a new class of chemicals emitted from burning pine trees.

Why do 2x4 pop in fire? ›

Fires pop and crackle because the moisture that is stored within small pockets of the wood fibers turns to steam in the lit wood. The trapped gasses eventually build up enough pressure to find a way to burst out of the wood.

Can you burn plywood in a fire pit? ›

Untreated plywood, on the other hand, is fine. So if you want to burn some scraps left over from a DIY project, go for it. But if you're not sure if the wood's been treated, or if it's just been sitting around in the shed for a decade, don't risk it!

What is the white powder on my firewood? ›

Mycelium is a white fungus found on firewood. There is, however, more to mold than just the amount; and that is the colour of the mold.

How do you remove mold from firewood? ›

Dry out firewood that has already developed mold growth away from the untainted wood in the pile. Once the wood dries out, any surface mold will die and can be brushed off with a stiff-bristled brush (wear a dust mask).

Can you burn white birch in a fireplace? ›

Birch is an excellent firewood, however it burns quickly, so it is best when mixed with other slower kiln dried firewood such as Elm and Oak. Birch burns at a medium to high heat and doesn't release heavy smoke or sparks.

Can firewood get rained on? ›

Once wood has properly seasoned, does it matter whether rain gets on seasoned firewood? Seasoned firewood should be stored out of the rain to help prolong how well it keeps for. If seasoned firewood gets rained on it can dry out within a few days, but constant contact with moisture will lead to the wood going bad.

How do you know if wood is too rotten to burn? ›

Rotten Wood - Will it Burn? Here's My Take - Firewood Splitting #54

What is the slowest burning wood? ›

Dense, properly seasoned hardwoods burn the slowest and longest because there is more wood packed into every square inch, so it takes longer for the fire to get through. Oak, maple, ash, hickory, cherry, apple, hornbeam, walnut, hawthorn, and Osage orange trees are the slowest burning firewoods.

Do branches make good firewood? ›

It is generally safe to harvest firewood from fallen trees and branches but depending on the species, some firewood is better than others. Hardwood species offer better firewood than softwood such as fir, hemlock, and cedar.

How long after you cut down a tree can you burn it? ›

Green Wood

When a living tree is cut down, the timber needs to age or "season" for a minimum of six to nine months before burning.

Should you leave ash in the fireplace? ›

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends leaving a one-inch bed of ashes on the floor of your wood-burning fireplace. That ash catches coals and insulates them, allowing your fire to burn at its hottest. Ash should be removed when it build up beyond that inch, and at the end of the fire-burning season.

What wood produces the least creosote? ›

The best kind of wood to burn is one of the hard woods, such as oak, hard maple and birch because they release more heat and produce less creosote deposits.

Will a hot fire remove creosote? ›

One method to loosen crusty or tarry creosote so it flakes off and falls down into the firebox or fireplace is to burn aluminum cans in a very hot fire. While this method works, it does not clean the chimney of creosote completely, and chimney brush cleaning is still necessary.

What firewood pops the most? ›

Not only does fir and pine smell like Christmas trees, these types of logs create a pleasant crackle and pop in your fire. These are softwoods which dry quickly, are easy to split, and create lovely crackling fires. Before burning fir or pine, be aware that the popping throws a lot more sparks than other firewood.

What wood is toxic for cooking? ›

The family-owned firewood company points out that these plants include mangrove, poisonous walnut, sassafras, oleander, yew, tambootie, and laburnum (a.k.a. Golden Chain tree). For your safety and the safety of those eating your food, do not cook over these firewoods.

Is burning pine wood toxic? ›

A new class of chemicals emitted from burning pine trees has been discovered, findings that could change the way we look at the impact of forest fires on public health. Scientists have discovered a new class of chemicals emitted from burning pine trees.

How do I know if my tree is good for firewood? ›

Soft, rotten wood will burn fast, but not produce much heat because most of the fuel is already gone. Rotten wood is also often pretty moist, which again makes for poor firewood. If you try to burn wet firewood, the fire will often sputter and hiss as the flames work to remove the excess moisture.

Is pine a good firewood? ›

Pine is an excellent choice for firewood, particularly if you plan to use it as kindling outdoors. It is a wonderful fire starter, particularly because it has so much resinous sap. This sap acts as a good ignitor, helping you to get a fire started quickly and easily.

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