The Christmas season seems to come and go in the blink of an eye, but it leaves behind more than memories. If your home is like ours, after the wrapping paper has settled and dinner has been consumed, it can look like a Christmas storm has gone through.
Simply put, the answer is no. You should never use your fireplace to dispose of your Christmas tree.
One thing you may be looking for post-holiday is an easy way to dispose of your Christmas tree. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, stove, or insert, burning your Christmas tree after the holiday season might seem like a convenient and logical solution. After all, since a Christmas tree is wood it should be suitable for a fireplace, right?
Simply put, the answer is no. You should never use your fireplace to dispose of your Christmas tree. But why not?
What You Can Burn This Christmas
Let’s start with what you should burn in your fireplace. Well seasoned firewood is the only suitable fuel for your in-home wood-burning unit.
Well seasoned firewood is the only suitable fuel for your in-home wood-burning unit.
Calling firewood “seasoned” means that its moisture content has been reduced to 15-25 percent. Why does moisture matter? Wood that’s “green” (freshly cut) or damp has a high moisture content and will therefore burn less completely. This incomplete combustion means more energy is spent evaporating off the excess water, and a smokier fire with cooler flue gases will result.
Long story short, this results in vastly increased home hazards, such as diminished indoor air quality and greater build-up of combustible creosote and soot in your chimney flue. On the other hand, using well-seasoned firewood will generate a hot, clean fire that burns optimally, as intended, for your fireplace system.
What Can’t I Burn?
Holiday debris – brightly colored gift wrap, disposable tableware, and those boxes the delivery man was bringing all throughout December – should not be burned. Like green wood, they can also burn incompletely, and they can produce hazardous sparks and release toxic chemicals too. Clearly, these things don’t belong in your fireplace.
But… a Christmas tree is wood, so shouldn’t it be safe?
Why Christmas Trees Shouldn’t Be Burned in Your Fireplace
Just because it’s wood doesn’t mean it’s suitable firewood. There are many wood products, such as treated or painted wood, medium-density fibreboard, and driftwood, that are dangerous to burn indoors. Your Christmas tree falls into the category of wood that’s unsafe to burn.
The reasons for this are several:
- Moisture content. This comes down to seasoning. It takes 6-12 months to cure firewood for use, and your tree has been much more recently cut – and you’ve probably been watering it to keep it alive. It’s not been properly cut and stored to make it adequately seasoned.
- Dry spots. We know, this seems contradictory, but stick with us. If, for some reason, parts of your tree are too dry, this can cause a blaze that’s excessively hot or fast-burning for your system.
- Sap and resin. Some popular Christmas tree varieties, such as spruces, firs, and pines, have a high resin content. This can cause an intense and unpredictable burn.
- Needles. Evergreen needles burn very quickly and produce many sparks. Like with gift wrap and other lightweight substances, they are also prone to send these sparks where you certainly don’t want them, such as into your living space or up your chimney. This is especially true when needles are dry – as they commonly are by the time Christmas has rolled around and passed.
- Wood type. Typical Christmas tree species can generate more creosote, meaning greater creosote accumulation in your flue. Creosote is harmful and is the leading cause of chimney fires, which is why you have your chimney sweep visit to clear it out!
The potential results of these factors are what make it important not to burn your Christmas tree.
✓ Intense fires are much more difficult to control and keep contained. If your chimney hasn’t been recently swept the danger is amplified, since any creosote build-up can easily ignite with a rapid, poorly-controlled fire in the firebox.
✓ Excessive sparks greatly increase the likelihood of an uncontained fire, either in your living space, in your chimney, or on your roof.
✓ A Christmas tree can produce a lot of smoke when burning, which can fill and damage your home very quickly, as well as be a health hazard.
✓ Quick, excessive heat is not good for your fireplace system. Dramatic temperature changes can shock and crack clay flue tiles. Damage to your firebox, chimney, and flue can put your fireplace out of commission and be expensive to repair.
Always Stick With Seasoned Wood
At Ashbusters, we want you to have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and new year. Be sure to keep your firewood storage stocked with good, well-seasoned firewood. When it’s time to start a cozy fire, grab wood pieces with robust checking (visible splits and cracks) that feel lightweight and sound hollow when knocked together. Or – better yet – check your firewood with a moisture meter to ensure the water content is right.
Also, be sure that your firewood is cut to lengths appropriate to your firebox, keep inappropriate fuels out of your firebox, and check local regulations to dispose of your Christmas tree safely.
If you have questions about using or caring for your fireplace, call our Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified sweeps at 414-310-7087 today. You can also reach out online. We put your safety and satisfaction first!