Dirty Chimney From White Birch?
by Lisa McLeod
(Saint John NB Canada)
I was told that white birch will dirty your chimney more than any other wood....Is this true?
Also, which wood should you stay away from in regards to dirtying your chimney?
Great question about using white birch for firewood. When it comes to firewood I think you will find there's a lot of different opinions about which type of firewood to burn, which ones are good and which ones you should avoid. In the end it really comes down to the handling and storage of the firewood more than the actual firewood type.
No matter what species you burn, to help prevent soot or creosote buildup in a chimney it's important to make sure the firewood is seasoned. Any firewood that is wet or "green" will increase the chances for creosote to form in a chimney. Since wet firewood doesn't burn very well the unburnt gases rise though your chimney and can adhere to the walls of the chimney which creates creosote.
Leaks and cold spots inside your chimney increase the likelihood of creosote forming in these spots. White birch has bark that is known for holding moisture inside the wood so it's important to split the wood an allow it to thoroughly dry. When the bark from white birch ignites it tends to give off a black, sooty smoke that can be undesirable for some people. Also, don't store the wood directly on the ground because it can soak up ground moisture and rot.
Although white birch is not as dense as other popular hardwoods, once it's seasoned I have not found any research that proves it's unsafe to burn.
In fact, seasoned white birch is relatively lightweight and is known for burning very hot and many people love to burn it in a fireplace because of this. However, white birch can get pretty sooty if you try to burn it wet which leads back to making sure the wood is dry before you use it.
Even dry wood can create creosote in a chimney if it's allowed to smolder inside a wood stove, especially if you don't have a good draft or if you have any air leaks. That's why it's important to clean your chimney on a regular bases and have it inspected by a professional.
Overall, if the white birch is seasoned and has a moisture content of around 20 percent or less and your wood burning device is in good working order, I would not be afraid to burn it or mix it in with other species of firewood. There are many people who burn white birch all the time and have never had a problem with it.
To answer the second part of your question I would stay away from any firewood type that is wet and I would not burn it until it's seasoned. I personally don't burn red pine in my fireplace because of the high resin content found inside the wood. There are mixed opinions about burning pine. Many people burn it and have never had a problem with creosote. Since we have numerous other options available, I tend to burn ash, beech or hard maple in our fireplace and leave the red pine for our outdoor wood furnace.
I hope this helps! In the end, if you're still not comfortable burning white birch (just like I avoid red pine in a fireplace) you can always choose a different firewood type and avoid any additional concerns you might have about the wood.