Burn This, Not That

By Dallas Arborists, The White Rock Tree Wizards


Let’s face it Dallas, when it dips into freezing temperatures we love a good fire like the rest of our compatriots north of us. Dallas tree care specialists, White Rock Tree Wizards, are often asked to pile the cut wood for use in our customer’s fireplaces. Below you will find the wood common to the Dallas/Fort Worth area we recommend you burn or not burn.

Here’s the list from most preferable to least:

Burn this:  Oak, Pecan, Hickory, Maple, Pear, Apple, Cherry, Mesquite, Crape Myrtle, Ash, Cedar, Birch, Hackberry, Cedar Elm, Elm, Pine

Not that:  Bois D’Arc (also known as Bodark)

Generally, a well seasoned wood (defined as thoroughly dried out, 12 months after being cut) will make good firewood and will burn clean, producing minimal creosote.  Generally, any wood you want to burn should be split.  Split wood will dry out faster.  If you don’t split the wood, it is going to take too long to season. Skip wood splitting and you may create other unwanted problems.

Why not just let wood dry out for years on end?  If it dries out over several years, the wood can attract termites and other wood-boring insects.  Wood-boring insects, of any kind, are evil!  There is not much you can, or want to do, about insects in your firewood.  You don’t want to treat the wood with any chemicals since you may be breathing the carcinogens and other nasty by-products produced from burning insecticide soaked wood.

Instead, split the wood, keep it off the ground on a rack. This is best kept away from the house. Cover under an awning or a tarp to keep it dry from rain and moisture.  Only store near the house firewood you want to burn with a few days.  Also, cycle through firewood. Retain it on premises no more than three to four years. Fresh, split wood should be burned next year at the soonest – not more than three years from now.  You can only do so much to discourage wood-boring insects from finding your firewood. Odds are; there are already a few wood-borers in the highest quality firewood.

#1. Oak is terrific wood to burn whether you want to burn it in your fireplace, wood-burning stove, BBQ pit or smoker.  It’s our family’s favorite. We think of Oak as the best all-around wood for burning. Our White Rock Tree Wizards professionals, in their personal lives, do a lot of BBQing and smoking our meat. Oak is the best for that. Also, the smoke from Oak is a pleasing flavor enhancer.  Remember, Oak needs to be split, and then left to season for 12 months.

#2. Pecan is a great burning wood.  It gives a nice flavor to smoked meats. But be judicious in how much you burn.  A little Pecan-smoke goes a long, flavorful way.

#3. Hickory is a terrific wood for burning, BBQing and smoking.

#4. Maple, Pear, Apple, Cherry, Mesquite and even Crape Myrtle are all tied for fourth place. They make for quality fireplace burning and will add a subtle flavor to BBQing.

SIDE NOTE: The denser/heavier the wood, the more heat it will produce.  That’s why Oak, Pecan and Hickory will cost you more if you buy it.

#5. Cedar smells wonderful when you burn it for heat, whether indoors or out.

#6. Elm is a little more of a controversial burning wood in the gripping, Soap Opera drama version Burn This, Not that. J Some say, “Elm is good firewood.” Others say, “Stay away, it’s a pain in the stump.” Let’s list a few caveats regarding Elm:

Elm has high moisture content and its ‘stringy qualities’ make it difficult to split.  Unless your Elm wood is already well-seasoned, it is going to take years to dry out.

#7. Pine is fine. It burns well, maybe… too well. When it is dry it literally goes up in flames. Maybe the exercise of running back and forth, stocking the fireplace is what you are looking for. Wet pine, however, has high levels of pitch/resin and will produce copious Creosote. Be sure to burn Pine when it is sufficiently dry.

Sometimes it pops and spits hot embers like fireworks. Burning Bois D’Arc is a dysfunctional way to start a much larger fire than you intended.  It is great for woodworking, fence-posts and mailbox posts.  It is a hard wood, highly resistant to rotting.

Ask your friendly Dallas/Fort Worth neighborhood Chimney-Sweep about Creosote. They will tell you it is a dangerous fire-hazard.  Creosote is a partially-combusted and carbon-substance, produced by burning unseasoned wood. It accumulates as a resin on the inside of chimneys from the wet vapors rising from burning wet wood. This has started many a house fire. Only burn well-seasoned wood in your fireplace.

If you burn an abundant amount wood indoors, have a Chimney Sweep visit your place. Have the Creosote scrubbed out. If you use wood to heat your home, book a Chimney Sweep annually.

There you have it Dallas and Fort Worth fireplace lovers. A quick look at Burn This, Not That.