The redwood tree is an evergreen softwood that grows along the coast of California and Oregon. Its timber is popular for construction and furniture making, but does it make sense to burn it in a fire? This guide looks at whether redwood makes good firewood.
Is redwood firewood good to burn?
Redwood is average firewood that has low heating efficiency, burns fast, and sparks excessively. However, it is easy to split, quick to season, and lights easily, making it an excellent option for kindling.
- Relatively low BTU heat rating.
- Sparks and pops in the flames.
- Poor coaling properties.
- Straight fibers that are easy to split.
Redwood firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
Coast redwood provides 20.1 million BTUs per cord of wood which is low-moderate efficiency. While it rates higher than softwoods like pine and spruce, it is much lower than popular hardwoods like oak.
Firewood from the coast redwood tree is great for heating homes in the shoulder season. It also makes excellent kindling and can be combined with denser hardwoods that are more challenging to light.
Check out the following table comparing the heat output of redwood to various other common types of firewood.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
Redwood tends to give off moderate amounts of smoke as it burns. This won’t be a problem if you have a wood stove or enclosed fireplace. But open fires in the house or campfires may result in sore, red eyes.
There’s a big difference between seasoned and green redwood. Unseasoned wood smokes a lot more than if it was dried first.
3. Ease of splitting
Redwoods develop huge trunks that take forever to dry if they aren’t split first. They also turn rock-hard, given a chance to dry as whole rounds.
The straight grain of unseasoned redwood is easy to split with an axe or maul. Chop smaller-diameter logs using a hatchet without much effort.
Like any variety of tree, the crotch sections of a redwood are back-breaking work to split. Branches and trunk twist around each other into a gnarly, knotted area. A hydraulic splitter or chainsaw will make easier work of these rounds. You should also check out our advice on splitting firewood.
Not everyone appreciates firewood that sparks and pops, whether in the house or outdoors. It’s easy to get burns on the carpet, and no one wants a burning ember landing in their lap.
Redwood will spark a little, so if you burn it inside, ensure the fireguard is in place. Keep a close eye on the flames outdoors to avoid unwanted forest fires.
Redwood firewood provides a subtle fragrance as it burns, which most find pleasant. Some describe it as slightly sweet and spicy, while others consider it almost neutral in scent.
If you enjoy cooking with meat smokers, roasters, or barbecues, there are better choices for wood. Redwood burns fast, and its sap and resin content don’t make for useful cooking wood. We suggest checking out our recommended wood for cooking.
The best firewood varieties burn slowly, providing long-lasting heat. Redwood doesn’t have good coaling properties and burns quickly in the flames. Compared to most hardwoods, it performs poorly on the coals it produces.
To keep the fire burning hot, you’ll need to add wood to the fire frequently. If you don’t mind doing this, redwood will make good fuel for the fire.
Tip: Try combining redwood with other slower-burning types of firewood to avoid frequent trips to the wood pile.
7. Creosote build-up
Redwood produces moderate levels of creosote, a black tar that forms inside chimneys. Over time, it will block vents and cause a fire hazard.
Properly drying the wood first will remove much of the sap and resin content. This seasoning time will help reduce creosote levels.
If you use redwood or any softwood in the home, ensure the chimney gets regular servicing.
How long does it take to season redwood?
Redwood typically takes 12 months to season, although it may take a few extra months in cold, wet climates. Good firewood storage will result in better firewood that seasons quicker.
Tips for seasoning redwood
To speed up the seasoning process, follow these tips:
- Stack in a good position: speed up drying time by facing the exposed wood towards the wind and sunlight. Always avoid shady areas.
- Create gaps between rows: build wood stacks with a 3-5″ space between each to help circulate the air.
- Split before stacking: increasing the surface area exposed to the elements greatly speeds up drying time.
- Protect the wood: use a wood shed or cover it with a tarp to keep out the rain and snow; keep one side exposed to the wind.
- Elevate the wood: lay the wood on pallets to encourage airflow and create a distance from moisture and insects in the ground.
The pros and cons of burning redwood
- Excellent for kindling
- Quick to light
- Easy to split
- Pleasant fragrance
- Can be expensive
- Low heat output
- Sparks and pops
Commonly asked questions
How do I identify a redwood tree?
Redwoods have spongy reddish-brown bark that easily pulls apart. The leaves of a giant sequoia are scale-like, comparable to those of a juniper. The coast species have needle-like leaves, similar to a hemlock. Coastal redwoods have small pine cones, while sequoias are much bigger.
How do I identify redwood firewood?
A coastal redwood log will have pinkish or reddish-brown heartwood and white or pale-yellow sapwood. The wood’s grain is usually straight with a coarse texture.
Does redwood burn as fast as pine?
Although redwoods burn quickly in the fire, they don’t ignite and burn as fast as firs, pines, and tanoaks. The redwood species contains low levels of highly flammable pitch and resin.
6 fast facts about redwoods
- The scientific name for the coast redwood is Sequoia sempervirens, and the giant sequoia is Sequoiadendron giganteum. They are from the family Cupressaceae.
- Common names include redwood, sequoia, coast redwood, and California redwood.
- The giant sequoia and coast redwood are both native to California, while the dawn redwood is native to China.
- They are coniferous trees commonly used for lumber, cabinet making, posts, and veneer. The burls are used for musical instruments.
- Redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet, reaching heights of up to 367 feet [source].
- Coast redwoods may live for thousands of years in the right conditions.
If you’ve got access to free redwood, then take it. It won’t compete with most hardwoods on heat, but it’s easy to split and light. We recommend using it for kindling or in combination with other wood. Another good use for redwoods is in outdoor campfires. Just be prepared for some smoke and sparks.
Redwood fetches a good price, so you may prefer to sell it. It is popular for turning and other woodwork projects. You can use the profits to purchase better firewood and hopefully have some funds left over for a new splitting axe.