What to burn….?

A lot of our customers have been wondering what they should be burning in their fireplace.

The answer to this is that you want to burn a wood that will burn nice and hot, but will not create that much buildup in the chimney (called creosote) which can cause a chimney fire.

So the short answer is that you should be burning a well-cured hardwood. Your wood should be dry – so wood that you get in the spring, chop and keep dry should probably be fine for use in the following fall/winter. Longer curing is even better.

Hardwood is not just wood that is “hard”. It is wood from a deciduous tree (the kind where the leaves change colour). Here’s a list of some hardwoods (all I could think of!):

Alder, Apple, Ash, Balsa, Basswood, Beech, Birch, Boxwood, Cherry, Chestnut, Ebony, Elm, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Rosewood, Sycamore, Walnut, Poplar.

You don’t want to burn any wood that has been treated, that is not cured or that is a softwood. A softwood is defined as any wood from a coniferous tree (that’s the prickly, needly kind). Softwood includes pine, cedar, fir and that any other evergreen. Softwoods are much more sappy. This creates your pops and sparks and a much larger creosote deposit.

So here’s the stuff you should never burn:

  • Garbage – yup, people do this a lot
  • Any treated wood (like from decks, fences or furniture)
  • Softwood or 2×4’s (these are usually pine)
  • Also, don’t use lighter fluid or gasoline as a starter – this is very dangerous!

What about the 3-hour logs you can buy from Walmart or Canadian Tire?

These are totally fine, they’re really easy to get going and require very little cleanup after your fire. A lot of our customers use them. The downside is that they don’t burn as hot and some customers feel that they just “aren’t the same” as burning real wood.

What about the “Chimney Cleaning Logs”?

These contain a chemical agent that helps to break down creosote, but they absolutely don’t “clean” the chimney (despite the name). They’re good for those that burn 3-5 fires a week or prior to calling us for a cleaning if you haven’t cleaned your chimney in a long time. Some studies have been published which show that they really don’t do anything, but we’ve found that our job is a bit easier when you do use them once in a while. They don’t remove the creosote, but seem to help to make it a bit more porous and loose.


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