Can You Use Pine or Cedar for Firewood?

The Pros and Cons of Burning These Woods

Sitting by the campfire

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Although pine has very inefficient firewood properties for use in a stove or fireplace, pine and other conifers can be used with some safety precautions. In regions where wood from conifers is plentiful and hardwood is hard to find, you should use it and can often get it for free. Free wood is desirable in principle, but the more advisable hardwood firewood is a more efficient and cleaner wood to burn. Always use seasoned hardwood firewood for sustained heat with fewer negative effects on wood-burning systems.

The major problem with burning pine is that there are significant solid deposits of flammable "creosote" that will build up in a stovepipe or in the fireplace chimney over time. This buildup of combustible creosote over seasons of use can ignite and cause a fire in stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys. Thus, there is a slightly increased risk of a house fire when using resinous woods.

All conifers, including pine, will burn hot with a flash of high temperatures, but that heat will be unsustainable over time. A fire of coniferous wood needs to be tended often with large wood volumes. As explained above, the unburned combustibles that coat the chimney can cause a flue fire, so it is extremely important to have your flue cleaned regularly if you are burning coniferous wood.

Should You Use Cedar?

Many cedars, including red cedar, are especially poor firewood choices. 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. Cedars are the next best thing to a resin-soaked pine knot for starting wood fires, and cedar makes for a great natural kindling source. Using it for starting your fires is just fine. But burning it exclusively is not recommended.

Pockets of these cedar oils will cause pops and spits of fire sparks and embers, making it quite dangerous for use in an open, inside fireplace. Some people do use cedar for a quick warm-up during the spring and fall seasons, where a short burst of hot fire can take the chill off.

One thing not to blame cedars for: It has not been proven that cedars produce toxic smoke, unlike some glue fumes in composite wood products. Never burn composite wood products like plywood, chipboard, or OSB (oriented strand board).

Smells Matter!

All stoves have some smell, which many people like, especially when using aromatic woods. A cloying smell that becomes obnoxious is worth checking, however. It is probably due to a leaky system. Check your stove's condition and pipes for leaks. Opening windows, in some cases, can make the problem worse. Always have a wood stove expert check your unit.