It may sound like simple logic to some, but many do not realise that a wood burning fireplace is very different from an open fireplace when it comes to how fuels are burned. You may be able to throw in paper, old wood and various other things into an open fireplace, but using anything that is not wood in a wood burning fireplace can end causing damage to your fireplace and even causing harm to you and your family.
Worst Things to Burn in a Wood Burning Fireplace
What are the absolute worst things to try and burn in a wood burning fireplace? Let’s have a look…
Wet or unseasoned wood can often contain a large amount of water. As the wood starts to burn, more smoke is produced compared to seasoned or fully dried out wood. When burning wet wood, large amounts of moisture and steam is released, causing premature rusting and wear to the internal fireplace components. Further, burning wet or unseasoned wood can produce as little as 40% of the specified amount of heat that one would get with dry, seasoned wood. Over time, this can also cause a dangerous volume of creosote to accumulate in the walls of the chimney. Read our guide on how to prepare and store wood for your fires.
As tempting as it may seem to cut up your old Christmas tree and burn that wood, it is not a good idea. This type of wood is usually unseasoned and evergreen, which means that there is a high amount of resin in the wood. This resin can burn quickly and pop, which increases the risk of chimney fires.
Painted or treated wood.
Any type of treated or painted wood will contain toxic chemicals that will be released as the wood starts to burn. These chemicals are not only harmful to you and your family – they can also lead to corrosion in the fireplace and build up on the chimney.
Paper or cardboard with coloured print.
It’s also best to avoid any type of paper or cardboard that has a coloured print – magazines, cereal boxes, pizza boxes, wrapping paper, and other treated paper may all release harmful toxins when they are burned. Instead, use plain, untreated paper such as unprinted newspaper.
Plywood, particle board, and chipboard.
As a general rule, any type of manufactured wood products has the potential to release toxic fumes and carcinogens when it is burned.
Accelerants and fire starters such as gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, Blitz, and similar products should be avoided. These can cause sudden flares, heating your fire too fast, too quickly. This can cause damage to your fireplace and your chimney. Although using a small amount of firelighters, together with lots of kindling, is sufficient for starting the initial fire.
No type of plastic should ever be placed into your wood stove. Plastics release harmful chemicals that could range from hydrochloric acid to sulphur dioxide, dioxins, and even heavy metals. All of these are extremely dangerous for your health and bad for the environment as well. Also it will cause build up on your flues, increasing the risk of chimney fires.
Even if it has dried, driftwood is not suitable for fireplaces. The reason for this is that a lot of driftwood is found in coastal regions, which means that there is often a chance of salt being released when the wood is burned. This can corrode your fireplace and chimney.
Ultimately, it is essential to only burn dry, hard wood in a wood burning stove to ensure that you get the best results, time after time. Wondering how to choose the best wood for your wood stove? Read our guide to heating with wood to get a better idea of the type of wood that is best suited to this type of fireplace.