Here in Texas, cedar is everywhere. Since this wood is widely available, I was wondering if it’d be good to burn in a fireplace. So, I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
Cedar is a softwood, so it’s more flammable and burns quicker than hardwoods such as oaks. Because of this, it makes a good fire starter. But for longer burns, mixing in hardwoods is recommended. Make sure the cedar is properly seasoned (dry) for at least 6-9 months before use. Aim for less than 20% moisture content.
While cedar is totally fine to burn in a fireplace, what should you know before burning it, and which kinds of wood should you not burn? Let’s take a closer look.
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Can You Burn Cedar Wood Indoors (Is It Safe)?
Cedar wood is safe to burn indoors as long as it’s properly seasoned and hasn’t been treated (this is the same for any softwood, including pinewood). While cedar wood shavings and dust can be irritating, the smoke is not harmful, unlike the smoke from poison oak.
While burning cedar is not as efficient as burning hardwoods, it’s lighter and quicker to burn, so save it for a fire starter if you’d like. Because cedar is highly flammable, the more ventilation you have the better.
When burning cedar, aim to use 2-foot logs that have been seasoned for 6-9 months or more.
If the wood hasn’t been dried yet, it won’t burn as hot. Green cedar wood also contributes to more creosote deposits in your flue.
Recommended: The 10 Fastest Ways to Season Firewood
For best results, mix your cedar with aged oak. This mix gives you warmth with sustained fire and the flames won’t leap up as high either.
The Two Types of Cedar
There are several types of Cedar Trees, two of which make their way into fireplaces and outdoor fire pits.
Here are the two most common types:
- Eastern Red Cedar: These trees, also called Eastern Juniper, are hardy trees living up to 900 years. Chopping pieces need about a year to season properly because of their high sap content. It doesn’t put off a lot of smoke and has a very light aroma.
- Western Red Cedar: This is not a true cedar, but the name remains. They can live up to 1,400 years. This cedar needs less aging and will be ready after 6 months. The smoke content is higher, as is the smell.
Whichever cedar you use, aim for a 10-20% moisture content.
Recommended Choices Other than Cedar
The best type of wood to use in your fireplace is hardwood. Examples include maple, birch, and oak, all of which produce far less creosote due to a slower burn.
Oak ranks highly among options because it burns slowly, evenly, and hotly. There’s also no shortage of oak throughout the United States. Just be sure to make sure your oak wood has aged at least one year.
Maple is like oak in the way it burns—slow and hot. The types of maple to use in your fireplace include red maple, sugar maple, hard maple, black maple, Norway maple, and silver maple.
Generally, if you don’t mind regularly stoking the fireplace with more hardwood, you’re rewarded with a lovely slow and hot flame.
With any of these three hardwoods, add cedar kindling either as a fire starter or to bring out its desired aroma.
What Kind of Wood Cannot Be Burned in a Fireplace?
While most wood is flammable and can produce heat, not all wood can or should be burned inside a fireplace. Certain wood can have negative effects when inhaled, while others can be too flammable to be burned indoors.
The main types of wood to avoid burning indoors are:
- Green or unseasoned wood
- Christmas trees
- Poisonous wood
- Stained or painted wood
- Out-of-area wood
Greenwood and unseasoned wood are known to create an excessive amount of smoke and will result in a larger amount of creosote buildup in your chimney.
While all wood produces varying amounts of creosote, the sap on Christmas trees are rich in creosote and highly flammable. The dry needles can burn easily and create embers that gravitate up increasing your chances of a chimney fire.
Another one to keep in mind when purchasing wood is dioxin. Dioxin is a pollutant that is largely produced from burning driftwood, making it not suitable for your fireplace despite the colorful flames it can produce.
All poisonous wood derived from any poisonous plants should be avoided as well. Oleander trees fall under the poisonous category and should never be burned.
Wood sourced from furniture is often held together with adhesives or other artificial material that shouldn’t be inhaled.
Plywood for example often uses glue to hold the sheet material together, but when burned it creates an abundance of smoke. Similarly painted or stained wood should be left unburned because of the paint fumes.
Pressure-treated lumber and wood pallets are both treated with chemicals to prevent weathering and insect infestation making it highly unsafe for fireplace burning.
For out-of-area wood, if you’re not sure where wood was cut, you could be looking at invisible trouble. This wood can carry invasive insects or plant diseases that spread quickly around your home. So, don’t put your local garden and environment at risk. If you’re stuck, only get what you need, and burn it all up. Look for another source afterward.
The best thing to do with the listed wood above is to take it to a landfill or get crafty and DIY a project out of it.
If your cedar wood has been seasoned for at least 6-9 months, it’s safe to burn in your fireplace. However, if it’s green or treated, avoid burning it. Also, avoid burning plywood, pallets, and the other woods mentioned above.
For best results, aim to use cedar woods as a fire starter or for its aroma. Because cedar burns quickly and hot, it doesn’t have a sustained burn and therefore isn’t an efficient firewood if you’re looking to maximize the amount of heat from your fire.