Heating Your Home with Wood: Wood You Shouldn’t Burn


In these days of spiraling energy costs, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are coming back into vogue as a means for heating. Cord wood can be expensive, though, so many people are opting for salvaged wood: blown-down trees, scraps they find lying around, mill ends, and the like. This is a good idea, but you need to exercise a bit of logic about what you burn indoors.

First of all, know your trees: DO NOT burn any sumac at all, on the off chance you end up with poison sumac. Like its relatives poison oak and ivy, poison sumac contains urushiol, a nasty oil that causes skin rashes. The smoke and gaseous by-products of burning urushiol may end up on your skin and in your lungs if you burn it in an inadequately ventilated stove or fireplace, resulting in severe medical distress. For similar reasons, don’t burn any unidentified vines, or branches with such vines entwined around them; they may be poison oak or ivy.

You should also avoid burning any painted or treated wood, including pressure-treated lumber, and any engineered sheet woods like plywood, particle board, or fiberboard. All include toxic chemical compounds that will be released during the burning process. Even burning driftwood isn’t a good idea, as the salt in seawater is corrosive, and can release toxic fumes when burned.

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Check out our electric log splitter! If you decide to order a cord of wood or have fallen trees to clear, log splitters will save you a lot of time.