Between scheduled cleaning visits from your chimney sweep, what are some things you can do to help keep your chimney safe? One is to understand what types of wood you should not burn in your indoor fireplace.
While certain varieties immediately produce harmful byproducts, other kinds of wood cause slow-developing, often unnoticeable problems, which can be even more dangerous. Here is some information to consider when selecting the variety of firewood to burn in your fireplace.
The Poisonous Species
There are some types of wood that when burned generate a smoke that is dangerous to breathe, plus they can be harmful in other ways.
The majority of these varieties are easy to spot by their name. Poison species of sumac, dogwood, elderberry and oak, among others, all produce a hazardous compound that can cause allergic skin reactions. When the smoke from these types of wood is inhaled it can cause respiratory distress, especially in people with inherent breathing difficulties.
There is an even more important consideration when deciding on types of firewood, beyond the harmful emissions that can cause breathing difficulty, or skin problems from exposure to the smoke. There are a number of what might appear to be normal species of wood that might otherwise be considered safe to burn. Some wood types that are unsafe to burn in your fireplace should be judged on whether or not they produce creosote.
Woods that Produce Creosote
Burning woods that have an oil base, or are too green, produces creosote. The buildup of creosote can create a hazardous combustible situation inside your chimney flue. Creosote is not a part of the wood, but something that is caused when certain types of wood are burned. Certain wood varieties will always produce a level of creosote when burning, while other types will only produce creosote if they are not properly dried.
Most hardwood varieties of firewood like oak, ash, walnut and others, will not create any creosote build up if they are cut and then allowed to dry for a few months. Pine and sap heavy types of wood will produce creosote, regardless of how long they are used after being cut.
While white pine generates the least amount of creosote as a by-product from burning, it is the least appealing firewood because it burns up so quickly. Heart pine, or lighter pine as it is sometimes called, can be used safely for one specific purpose only; to get your fireplace started, hence the nickname lighter pine.
Other types of wood, which are notorious for having a high sap quality, a characteristic of wood that usually means a high chance of creosote buildup, is Brazilian pepper, box elder, and nearly all the maple species. While maple can be cut and dried to produce a quality wood for fireplace burning, the other two species are better left for outside burning only.
Keeping your chimney clean and safe is important. While some kinds of wood can cause immediate health concerns as they burn, others produce potentially dangerous creosote. Only burn well dried types of wood that do not produce harmful smoke or high levels of creosote. For more information or advice, contact a business such as A1 Everlast Construction.