15 Wood Types to Exclude From Your Fireplace

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When it comes to heating our homes or spending time around the fire pit, the choice of firewood is crucial for efficiency and safety. Certain wood species, while seemingly abundant, pose significant risks when burned. Here’s a list of 15 such woods.

Pressure-treated wood

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Pressure-treated wood is infused with chemicals to resist rot and insect damage, making it unsuitable for burning. Burning pressure-treated logs releases toxic chemicals like arsenic, chromium, and copper into the air, posing severe health hazards to those nearby and potentially contaminating soil and groundwater.


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Plywood contains adhesives that can release harmful fumes when burned. In addition to the poisonous smoke, plywood may contain various chemicals used in its manufacturing process, making it a poor choice for firewood. When burned, plywood can produce hazardous air pollutants.


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Particleboard comprises wood particles bonded with adhesives that often contain formaldehyde or other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Burning particleboard releases these chemicals into the air, posing health hazards to individuals nearby and contributing to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Painted or stained wood


Paints and stains used on wood contain chemicals, including solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When painted or stained timber is burned, these chemicals are released into the air, creating dangerous fumes and causing health issues for those exposed to the gases.


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Driftwood is often saturated with salt water, which can give off corrosive chemicals when burned. In addition, driftwood may have been exposed to various pollutants in the water, making it unsafe to burn and releasing harmful toxins into the air.

Poisonous wood (e.g., poison oak, poison ivy)

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Burning poisonous logs can release urushiol, the toxic oil in these plants, into the air. Inhaling urushiol can cause severe allergic reactions, skin irritation, and respiratory problems, making it extremely dangerous to burn these types of wood.



Oleander contains cardiac glycosides, which are highly harmful to humans and animals. Burning oleander releases these toxins into the air, and ingesting or inhaling these fumes can lead to symptoms ranging from nausea and dizziness to cardiac arrest and death.

Cedar (aromatic)

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While cedar wood has a pleasant aroma, burning it can give off aromatic compounds that irritate the respiratory system and cause headaches or nausea in some individuals. Additionally, cedar may generate a substantial amount of creosote when burned, increasing the risk of chimney fires.


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Burning spruce timber can result in a messy experience, often characterized by excessive soot and sparks. Using spruce as your primary firewood increases the likelihood of creosote accumulation in your chimney. Despite their ability to generate high heat, spruce trees are known for their high sap content, contributing to elevated risks of ash accumulation within your stove or fireplace and heightened levels of soot and ash residue in your chimney.


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Cypress wood contains natural oils and resins that can cause it to burn hot and fast, potentially leading to overheating or damage in fireplaces or wood stoves. Burning cypress may also liberate volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, causing air pollution and posing health risks to those nearby.


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Cottonwood wood burns quickly and may yield a lot of smoke, irritating the eyes and respiratory system. Additionally, burning cottonwood may produce substantial ash, which can rapidly accumulate in fireplaces or stoves and require frequent cleaning.


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Boxelder wood burns speedily and produces relatively low heat. They also leave behind a significant amount of ash residue, which can quickly accumulate, necessitating more frequent cleaning. Therefore, while boxelder may be suitable for kindling or short-duration fires, it is not typically favored as a primary heat source.


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Willow wood may be readily available, but it has some drawbacks when used as firewood. Due to its low density, it burns rapidly and can produce too much smoke, which may irritate the eyes and respiratory system, especially in enclosed spaces.


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Birchwood is known for its quick-burning nature and bright flames, making it famous for starting fires or providing a lively ambiance. However, due to its lower density, it produces insufficient heat and generates significant volumes of ash, requiring more frequent cleaning of the fireplace.

Moldy or Rotten Wood


Burning moldy logs can discharge mold spores and other dangerous microorganisms into the air. These organisms can be hazardous to respiratory health, especially for respiratory patients. When burned, rotting timber may harbor bacteria and fungi that can produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


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