Can You Use Pine Firewood Indoors? Dispelling the Myths

Is pine firewood a good choice? Is it safe for indoor use in your wood stove? Read here to find out if you should be burning it inside.

Pine trees are some of the best-known trees around the world. They possess huge economic importance through the timber trade and are easily identifiable due to their characteristic cone-shaped growth form and needle-like leaves. Pines are softwoods that are naturally found almost exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere. They are found through much of North America, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and Europe and have one of the largest distributions of any conifer family.

But are they a good option for firewood?

Many people are afraid to use pine in their wood stoves because of common myths about creosote buildup and chimney fires. This post gets to the bottom of pine firewood, giving you facts-based information and useful advice on how to use pine for heating your home safely and effectively. Say goodbye to uncertainty and hello to a cozy, pine-scented home.

The Myth Regarding Pine Firewood

You’ve probably heard that pine has high sap content, and therefore, when it’s burned, it emits a lot of soot that adds dangerous creosote to your chimney walls. Creosote is a dangerous byproduct that comes from burning wood and stays in your chimney until it’s removed. Creosote build-ups can lead to chimney fires.

Older generations hold tightly to this belief despite new evidence to the contrary. Studies have concluded that the amount of creosote left on chimneys was a result of low-temperature fires rather than resin-rich fuel sources.

The Truth About Burning Pine Firewood

Pine can be burned in a fireplace or indoor wood stove if itโ€™s properly seasoned. When you’re burning pine, be sure to keep your stove temperature high enough. You can make sure you’re doing this with your woodstove by using a stove thermometer.

Pine firewood in a very hot woodstove.

Heat Output and Efficiency (in BTUs)

Heat output is often represented in BTUs (or British Thermal Units). There are a variety of pine species with various heat outputs ranging from 15.9 BTUs (comparable to Spruce and Cottonwood) to 21.1 BTUs (comparable to Birch and Larch).

  • White Pine: 15.9 BTUs
  • Ponderosa Pine: 16.2 BTUs
  • Lodgepole Pine: 21.1 BTUs

Because pine has an overall low heat output and burns quickly, it is a good firewood for winter burning in mild climates. But those of us in harsher northern climates can use pinewood to cut our costs and transition into and out of the winter season.

In my drafty farmhouse in Maine, we use approximately eight cords of wood each year. Our temperatures can fluctuate drastically in early fall and spring, leading to chilly mornings and evenings with warm afternoons. This is where pine shines.

Pine lights very easily. We start a fire with pinewood in the morning to take the edge off. Pine produces heat quickly, but without stoking, it doesn’t last into the day, causing the house to become too warm. Same for the evening. A pine fire warms us up when we’re all sitting down for dinner or lounging around the living room without too much trouble.

Small, efficient woodstove.

Using pine in the spring and autumn can save on how much hardwood we need to use during the more intense parts of winter.

Creosote Buildup

“Some people assume the sticky, gum-like resins in pine firewood cause more creosote residues than hardwood. Research has found this is false. The buildup is more often the result of burning wood at relatively low temperatures. Burning poorly seasoned wood favors creosote buildup because evaporating water cools the burning process.”

Paul Pugliese [Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, University of Georgia Extension]

Poorly seasoned wood of any type burned at a low temperature can create a lot of smoke and produce creosote, but there are ways to reduce the amount of smoke produced by pine and other types of wood.

  • Arranging your wood with enough space between the logs for oxygen to circulate will produce a hotter, cleaner burning fire. If you consistently build efficient fires like this, less creosote will build up in your chimney because your fires will produce less smoke.
  • Open the damper in your wood stove before you light a fire to ensure it will get enough oxygen. Leave your door slightly cracked open at the start of your fire so air can circulate.
  • The flue can reach low temperatures if your chimney isnโ€™t well insulated. Lighting up your fireplace when the flue is cold will create more condensation and larger creosote deposits. You can easily warm up the chimney by rolling newspaper up to make a torch, lighting it, and holding it up in the chimney.

Regardless of what type of firewood you choose to burn, The National Fire Protection Association recommends an annual chimney inspection and cleaning because they have found that it is the most effective way to reduce the risk of a chimney fire.

How Long To Season Pine Firewood

Seasoning time for pine firewood is at least 6-12 months. Use a moisture meter to ensure itโ€™s under 20% moisture content for best results. You do not want to burn unseasoned wood of any type.

The best place to season your firewood is outside in the sunlight. Stack firewood elevated on boards or pallets so no wood is touching the ground. Pieces that are touching the ground will remain wet. Protect your split wood with a tarp or metal roofing, but be sure to leave the ends or one of the sides open so moisture can escape.

You’ll know your pine is dry when it weighs almost nothing. You’ll also see cracks forming in the ends. Seasoned pine also has a darker appearance than wet pine, and it no longer smells sappy.

Is Pine Firewood Expensive?

Heck no! If you’ve ever checked your local classifieds, you’d see people begging you to take their dead and fallen pines. I live in the Pine Tree State of Maine, and we can source more than enough logs to burn 24/7 all winter. 

We spent the weekend harvesting standing deadwood (mostly pines) for firewood.

If you purchase your wood from a processor, you’ll note that their price for pine is considerably less than hardwood and other mixed softwoods because so many still believe the myths about pine. Because it’s harder to move, they price accordingly. 

Pros and Cons of Using Pine for Firewood

As with any type of wood you choose, there are pros and cons to consider. These are the pros and cons of pine firewood.

Pine logs in a green grassy field.

Pros of Pine Firewood

  • The sap is a good ignitor, helping you start a fire quickly and easily.
  • Pine makes excellent kindling to start a hardwood fire.
  • Logs can often be sourced for free locally.
  • The smell of pine wood in the wood rack and while burning in the stove is quite pleasing.

Cons of Pine Firewood

  • Oils and saps in the wood may lead to sparks and smoke.
  • Because it tends to be knotty, pine may be challenging to split by hand. We use these pieces in our burn barrel.
  • The resin content makes processing a sticky situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pine should be seasoned for at least 6-12 months. Using a moisture meter to check that the moisture content is below 20% ensures optimal burning conditions.

No, the risk of chimney fires is more closely related to the burning practices and maintenance of the chimney rather than the type of wood. Regular inspections and cleanings are essential for safety.

Typically, yes. Due to lingering myths about its safety and efficiency, pine is often more readily available and less costly than hardwoods, especially in areas where pine is abundant.

If you’ve found value in this blog post and enjoyed reading it, why not share it with your Pinterest community? Pin the image below and spread the love!

A pinterest-friendly graphic about burning pine in the woodstove.

You can now make an informed decision about whether pine firewood fits your needs and preferences after learning more about how it burns and busting the myth that it makes too much creosote. The decision to use pine in your wood stove is now a matter of personal taste and practicality. You may like how quickly it lights and smells good, or you may choose to use it because it is easy to find.

Have you reconsidered burning pine in your wood stove? Share your thoughts or any pine-burning tips you’ve discovered in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  1. Skinnymoose says:

    In Alaska we burned pine/fir/spruce all the time because other than white burch there are no hardwoods in the boreal forest.Now that I’ve moved to Maine everyone is telling me I can’t use it in my woodstove. Fortunately I know better. Good article.

  2. Skinnymoose says:

    In Alaska we burned pine/fir/spruce all the time because other than white burch there are no hardwoods in the boreal forest.Now that I’ve moved to Maine everyone is telling me I can’t use it in my woodstove. Fortunately I know better. Good article.