As winter approaches, families all over the world will be looking to keep their houses warm and cozy. As the nights draw in and the heat of the sun begins its yearly departure, fireplaces everywhere are getting set for action.
However, fireplaces need to be treated with love and respect. After all, mismanagement of your fireplace could spell disaster for your home - and your finances, to boot.
There are several do’s and don’t’s when it comes to fire safety - we all know the basics, but when it comes to wood, some of us are in the dark about which woods work best.
You can burn cedar in a fireplace, however we would recommend you only use it for kindling or on if you have no other option due to the oil it produces which can build up in your chimney and before a fire hazard if this residue was to ignite.
You’ve probably seen a cedarwood tree. A member of the coniferous family, they’re tall, relatively thin, aromatic, and have oily leaves with a distinctive scent. They’re mostly found in mountainous areas - but their distribution is worldwide. They don’t need much water to sustain themselves once they hit maturity, and their compact shape helps them grow and divide in large numbers, in fact, it’s not uncommon to see acres and acres of landscape dominated by cedar trees.
Due to their abundance, it might be temping to add some cedarwood to your woodpile this autumn. If you do, then you probably should be aware of the risks involved.
Pros and Cons of Using Cedar Wood
Cedar wood is relatively light compared to other woods, which makes it ideal for hauling in large quantities. It’s quick, intense burn also makes it ideal for kindling. However, its blaze can be hard to control in an indoor setting and it also has the tendency to, at times, spit and crackle fragments of wood. In an indoor fireplace, this can be disastrous - the brief inferno can overspill in to your living room and potentially set your household items alight. In order to combat this, make sure to place only a small amount of cedar wood on your fireplace so that the fire is manageable.
Cedar wood is naturally oily. If you’re using cedar which has not been seasoned, its burning point is a lot lower than other woods. This can cause its natural oils to escape and emanate throughout your chimney leaving an oily residue. Over time, this presents a serious fire hazard as the oil acts as a ticking time bomb, and future fires could cause the oil to ignite.
Is Burning Cedar Toxic?
The oil found in cedar wood presents a problem – to your chimney, not your health. If used only a single time, they won’t present an imminent threat to your chimney. It’s only over time that the oil build up becomes a cause for concern. Cedar wood should never be the main building block for an indoor fire. So, is cedar smoke toxic? The answer is no -there is absolutely no evidence indicating that it is.
Does Burning Cedar Create Creosote?
Flammable creosote can build up with repeated and heavy use - so it’s best to use cedar wood as strictly an ignition source and let another (non coniferous) wood source do the heavy lifting.
How to Manage a Cedar Wood Fire
If you’re adamant on using cedar on your fireplace, here are some things to keep in mind. First of all, make sure that the source you’re using has been dried for a substantial amount of time (seven to nine months) in order to dispose of some of its natural oils. This will help reduce the spitting that coniferous trees are so notorious for. Once its dry, stack it in a location free from prolonged moisture - this will ensure that no superfluous moisture permeates the wood. Secondly, grab some more conventional firewood and make sure that this makes up the lion’s share of the blaze. Slow-burning wood may take longer, but you’ll save yourself the hassle of having to dodge the cedarwood’s flying embers as it starts to combust.
Another key facet is to have your chimney inspected. Any of the aforementioned oils that come off multiple cedar wood fires need to be disposed of quickly and efficiently. Nobody wants to spend Christmas rebuilding their home after an oily-explosion. Also, make sure that your protective screen door is closed when burning cedar wood - those embers can jump pretty high.
In conclusion, cedar wood contains both pros and cons when used on an indoor fireplace. It’s great at getting the fire roaring, but its sizzle does not last long at all. Using it repeatedly can cause a build up of potentially dangerous creosote - but this scenario is not an issue if you’re only using it once or twice.
Although coniferous trees are abundant and lightweight, there’s a whole host of more suitable wood sources out there. A cedar fire truly is an example of something having’ ‘all sizzle and no steak’ - it may look impressive at the beginning, but it lacks any real substance in regards to keeping your home warm and cozy for hours on end.