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Should You Burn Rotten Firewood? (6 Top Safety Tips)

Should You Burn Rotten Firewood? (6 Top Safety Tips)

Trying to decide what to do with your rotten firewood? Do you burn it, throw it out, or treat it with some other process? This article will explore whether or not you should burn rotten firewood.

We’ll look at the pros and cons of both burning and storing rotten wood so that you can make the best choice with the information you have.


Is It OK to Burn Rotting Wood?


When wood is properly seasoned, it’s dry on the inside with no moisture. However, if you’ve ever split firewood, then you know that even wet or partially-rotting logs can be burned for heat, though they won’t burn as hot and cleanly as well-seasoned wood does.

Rotten wood will burn fine as long as it isn’t completely disintegrated or too moist. Make sure that the wood is solid enough to be placed in your fire without crumbling apart to ensure that there will be enough energy in the log for it to burn.

It’s better to use rotten wood in an outdoor fire as opposed to an indoor fireplace. This is because the wood won’t burn as hot, which means that more moisture will be released into the house, alongside any microorganisms that are breaking down the wood.

You also have to consider that burning rotten wood can lead to creosote build-up in your chimney, which is a hazardous by-product of incomplete combustion that causes black soot and other dangerous pollutants to form. Creosote build-up is what causes chimney fires, so it’s best not to mix rotten firewood with your fireplace.


How Do You Know if You Have Wood Rot?


Sometimes it will be obvious when your firewood is rotting, and other times it will be more subtle. Here are some of the most common ways you can tell that your wood is rotten:

  • There are spongy areas, darkening in colour and lightening around the outside.
  • The bark looks like it’s curling away from the log or has fallen off entirely.
  • You hear hollow sounds when tapping on it with another piece of firewood.
  • There are mushrooms growing on it.
  • The wood is covered in bugs or insect larvae, which means that the inside of the log will be infested as well.
  • The wood will get moister over time.
  • A musky smell will indicate that the wood is rotting.
  • The wood will begin to crumble if you try to break it with your hands.

If you notice any of these signs, then your wood is probably rotten. If the rot has only partially affected the log, it should be suitable to use in a campfire.


Will Rotted Wood Dry Out?


There are two categories of rot that you will find on your firewood. One is called wet rot and the other is called dry rot.

Wet Rot

This type of rotting happens when the cells and fibres along the outer layers of a piece of firewood begin to disintegrate, causing an increase in water content within those areas. Wet rot is caused by fungi that feed on wood cellulose.

Dry Rot

Dry rot happens when certain fungi and bacteria feed on the wood’s cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. It can easily become airborne since it is lighter and flakier than dry rot. This makes it more dangerous to breathe, especially for those with respiratory issues.

As opposed to wet rot that only affects the surface of a piece of firewood, dry rot can go through an entire piece in as little as six months. Dry rot doesn’t cause water content changes like wet rot does, which means that the wood may still feel dry on the outside even if it’s rotten.

The good news is that wet rot can be reversed through a process called seasoning, while there isn’t much you can do to stop or reverse dry rot. Seasoning firewood involves exposing pieces to hot and humid conditions in order to drive out internal moisture.

This can be done by placing the logs in a dry area outside during a sunny day. You can then store the wood on a dry storage rack that is elevated off the ground.

You can also reduce the wetness of your wet rotted wood by placing the pieces of wood next to your firepit during your next fire. This will help to dry out the wood more quickly.

Unfortunately, with dry wood, this method won’t work, as it is impossible to reverse the process of dry rotting. It’s best to minimally handle your dry-rotted wood and to only burn it outside.


Does Rotten Wood Smoke More?


Yes, firewood that is rotten will emit more smoke than non-rotted wood. This is because the fire won’t burn as hot due to the lack of dryness and wood density in the rotten pieces, so your fire will have to work harder and won’t be able to evaporate off as much of the moisture.

Additionally, because there are fewer burnable compounds left within a piece of rotten wood, that means you’ll have less heat and far more smoke than normal once the fire is burning well enough to produce some warmth.

Dry-rotted wood may burn with less smoke than wet-rotted wood, but still more than non-rotted wood. Regardless of whether it’s wet or dry-rotted, smoking can be reduced by burning your firewood as quickly as possible and only using pieces that are very small in size.


Can Rotten Wood Make You Sick?


Breathing in Blastomycosis can cause respiratory issues and lead to brain abscesses, pneumonia, hepatitis, skin lesions, and even death. This type of fungus is found on decaying plants, soil, and wood.

Both mould spores and bacteria can move over 1000 miles carried by air, and they can also stay alive even after being burned in a fire pit.

All firewood and living material has a trace amount of mould and bacteria on it, meaning that it is safe in small amounts.

Make sure to keep a healthy distance from your fire when you’re burning your rotten wood just to be safe. If you or anyone joining you has moderate to severe respiratory or immune system issues, go ahead and skip the mouldy wood entirely.


Is It Safe to Store Rotten Wood?


Storing your rotten wood can be problematic because it will most likely start attracting termites, beetles, and other insects that are attracted to rotting wood.

These bugs won’t really do much damage on their own unless you have a large infestation in your home or storage area. In order to try to prevent this, you can store your wood off the ground in a way that allows air to circulate around it.

You should also look for signs of insect damage before burning any rotten firewood. If you find holes, then there’s a good chance that termites are already crawling through your wood and eating away at its insides!


What Can I Do With Old Rotting Firewood?


If you have too much old rotten wood on your hands, make something with it instead of burning it!

Add some artistic touches by carving or sculpting it to give new life to what was once considered useless!

You can also use it as an accent for your garden. Create a wooden bench or pergola with some of the pieces and place them in areas where you’ll want extra seating, shade, or decoration.

You can also turn it into planters, flower pots, or garden markers if you’re up for the challenge! Simply remove any rotten sections, sand down the wood, and paint it with a waterproof sealant to ensure that your creation lasts.

If you want some visual inspiration, check out Pinterest or Google images for more ideas on what other people have done.

You can also compost your rotting firewood by placing it in a compost heap. This will help to break down the wood into smaller pieces, which will make it easier for plants to take up nutrients within their root systems.

Rotting firewood can be used as mulch or as a compost additive. In order to do this, place the wood pieces in a pile or heap away from any areas of your yard where you want to grow plants.

Don’t allow rotten firewood that you plan on burning near compost piles, as this will contaminate it with fungi and bacteria that can cause it to break down and build up moisture even faster.


Final Thoughts


Since wood is an organic material, it’s only natural that it will decompose over time.

If you’re planning on burning your firewood, then it’s good to know that rotten wood will produce more smoke, contain more spores and bacteria than usual, or attract insects or fungi if stored for too long.

Don’t forget about the safety of yourself and any guests who plan on hanging out by the fire pit with you! If there are any people with respiratory issues or immune system problems in your group, then you should probably skip the mouldy wood altogether.

Now that you know more about rotten firewood, you’ll be able to make the best decision for yourself when deciding whether or not to burn it.