Cypress wood is popular for construction, furniture, boats, and fence posts. It is durable and naturally resistant to water, but is this wood worthy of your fireplace? In this guide, we’ll decide if cypress makes good firewood, whether used outdoors or in your home.
Is cypress good for firewood?
Cypress is a fair choice of firewood if you want to use it in a home fireplace or stove. Its heat output is low, and high sap content may result in higher creosote build-up. Cypress is best used as shoulder season firewood or for kindling.
- Produces low heat output
- Is quick to light and burns fast
- Not recommended for cooking
- Seasons quicker than hardwoods
Cypress firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
While different species of cypress offer varying heat levels, you’ll find that most provide roughly 21.7 million BTUs per cord of wood. That’s higher than options like white walnut and poplar, but low compared to most popular firewood types.
People living in a climate that gets extremely cold may want to choose another type of firewood. If the wood is free, consider mixing it with another option, like oak. You could also use cypress for kindling as it gets fires started easily.
Check out how cypress compares to other firewood varieties for heat in the table below.
|Wood variety||Heat per cord (million BTUs)|
Well-seasoned cypress won’t give off a lot of smoke and is suitable for open fireplaces indoors and campfires. You won’t have sore, red eyes from a smoky fire.
Like most firewood, cypress will smoke a lot if it isn’t properly dried. Smoke is a bad sign. It means the flames are using their energy to burn off the water content in the wood. The result is an inefficient fire that gives off much less heat.
3. Ease of splitting
In most cases, cypress logs are easy to split. The wood often breaks apart without the need for a splitting axe. Chopping the wood while green is the best practice as it speeds up seasoning time. If you’re too late and the wood has cured, try sticking a wedge into a hairline crack and hammering it.
If you’re unlucky and get landed with the tree crotch, you’ll find this a tricky section of the tree. It is twisted wood that will put up a stubborn defense when you try to chop it. Try splitting it on a freezing day as the wood comes apart easier.
Whether relaxing around a campfire or in the house, firewood that pops and sparks isn’t ideal. It’s an easy way to start unwanted fires, and no one wants a burning ember landing in their lap.
Whatever type of cypress firewood you choose, sparks and pops are likely. Always use a fireguard with open fireplaces, and don’t leave the campfire unattended, or you may face a forest fire.
Cypress has a distinct pine-like fragrance that people often enjoy. It is an excellent choice for campfires, but some may find the smell too much inside.
Home chefs are best to avoid using cypress in their BBQs or smokers. Its high levels of resin are not well-suited to meat smokers, and the wood burns too quickly.
Fires last longer when wood with good coaling properties is used. On the flip side, wood that produces poor coals means you must constantly add wood to the fire.
Cypress doesn’t coal well and tends to burn quickly. Compared to popular firewood types, it performs poorly.
7. Creosote build-up
All firewood produces creosote as it is burned, but cypress creates more than most hardwoods. This black tar can be harmful and will block a chimney over time.
When using cypress inside, service the chimney regularly. You may also want to use a combination of cypress for kindling and another type of wood that burns cleaner.
How long does cypress take to season?
Cypress is quick to season, taking roughly 6-8 months to dry properly. You may need to allow a few extra months in cold, wet climates before using.
Tips for seasoning cypress
If you need firewood urgently, follow these tips to speed up the process. Thankfully, cypress is relatively quick to season.
- Split the firewood: this will increase the surface area exposed to sunshine and wind.
- Position well: try pointing the exposed face of the stack towards the wind and avoid shady areas.
- Elevate the wood: lay the wood on pallets to create airflow under the wood.
- Space out the rows: develop a series of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each to assist with air circulation.
- Cover the wood: use a tarp or a wood shed to protect the stacks from rain and snow.
The pros and cons of burning cypress
- Abundant supply in many areas
- Pleasant aroma while burning
- Excellent for kindling
- Low heat output
- Lots of sparks and pops
- Poor coaling properties
List of 11 popular cypress varieties
- Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
- Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)
- Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens)
- Lemon Cypress Trees (Cupressus macrocarpa)
- Arizona Cypress (Cupressus arizonica)
- Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa)
- Nootka Cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis)
- Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
- Leyland Cypress Tree (Cupressus x leylandii)
- Chinese Weeping Cypress (Cupressus funebris)
- Mediterranean Cypress or Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Commonly asked questions
How do I identify a cypress tree?
Cypress trees can often be identified by their green, feathery foliage and large acorn-like cones. In fall, the leaves and cones turn brown, resulting in a bare tree.
The leaves on a pond cypress are short needles that look like scales wrapped around the twig. A Leyland cypress has blueish-green or dark green foliage with small brown cones. Bald cypress trees have short, flat needles that spread in pairs like a feather.
The bark on a cypress is reddish-brown, fibrous, and naturally peels away in strips.
How do I identify cypress firewood?
Leyland cypress has a straight grain with some small knots. Its heartwood ranges from reddish-brown to pale yellow. The sapwood is a lighter shade.
Bald cypress has a straight grain with sapwood that is almost white. Its heartwood is yellowish-brown.
Mediterranean cypress has a fine, uniform texture with a straight grain. The heartwood is a reddish brown or pale yellow, while its sapwood is noticeably lighter.
What is the difference between a true and false cypress?
A true cypress belongs to the coniferous plant genus Cupressus while false cypress trees do not. Examples of false varieties include the pond cypress and bald cypress.
Is cypress okay for a fire pit?
Cypress is okay used as kindling in a fire pit but shouldn’t be used as the primary wood. It is loaded with sap and resin that makes a mess. The wood also burns much quicker than most popular wood for cooking, like hickory or mesquite.
We don’t recommend using cypress as your main firewood source if you can avoid it. Its heat output is low, and it doesn’t produce great coals.
Instead of burning big pieces of cypress wood, consider using them for kindling. It burns quickly and is excellent for starting fires.
It is also suitable when combined with slower-burning firewood like oak. If you have sufficient room, a stockpile of different types of wood is a good option.