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Seven Different Fire Woods That Aren't Worth Burning

Generally speaking, wood is a great fuel for fires. It is a plentiful, renewable resource, and many species release a lot of heat when burned. Good fire wood species – Osage orange, oak, hickory, persimmon, birch, holly and other dense hardwoods – excel at keeping living rooms warm and the temperature toasty. However, many other species fail to generate a significant amount of heat when burned; they just aren't worth the effort to cut, stack and season, when you could be using far more efficient species.

Avoid purchasing or harvesting wood from the following seven tree species to get the most value for your time and money.

  1. White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) -- White cedar is not only a poor source of fuel, but also it does not represent the profile of a sustainable timber species. White cedars have a relatively small area of distribution and they are being threatened by burgeoning whitetail deer populations in many areas in which they are located.
  2. Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) – Despite their similar-sounding names, white cedar and eastern red cedar are not very closely related. Nevertheless, both are poor sources of heat, although eastern red cedar is far more widespread and common.
  3. Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) – Unsurprisingly, this fast-growing hardwood has very airy wood that releases relatively little heat when burned. However, because of their quick growth rate and prolific nature, they are an ecologically sustainable choice in some areas – you just need a lot of it to heat a home.
  4. Black willow (Salix nigra) – Fresh willow wood is actually rather heavy, which is usually a characteristic associated with wood that releases a lot of heat. However, thanks to their tendency to grow in low-lying, wet areas, freshly cut willow wood is full of water. Once dried, the wood becomes quite light and produces very little heat.
  5. Tag alder (Alnus serrulata) – Like willows, alders typically grow near water and the wood is quite light once dried. Additionally, while plentiful, tag alders rarely grow large enough to make proper firewood.
  6. White pine (Pinus strobus) – Like most pines, white pine makes a poor source of heat when burned. Additionally, the sap contained within the wood can cause a dangerous buildup inside your chimney.
  7. American basswood (Tilia americana) – Also called the lime tree, the American basswood makes a handsome shade tree, with its large, deep green leaves, but it makes a poor firewood. 

For more information, contact a business such as A Sound Chimney & Masonry LLC.


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