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Types of Wood to Avoid in a Fireplace?

Published by 911 Restoration Southern Maryland on January 18, 2022 in category: Uncategorized

Fire damage restorationPeople often by log splitters and axes to chop down trees and turn them into burnable logs for their fireplaces. While the idea of sitting cozily with your family next to a fireplace on a cold Christmas eve is rather enticing, using the wrong type of wood can not only increase the risk of fire and smoke damage but can also be harmful to your health.

People often use season oak and maple pieces for fireplaces; it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is suitable for indoor burning. You should avoid treated or manufactured wood at all costs, along with pine cones, green woods, and even trash. This is because they produce poisonous fumes and may even explode if they have moisture in them.

This article will go over the types of woods you should avoid at all costs for a clean and safe fireplace – and to increase the overall life of your fireplace.

Types of Wood NOT To Use in a Fireplace – Avoiding Fire Damage

Treated or Manufactured Wood

Wood may be treated either to protect it from harmful UV rays or water or may even be manufactured artificially to make it more cost-effective. Examples of treated woods include:

  • Coated or sealed wood
  • Painted wood
  • Pressure-treated wood and more. 

On the other hand, manufactured wood may include;

  • Chipboard
  • MDF (medium-density fiberboard)
  • Plywood
  • Veneer wood
  • Fiberboard, and more. 

Burning treated wood heats up the chemicals on the wood as well. These heated chemicals release fumes into the atmosphere, which can be hazardous to your health if breathed in. Wood with CCA (chromated copper arsenic) preservative coating, for example, release arsenic, which is a carcinogen and is known for its adverse long-term impacts on human and animal health. 

MDF, on the other hand, releases harmful formaldehyde fumes (also a carcinogen) as well because of the glue used in it. This is true for particleboards, plywood, and other kinds of manufactured wood as well. that contain glue.

Green/Wet Wood

It can be very tempting to burn wood that has freshly been cut. Yes, it smells great, but it also contains moisture. This wood hasn’t been ‘cured’ or ‘seasoned,’ i.e., it hasn’t been dried up. Green or wet wood doesn’t burn as easily, but once it does, it creates low, smoldering fires. You will find that the flames from this wood will leap up and outwards from the fireplace. 

Furthermore, the long-burning embers that it produces release a lot of creosote, i.e., unburned wood particles that deposit within chimneys. The creosote cakes up within the chimney, and when the cake gets large enough, it can actually catch fire. 

Driftwood from the ocean is similar to greenwood and shouldn’t be burned at all – even after being cured. This is because the saltwater within leaves behind chlorine as it dries up. When burned, chlorine creates dioxin, which can cause cancer if breathed in for long. 

Wood from Poisonous Plants

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac have very sturdy stems that seem combustible in every sense of the word. Fight the urge to add them to your fireplace. The fumes released by these plants are poisonous and can be fatal if breathed in. You should avoid wood from woodlands altogether, just to be safe. 


Pine, fir, and spruce; create cones that almost everyone wants to throw into the fireplace at one point or another. Woods from these trees have a sticky resin in them that doesn’t burn off but instead creates creosote. 

But that’s not the worst of it. 

Their cones are also made out of wood, and they quite literally explode when lit on fire. This is because the resin inside bursts when heated since it is extremely flammable. The sparks that fly can lead to extensive fire damage indoors, especially if you have a Christmas tree nearby. 

It is okay to use a little bit of conifer when getting the fire started, but it should never make up the bulk of your woodpile. 

Diseased or Pest-Infested Wood

Usually, farmers burn their crops when they are infested with pests or are diseased. It is an easy and efficient way to get rid of affected plants. The same logic can be applied to wood, right? One would think that mold, insects, and the like may make up for good food for your fire. 

While the fire is the best tool for getting rid of diseased wood and pests, it is important to note that the pests inside will try to survive. As the log that was previously their home starts to burn, they will disperse and try to find another home. This may even mean that the mold spores or other pests may actually find a new home in your chimney or your furniture!

Furthermore, ash from infected trees may be attacked by the emerald ash borer. Their larvae can spread very quickly and hence, create a new pest problem. 

Best Wood to Avoid Fire Damage

Instead of having to deal with fire and smoke damage restoration, it is best that you only use:

  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Ash
  • Mulberry, or 
  • Hackberry wood. 

These may be a bit expensive, but they are well worth the investment to protect you from fire damage and are safe for your fireplace. 

To learn more about your fireplace and best practices to avoid fire and smoke damage, give us a call. 911 Restoration of Southern Maryland has experts ready to help you stay safe and enjoy a cozy evening next to your fireplace.

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