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The best kinds of wood for indoor fireplaces (and a few to never burn indoors)

Tips on the right kinds of wood for the indoors

A fireplace burning
The days grow shorter, the nights longer, leaves change hue then finally fall, lots of amazing seasonal beers (as well as amazing ciders) hit store shelves, and the scent of wood smoke drifts from a neighbor’s chimney down the road. Autumn has come and winter is close at hand. And about damn time — break out the flannels, boots, and your best woodcutting axe and let’s get crackling.

There are few things more pleasurable about the autumn and winter months than a warm fire crackling in a fireplace, but if you burn the wrong firewood, you could have problems. The smoke could start to fill your home, or it may smell less woodsy and charming and more acrid and terrible. In the worst-case scenario, burning the wrong kind of firewood can create a fire hazard or even expose you to dangerous chemicals that can cause both acute and chronic health issues.

To enjoy the safest fires at home, have your fireplace and chimney inspected by a professional every other year if you only have a fire or two each week, and annually with heavier use. Burn a creosote sweeping log at the start of each season to help remove the potentially flammable soot buildup that can start chimney fires.

Now let’s talk wood, starting with hardwood.

Stacked firewood
Badinesia / Shutterstock

The best kinds of wood for indoor fireplaces

Always burn wood that is completely dry and ideally, that was kiln dried or at least professionally seasoned — if you cut and stack your own wood, make sure it will be able to remain completely protected from rain and snow for a year, or it can’t really be considered seasoned (and may well be rotten). There are many great types of wood for fireplaces and each has its own unique profile and advantages; what you’ll note all these have in common is that they are hardwoods from deciduous (non-evergreen) trees.

Ash logs
momanuma / Shutterstock


Ash logs split easily and thanks to the low moisture content of the tree, the wood burns cleanly. The dense white/gray wood can be harder to ignite when the logs are of any notable diameter, so use plentiful kindling made from softer woods or use a few fire starters to make sure you create enough heat for an even burn.

Beech logs
Emilio100 / Shutterstock


American Beech trees produce wood rated as having a high heat value. A cord of beech (a cord of wood equals 128 cubic feet of stacked logs) can produce as much as 30 million BTUs worth of heat, whereas a cord of wood with a low heat value, like most pine trees, would produce about half as much heat.

Birch logs
SeDmi / Shutterstock


When chopped into small, thin pieces, birchwood makes a great fire starter, and when used in larger log form, it burns hot and cleanly and can be used after less time spent seasoning than many hardwoods. If you are selecting several woods, make birch one of your choices. Just make sure to remove the bark if the wood is not dried or aged fully.

Fruit tree wood
Sanit Fuangnakhon / Shutterstock

Fruit tree wood

We’re including in “fruit tree” myriad food-producing species, such as the pecan alongside the apple or peach trees. These hardwood trees produce woods that burn hot and give off wonderful aromas, but because the actual trees are often smaller than, say, a towering oak, the wood can be pricier.

Hickory logs
LisaCarter / Shutterstock


Hickory burns hot and clean when the wood is seasoned and cut to the proper size (which generally means no log thicker than five inches for an indoor fireplace) and it can produce a sweet, savory wood smoke. Which is why it is often used in smoking foods, of course.

Oak logs
Kletr / Shutterstock


Oak takes a long time to season, so it’s best to look for kiln-dried oak, but you won’t have to look far to find it, as oaks grow well all over the country (and the world, for that matter). The dense wood burns slowly, giving you hours of heat and a great coal bed as well.

Chopping wood
Bahan Bakar / Pixabay

Never burn these kinds of wood inside

There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, these kinds of woods just aren’t suitable for indoor fires. There are actually a few softwoods (evergreens are softwood) that are OK to burn indoors if truly dried out, like cedar and Douglas fir, but when in doubt, don’t burn pinewood inside. It leads to rapid creosote buildup and the sap can send flames shooting up the chimney or crackle and spatter flames out of the fireplace.

A piece of driftwood
Swapan Photography / Shutterstock


Unless it’s the only way to heat your cave on your castaway island, don’t burn driftwood indoors, and best not outdoors either — it takes on saltwater while afloat and can produce a chemical that is essentially chlorine gas when burned.

Moldy wood in a stack
Yessi Frenda / Shutterstock

Wet/rotted/moldy wood

Wood in this condition won’t burn properly due to its high moisture content, and in the worst case of it all, it may release noxious or even dangerous chemicals or bacteria.

Fresh cut wood
Mirshik / Shutterstock

Green wood

Freshly or recently cut wood is not suitable for use in fires, especially not indoors. It will never burn properly and you’ll end up expending more heat trying to make it burn than you get from it, and you’ll create a lot of smoke, too.

Warming feet with a fireplace
svetikd / Getty Images

Safety tips for indoor fireplaces

When used properly, an indoor fireplace can make those winter nights feel cozy instead of cold. But before you get the fire going (using the proper wood, of course), make sure your fireplace is safe to use, by following these basic safety tips.

  • We said it earlier, but it bears repeating, have your chimney inspected and cleaned once per year. The cost for the service is minimal compared to the cost of a chimney fire from a chimney that hasn’t been cleaned.
  • Make sure the flue is open when you start a fire, that will keep the smoke from building up in your house.
  • Use a fire screen to make sure that no burning embers of firewood get into your room.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby at all times.

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Steven John
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
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