Can You Burn Rotten Wood?


So you’ve split, stacked and seasoned your firewood only to come back to a pile of wet rotten wood. Rain, snow and moisture got into your wood pile and slowly rotted it away from the inside out. Is all hope lost or can you burn rotten wood?

Rotten wood isn’t ideal, but you can burn it in your fireplace or campfire. If you can pick it up, without falling apart, and get it to your fireplace it’s fine to burn. It might be hard to light, but it’s better than letting it go to waste. Just try to start your fire with properly seasoned wood so that it’s easier to light.

While I wouldn’t set out looking for rotten wood to burn, but it’s still better than nothing. Wet rotten wood will be harder to light and burn fast, but it can still be used in your fire. There will be a point when it’s better to discard the rotted wood and let it decompose. So when should you burn rotten wood and when is it better to throw out?

Can I Burn Rotten Wood?

Rot and decay is part of the natural decomposition process. It doesn’t matter how you stack and season your wood. If you leave your firewood stacked/piled long enough it will eventually start to decay. Is it bad to burn rotten wood?

No it’s not bad or dangerous to burn rotten wood. You won’t be able to build as good of a fire as with regular firewood, but it will still burn. It’s just harder to light and will burn way faster than dense firewood.

Always start your fire with regular wood, kindling, etc and add the rotten wood once the fire gets started. It may be possible, but it’s really hard to start a campfire with wet decomposing wood. You can’t get the wood hot enough for the moisture to evaporate and the wood to catch fire.

Buy a Propane Torch For Hard to Light Firewood

I highly recommend purchasing a propane torch if you plan on building a lot of campfires. It’s way safer and easier to use than gasoline and starts fires almost instantly. Plus a propane torch is really fun to use since it’s basically a mini flamethrower.

I’ve been using a cheap $30 propane torch that I bought at harbor freight, but I’ve been eyeing a Flame King Torch that has an ignitor (don’t have to use a lighter). My time as a former Boy Scout taught me how to properly make a campfire, but the torch is so much easier.

Just light it up and a minute later you have a roaring campfire. You don’t even have to bother with kindling, newspaper, etc. I even use a smaller torch in my indoor fireplace. It works so much better than gasoline and other fire starters. I don’t know why more people don’t use them.

What Causes Wood to Rot?

Firewood rots as part of its natural decomposition process. It doesn’t matter how well you stack and cover your wood. The wood will eventually start to rot and decompose.

Obviously, I still recommend neatly stacking and covering your firewood, but you can’t stop the natural decomposition process (only slow it down). With that being said, additional moisture will speed up the degradation process. Keeping your wood dry will extend its optimal lifespan.

It’s safe to burn wood with bark, but moisture can get trapped in the gap between the wood and bark. Removing the bark is a serious pain in the butt, so I wouldn’t recommend removing it, but pulling off loose pieces will slow down the rot. You may even want to stack your firewood bark side up so water doesn’t pool between the wood and bark.

Is It Safe To Burn Rotten Wood In An Indoor Fireplace?

Yes it’s safe to burn rotten wood in an indoor fireplace. You won’t be exposed to dangerous chemicals or anything. Rotten wood is just harder to light than traditional firewood. I recommend using regular firewood to start the fire or at the very least you’ll need to use some type of fire starter(that might not even work).

It might be safe, but there are major downsides to burning rotten wood in your fireplace. Rotten wood can make a serious mess in your house. Don’t remind me of all the arguments I’ve had with my wife from junk falling off wood and onto the fire. She would prefer I throw it out, but I’m like Scrooge McDuck when it comes to the firewood. I treat it like gold with all that time/labor that went into cutting, splitting and stacking it.

Rotten Wood Produces Extra Ash and Creosote

I prefer to burn rotten wood when I’m having campfires during the summer. With the extra water content in rotten wood you’ll have to deal with extra ash and creosote. You don’t want all that nastiness going up in your chimney and clogging it up.

They actually sell stuff to burn in your fireplace to loosen up the creosote and clean your chimney(this is what I use). I can’t help you with the ash problem. It’s just part of burning wood with a high water content. It’s basically like burning cardboard.

How Rotten is Too Rotten?

Can you smash the log with your foot? Can you pick it up without a bunch of dirt/debris falling off? If you can easily pick up a log and get it to your fire than it’s not too rotten to burn. You only want to dispose of logs that are so rotten that they’re basically compost.

Just toss those into the woods and let nature run its course. There won’t be much left after a winter exposed to the elements. I might say that, but I’m usually too lazy to deal with rotten wood and have to climb over it every time I need firewood. End up falling in the dark and getting hurt.

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