Pine trees are an excellent source of timber for the construction industry. They are a fast-growing type of tree that is easy to work with and economical to grow at scale. But is pine worthy of your fireplace? In this guide, we’ll decide if pine makes good firewood, whether it’s being used in your home or outdoors.
Is pine good for firewood?
Pine isn’t a great choice for firewood if you’re looking to use it in your home’s fireplace or stove. Its heat output is low and high sap content means you’ll get high levels of creosote build-up. If you need firewood for outdoor campfires or meat smoking, pine is a great choice. It won’t burn all night and the smell is hard to beat.
- Pine’s heat output is low, making it less desirable as the main wood source for really cold climates.
- Pine burns easily so it’s great for kindling, especially as it is cheap and easy to find.
- Its coals are poor which isn’t ideal for heating homes all night but may be okay for campfires.
- Pine is highly resinous so it isn’t recommended for BBQ or smoking meat as it can ruin the smoker and the meat.
Pine firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
For most of us, the main purpose of firewood is to provide heat. If you live in a climate that gets extremely cold, you may want to go for another type of firewood. White pine’s rating is relatively low at 15.9 million BTUs while ponderosa pine has 16.2. Lodgepole pine does better at 21.1 so if you can get this variety, you’ll get better heat.
Compared to other firewoods, white pine produces more heat than eastern red cedar, basswood, white fir, and buckeye. But popular wood like white ash, beech, maple, honeylocust, and oak give off significantly more heat. If pinyon pine firewood is available near you, it is also a great choice.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
|Eastern red cedar||13.0|
Unless you want sore red eyes from a smoke-filled room, we don’t suggest using pine indoors. It produces a lot more smoke than most other types of wood, although Douglas fir gives it a run for its money.
Although an outdoor breeze will help get rid of smoke around a campfire, it’s still not ideal. Expect to get at least a few massive smoke plumes in your face as the fire burns.
Of course, there’s a difference between seasoned pine and green wood. While dry wood still gives off smoke, it’s nothing compared to what you’ll face using the green stuff.
3. Ease of splitting
Round pine logs will take forever to dry and won’t burn well. Like any firewood, splitting it is your best option. Although some wood like maple and oak is easy to split, pine is usually more challenging. The problem is that it’s riddled with knots which are a nightmare to split. If you hit the jackpot and your pine is free from knots, you’ll find it’s easy to split.
Whether you’re in the house or enjoying the outdoors, firewood that pops and sparks should be avoided. It’s an easy way to start an unwanted fire and no one wants a burning ember landing in their lap!
Whatever type of pine firewood you choose, it’s notoriously bad for sparking. If you decide to use it inside, make sure the fireguard is in place. In the outdoors, don’t leave the campfire unattended as you could have a major blaze on your hands.
People enjoy the scent of pine that is commonly used in air fresheners and cleaning products. When it comes to firewood, pine is also well-regarded for the fragrance it gives off burning.
If you appreciate a nice-smelling fire, then pine is one of the best. Any meat smokers shouldn’t get ideas about using it in their BBQ or smoker though. Its high levels of resin are not a good match for meat smokers.
Fires last longer if the wood that’s tossed in has good coaling properties. This is important because no one wants to be hauling loads of wood in from outside all night, just to keep the fire going.
Another benefit of effective coaling is that embers will be waiting for you the next morning. So, you can toss a log onto the fire and it’ll probably light again, without having to go through the whole process again.
Pine doesn’t coal well and tends to burn quickly, a lot like redwood firewood. Compared to almost any other firewood, it performs poorly on the coals it produces.
7. Creosote build-up
All firewood produces creosote as it is burned, but pine creates it in high levels. Creosote is a type of black tar that forms inside chimneys. Exposure to humans can be harmful and it’ll also block your chimney over time.
If you must use pine inside, make sure the chimney is serviced regularly. You may also want to use a combination of pine for kindling and another type of wood for the larger pieces.
Pine is loaded with resin and sap, making it messy to work with. It’ll get everywhere, sticking to your gloves, clothes, and axe or chainsaw. For this reason, it is better suited to outdoor campfires.
Tips for seasoning pine
If your wood has been thoroughly dried, then it is seasoned. Burning unseasoned pine is not a good idea unless you’re desperate. The high sap levels will produce plumes of eye-stinging smoke and the wood will burn way too fast.
There are ways to speed up the seasoning process. Living in a state like Texas is a good starting point as the hot, dry climate is ideal for seasoning. If you don’t have weather on your side, follow these tips to speed up the process.
- Stack in the right place: accelerate drying time by positioning the face of the stack towards the wind and avoiding shady areas.
- Split the firewood: by splitting the logs, you increase the surface area that gets exposed to sunshine and wind.
- Space out the rows: create a series of stacks with a 3-5” gap between each one to assist with air circulation.
- Elevate the wood: lay the wood on some planks or pallets to allow airflow under the wood.
- Protect the wood: use a tarp to cover the stacks from rain and snow while keeping one side exposed to the wind.
The pros and cons of burning pine
- Cheap and abundant
- Lovely aroma
- Excellent for kindling
- Quick to light
- Low heat output
- Too many sparks and pops
- High in sap and resin
- Can be difficult to chop
Commonly asked questions
How hard is it to split pine?
If you’re lucky enough to get know-free wood, green pine isn’t a problem to split. But it often has knots through it that makes splitting tough work.
How do I know if the wood is pine?
You’ll know it’s a pine tree if it has a combination of needles instead of leaves and sticky sap. Pine trees also have a lot of knotty branches.
How long does pine take to season?
Pine is quick to season, taking roughly 6-8 months to season. In hot, dry climates, you may find pine is ready to use after one hot summer.
Is pine okay for a fire pit?
Pine is okay used as kindling in a fire pit but shouldn’t be used as the main wood. It is loaded with sap and resin that’s make a mess and the wood burns much quicker than most popular wood varieties.
Why does pine burn so fast?
Pine is a fast-burning wood thanks to its high levels of resin and turpentine. While this feature isn’t ideal for most fires, it makes the wood great for kindling.
- The pine family (Pinaceae) has over 115 species of evergreen conifers.
- Popular varieties include the Eastern white pine (Pinus stroubus) which is commonly found in North America. The ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is revered by the timber industry, while the Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) is found in cold mountainous areas and the coast.
We don’t recommend using pine as your main firewood source if you can avoid it. Its heat output is low while you must contend with smoke, sparks, pops, and mess.
Pine isn’t a good choice for firewood, but it still has its place on the hearth. Instead of using big pieces of pine wood, consider splitting it into kindling. It burns quickly and is excellent for starting fires.
Another possible use for pine is in outdoor campfires. Just be prepared to dodge embers and make sure you don’t leave it unattended as you might end up with a bushfire on your hands.