The yew tree is an evergreen variety that produces excellent wood for furniture, musical instruments, and archery bows. But how does it perform as firewood, and is it worth the effort to split? This guide will review yew firewood and compare it to other popular types of wood.
Is yew good for firewood?
Yew is an excellent choice of firewood that gives off high heat output and useful coaling properties. It is a dense hardwood that will burn clean with minimal smoke.
In most cases, it would be more financially viable to sell logs of yew to woodturners. It is a prized wood which fetches a high price. You’re best to save any leftover offcuts for burning.
- Gives off plenty of heat.
- Provides a pleasant, mild fragrance.
- Tends to spark aggressively.
- Easy to split if unseasoned.
Yew firewood burn qualities
1. Heat output
Yew produces high levels of heat output with a BTU rating of 27.0 million BTUs per cord. That’s similar to apple, beech, and holly. This firewood is suitable for the coldest winter and can also be mixed with lower quality wood in the shoulder seasons.
Check out the following table comparing the heat output of yew to various other common types of firewood.
|Wood variety||Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)|
Seasoned yew firewood gives off minimal smoke and has a clean-burning flame. However, the wood also contains taxines which are toxic in high doses. It’s important to avoid open fireplaces and ensure adequate ventilation so that any smoke can escape the room.
Burning any green wood will create a lot of smoke. Never burn yew without properly drying it first.
3. Ease of splitting
The yew tree is easy to split when compared to some species like elm. However, it may have knots which can make the job of splitting more of a challenge. The wood is a lot easier to process while it’s still green. Once seasoned, the red heartwood becomes extremely hard.
Take extreme care if you decide to split the wood with a chainsaw. Sawdust from this tree is toxic, so wear appropriate protective clothing and a mask as you work.
Yew is a dense hardwood that usually gives off few sparks. It is a better option than softwoods like pine or spruce. However, some wood will pop and spark loudly. If you’re indoors, you’ll want a fire guard in place to keep the embers contained.
The fragrance given off by yew is mild and pleasant. As previously mentioned, don’t allow smoke to build up indoors as it may be harmful in large amounts.
Yew is a hardwood that burns slowly and is great for barbecues and firepits. It doesn’t add much extra flavor, so choose mesquite or apple if that’s what you’re looking for.
You may also like to check out our article which looks at cypress firewood.
Yew is a dense hardwood that burns well in the fire and produces excellent coals. They will give out heat longer than softwoods, so you won’t have to keep topping up the fire all night.
For a longer-lasting fire, consider combining yew with oak which has exceptional coaling properties. These two should provide heat all night and be easy to restart the following day.
7. Creosote buildup
Creosote is an unpleasant black substance that attaches to the chimney as the fire burns. Some wood gives off more than others, meaning the chimney needs cleaning more often.
Properly seasoned yew won’t give off much creosote in the fire. It has low levels of sap and resin, resulting in a clean burning flame. With any firewood, it is best practice to clean a chimney yearly. Regular maintenance could prevent a house fire.
The pros and cons of burning yew
- High heat output.
- Mild, pleasant fragrance.
- Easy to split most of the time.
- Yew trees are scarce resources.
- Too much smoke may be toxic.
- Sometimes the wood pops loudly.
Tips for seasoning yew
Yew takes around 18-24 months to season, but following these tips can reduce the waiting time.
- Cover the wood: protect the stack from rain and snow by covering with a tarp or using a wood shed. Always keep a side exposed to the wind.
- Raise the stack: place the firewood on pallets to create airflow underneath and reduce moisture.
- Position in sunlight: avoid shady areas and face the exposed stack toward prevailing winds.
- Split immediately: chopping logs into smaller pieces increases the surface area exposed to wind.
- Criss-cross the layers: stacking the wood in opposing directions will help it dry faster. This pattern also uses up more storage space.
- Space out the rows: build stacks with a 3-5″ gap between each to encourage air circulation.
Commonly asked questions
Can you burn yew wood in a fire pit?
Although yew burns hot and has excellent coals, its smoke is considered toxic in high amounts. Cooking food with yew is not recommended.
Can you burn yew in a wood stove?
Yew firewood is ideal for wood stoves, burning clean and producing a lot of heat. It tends to pop, so the stove door will come in handy.
How much does yew firewood cost to buy?
In most parts of the world, yew is hard to find and isn’t sold commercially. The wood is highly sought after for wood turning, so if you ever find it for sale, expect to pay a premium for it.
How do I identify the yew tree?
The yew tree is an evergreen with needle-like leaves growing in rows along twigs. It also has red berries that have a hole at the tip and are inedible. The bark on a mature yew is reddish-brown with deep vertical furrows and ridges.
How do I identify yew wood?
The sapwood of a yew tree is a tan or pale yellow, while its heartwood is orange-brown. Older trees will have darker heartwood than younger trees. The wood has a fine uniform texture and a straight grain.
6 facts about the yew tree
- The botanical name for the yew tree is Taxus; it is from the family Taxaceae.
- They are coniferous shrubs or trees that can grow to 50 feet.
- All parts of the tree are poisonous.
- There are around 300 species of yew around the world.
- Yew is rarely used for firewood as the trees are slow-growing and scarce.
- Yew with many pin knots produces timber with character and is sought after by woodturners.
Species of yew include
- Common yew or English yew (Taxus baccata)
- Western yew or Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia)
- Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata)
- Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana)
- Irish yew (Taxus baccata)
Although you’re unlikely to find yew firewood for sale, you may have a dead tree on your property. Yew is an exceptionally dense wood that gives off high heat levels and burns long and slow.
So, is it worth burning yew in the fire?
While yew makes good firewood, there are better uses for it. Unless you’re in a pinch, we recommend finding a local woodturner and selling the timber. You can fetch a great price if it’s in good condition.
Alternative options like oak are much more readily available and cheaper. Best of all, the fire you get will be just as good, and there’s no need to worry about potentially toxic smoke.