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Steve Nix

Can I Use Pine Or Cedar For Firewood?

By December 20, 2012

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I would like to know if it is OK to use pine and/or cedar firewood as a good source of heating for a fireplace? Do you have any ideas as to how to cut down on the smokey firewood smell when burning seasoned firewood in my fireplace?

I usually slightly open one of the windows in the room with the fireplace to allow circulation and fresh air in to keep it from being so dry and stuffy. It this a good thing to do? - Rene

Hi Rene!

Although not the most efficient wood to use in a stove, pine is ok. Its even better when you can get it free. The problem with pine is creosote buildup in a new stove or an existing creosote fire in a used stove. Pine burns hot and a flue fire can result so have your flue cleaned.

Cedar is a flash fuel, burns rapidly and has many other values you need to consider before burning. Cedar is a poor firewood of choice. I would not use cedar and don't know anyone that does.

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.


December 8, 2008 at 1:31 pm
(1) Gordon says:

Dried cedar is great for starting a fire. I tore down an old fence made of 1×6 cedar and used them for kindelling. I widh I had another fence for this season.

December 9, 2008 at 4:16 pm
(2) Gordo says:

“good source of heating for a fireplace?”

Good source of heating, and fireplace, do not belong in the same sentence. A fireplace is basically for nothing more than ambiance, it is not a good heating solution, and certainly isn’t good for indoor air quality so any use should be limited in my personal opinion. If you want to heat with wood, get a modern woodstove! You’ll be toasty warm and no smoke or smell should enter your house.

December 10, 2008 at 3:49 am
(3) Jeannie says:

Don’t get the wood stove from Marcells. I didn’t get a hearth warming experience from Marcells. They screwed up on the order. They were screaming at me when I questioned their invoice. I had to write the BBB before Marcells calmed downed and acted decent. Their wood stove leaked on me after one month installed.

December 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm
(4) ASH says:

The best way to heat a room with any sort of fire would be to get a stove inside the room. Gordo is right, not to mention that fire places are on the outside of a room usually. I also heard that fireplaces actually make the rest of the house colder by sucking cold air in through any small openings in your house.

January 17, 2009 at 3:37 pm
(5) Robin says:

We have a couple of cedars in need of felling…would you use cedar if a)it was free, b)nearby and, c)flue fire was not an issue? Thank you for your help.

May 26, 2009 at 12:04 am
(6) jesnz says:

We use cedar to heat our bed and breakfast in napier. It was a 40 yr old atlantic cedar and it burns fantastic. Hot and clean with a sweet smell. Been down for 3 years now. Was a pity to knock it but too close to the house and needles blocking the gutters.

December 14, 2009 at 12:49 am
(7) rdh333 says:

Your responses to burning cedar are premature. Would you recommend buying this versus oak, etc., at the same price? No, obviously. If a large cedar tree fell in your yard, should you cut it up and burn it, for free, or spend hundreds of dollars to buy “better wood”? Burn it, obviously.

December 14, 2009 at 12:55 am
(8) rdh333 says:

While fireplaces are not the best choice as a primary heating source, this attitude that they add nothing but ambience is just pure ignorance. Fireplaces give off a great deal of heat, but they go through a lot of wood, quickly, and are inefficient as they don’t burn hot enough to burn the combustible gases that could have tripled the heat output of the fire. The biggest problem is just being in the same room for hours at a time to watch/tend to the fire. Fireplaces are great, but for primary heating a good wood stove, especially with a good blower, is vastly more practical.

January 17, 2010 at 9:36 am
(9) mitch says:

There is a wooded area behind my house and a few of the trees are dead. I’d like to cut down the ones that are hardwood, and use the wood for the fireplace, but I don’t want to burn pine because of the creosote.

How can I tell the difference between a dead pine tree versus a dead oak or maple? Thanks.

February 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm
(10) jason says:

Woodstove is the way to go for heating purposes. I don’t know much about burning pine. At least for this region the best wood to burn is locust in my experience. It burns hot and slow. Oak is also a pretty good. Some people say cedar is bad to burn, i’ve only had good experiences with. It burns hot but it does burn fairly fast. I burned cedar for an entire season multiple time, and when i went to clean the chimney i had little build up. I found it to be a clean burning wood.

December 24, 2010 at 9:35 pm
(11) kris says:

I just got a half cord of cedar, seasoned for 2 years and I find it pretty good to use.

However, it does crackle and explode a lot, but I have 2 grates up in front of my fireplace, and a thick rubber mat on the carpet in front of it.

I find it gives off a lot of heat, which is something I really appreciate and I enjoy listening to the crackling wood.

January 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm
(12) Jules says:

1. Fireplaces create heat, but up to 60% of the heat goes up the chimney. Here is a basic article explaining how to increase its efficiency somewhat: http://www.wisegeek.com/how-can-i-improve-fireplace-efficiency.htm
2. Woodstoves, especially modern, efficient, EPA-rated with secondary burn are up to 70% efficient, even more with a blower, and obviously a much better heating solution…but woodstoves don’t grow on trees. A high quality stove is about a thousand bucks.
3. If you have a fireplace, and don’t want to slap down $1000 (not including a chimney or outside air kit), then by all means use it.
4. All woods burn differently. They each burn at a different rate, give off varying degrees of BTUs, have various odors from pleasant to foul, and create varying degrees of smoke. A secondary-burn EPA-rated stove will burn off much of the smoke (even when burning conifer woods like pine). An excellent resource for BTU per cord of wood, etc. can be found here: http://www.chimneysweeponline.com/howood.htm
5. rdh333′s comment is correct. If you have a choice between buying a hardwood cord and burning free cedar, then burn the cedar. It is a poor firewood compared to Mulberry or Osage orange, but if you have a dead cedar tree it would be foolish to let it rot. There is boatloads of free energy waiting to heat your house locked up in that wood.
6. Wood in an EPA-rated stove is a very eco-friendly fuel, leaving behind nothing but ash that you can scatter over your soil.
7. Outdoor air kits are absolutely excellent. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are simply misinformed or ignorant. Using outdoor air for combustion is absolutely imperative to gaining maximum efficiency and a clean burn, especially if you have a newer home that is relatively airtight.
If you live in an extremely drafty house my best advice is to begin insulating.

January 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm
(13) Misfit says:

Of course you can use pine. What do you think people in Canada and Alaska burn in their stoves? They do just fine.
There are better woods, but there are always more considerations in these kinds of decisions.

January 9, 2011 at 10:08 am
(14) cedarburner says:

Can you burn cedar for firewood? Yes, absolutely! All hardwoods have approximately the same heat value per pound of wood. The only real difference is the density of the wood — oak is much more dense than poplar, and so has different burning characteristics, different amounts of coals and ash production. in other words, completely different woods, but they both burn well.

On the other hand the “softwoods” like pine and cedar also contain additional volatile compounds which, when burned, actually produce more heat per pound of wood burned than the “hardwoods.” However, they are also less dense and tend to burn more quickly. That said, if you burn 10 pounds of oak per hour, you might burn 12 pounds of cedar per hour, but quite a bit more volume of wood.

Now, knowing that there are actually MORE BTUs per pound of cedar, and the fact that it burns more quickly, that equals a much hotter fire (more BTUs created by more pounds of wood burned), so people tend to close the damper more when burning the softwoods. This action reduces airflow through the fire and flue which, in turn, reduces flue gas temperatures which, in turn increases the production of creosote in the flue. Creosote is just unburnt combustion gases which condense in a cool flue.

The solution, burn cedar with the air intake system wide open, and burn only two or three pieces at a time. You’ll get a nice hot fire, a flue that stays warm enough to prevent any formation of creosote, and very little ash production. The only real down-side to burning cedar is that you need to be there all the time to continue feeding small sticks of wood into the fire and don’t just go off and leave it. I’d also suggest NOT completely loading the stove and leaving it to its own devices. This stuff DOES burn hot. You could easily overheat your stove or flue and possibly burn your house down. For unattended operation the various hardwoods are hard to beat.

November 13, 2011 at 2:07 am
(15) themystical1 says:

cedarburner is the master of fire burning. I am impressed with your knowledge. Thank you.

December 3, 2011 at 6:11 pm
(16) sixcorder says:

I have about 5 acres of cedars that I’m slowly clearing. I mix it in with hardwoods and burn it in my Jotul from October to April. I mostly burn it during the daytime and pack the stove with hardwoods to go all night. The cedar burns great and with the catalytic converter on it maintains the same heat as oak and maple and doesn’t let out any more smoke. As others have stated above, regular cleaning is a must, also regular maintenance of stove gaskets, catalytics, etc.

December 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm
(17) Frank says:

For the past twenty five years the only wood we’ve burned is ceder, in fact everybody in town burns either ceder, juniper, or pine. We live in Saint Johns AZ, and that’s the only local wood worth burning.

Our wood stove is our only source of heat in the winter and sometimes we need heat that will last all night unattended. A good stove like our Blaze King can hold about 8 large pieces of wood at a time, and we load it to the brim every night. It gets hot, but that’s what we want. I think the biggest thing to take into account is the stove you use for burning. Also the logs you burn ought to be large in diameter if you want sustained burning, because any wood burns hot when make kindling out of it.

I’m not saying anything bad about hardwoods, but they don’t grow where I live, but to talk down ceder like its worthless just isn’t right. Get a good stove that’s lined inside with thick firebrick and keep the logs as big as you can for overnight heating and you can burn ceder without a problem.

February 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm
(18) Paul says:

Is cedar good to burn? Just asked myself the same question this morning while walking in our woods. Sawed down about 12 leaning cedar trees with rotted shallow roots, cut off some 2″ limbs, threw them in the wood stove that has been burning all morning, boom caught right away and burning warm yet it is burning up lots quicker than the oak and black locust. My answer is a big YES when it is free and close especially when getting the fire started.

Making heat? We have a terrific 10 years old wood stove for our main heat source. The beauty is it has a blower so it pushes as well as radiates heat.

April 5, 2012 at 5:03 am
(19) Mr A says:

If it’s dry, burn it. The creosote issue with pine, cedar, is that it needs more air, it burns hot, and people tend to burn it underseasoned.

December 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm
(20) Michael (DBH54) says:

Where was this lady writing from? There are two reasons to know this. For one, in many old Eastern homes there was a tall, shallow fireplace. This was said to be better for reflecting heat into the house. Also, which species of cedar are available where she is? Some “cedars” are not necessarily good firewood, that’s true. But they still work well for kindling and small pieces to help get a fire going. And a good sized piece of our cedar, incense cedar, is nice to burn.

The question of pine is partly regional. In any case it needs to be well seasoned. Millions of us in the West are quite happy with very dry pine, especially lodgepole pine. For myself, even if I could get a volume of hardwood, a pine fire is easier to start, though I can chuck in some hardwood too. But that would be a luxury most years.

January 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm
(21) Alaskan Woodsman says:

Nice to hear of others experience with cedar firewood. In South East Alaska people do burn some yellow cedar. It is dying in places due to climate change and dead dry wood that cannot be used for other products can always provide fuel wood. Alder, hemlock and Sitka spruce are also used for firewood as available in SE.

In the interior of Alaska where I live in Fairbanks, many people burn spruce (no pine up here!), birch and sometimes aspen or poplar. The favorite wood tends to be whatever is closest and most readily available.

Comments about weights and volumes of wood are spot-on.

January 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm
(22) justin says:

I’ve found that the dead Locust we have on the property burns hot and slow, but it has a terrible odor and black smoke out of the chimney, whereas the Oak and Maple has no odor with the usual greyish white smoke.

And my house has 4 fireplaces, one has been converted to wood stove. We use the fireplace in the upstairs bedroom when it’s too cold out for the base heaters to heat the room and it does a great job heating the entire room. It does burn more wood since there’s no way to control the burn, but the coals get mighty hot.

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March 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm
(27) cedar user says:

I use cedar regularly in my fireplace and it’s wonderful. We have tons of cedar trees in our fence rows that needed to go so I mix in seasoned (and sometimes just cut) cedar with other slow burning woods. Cedar kindling is awesome for starting a fire within seconds. After throwing on a cedar log, sit back, relax, and enjoy the crackling and bright, warm blaze. No problems in the flue that I’ve found in 2 years now.

April 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm
(28) Mike says:

I do not understand the great concern about buildup in all chimneys with soft woods. Modern steel stove chimneys are multiwalled and contain any flare-ups (if they occur). If they are properly installed, no harm is done. I suppose a really big fire in such a chimney might spout out the top and start the roof afire, but how likely is that after all. I have burned soft woods and hard in my stove for about 20 years. When I once cleaned it, I found it pretty much clear. Maybe the occasional very hot fires I burn on very cold nights burns up the naughty, fearsome deposits?

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