Can I Use Pine or Cedar for Firewood?

Burning Pine vs. Cedar

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Conifer Campfire. sola deo gloria/Moment/Getty Images

Although pine has very inefficient firewood properties to 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 is a great thing but the more desirable hardwood firewood is a more efficient and cleaner wood to burn. Always use seasoned hardwood firewood for sustained heat with less negative effects on wood burning systems.

The major problem with burning pine is that there is significant solid deposits of flammable "creosote" which will build up in a stove pipe or up the fireplace chimney. This building up of combustible creosote over seasons of use can ignite and cause a fire in stoves and fireplaces. 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 attended often with large wood volumes and releases unburned combustibles that coat the burning setup. A flue fire can result so it is extremely important to have your flue cleaned regularly.

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. I don't know anyone that regularly uses cedar for heating or cooking.

Obviously, the wood will burn but it, in my opinion, should be used only in an open outside area where smoke and explosive heat are of less concern.

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.

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 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. Cedar should not be used 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.

Smells Matter!

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