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Are Standing Dead Trees Good Firewood?

Are Standing Dead Trees Good Firewood

When you’re on the hunt for firewood in your yard, you may have a few dead trees you’re considering. A few of them are in the process of dying while others have died many years ago. So, you may wonder, “Are standing dead trees good firewood?”

Yes, they make excellent firewood. Since the curing process has already begun, the wood will be dry enough to burn in a shorter period. This will be faster and more accessible than if you cut a tree down fresh.

Of course, other variables play into how suitable a dead tree is for firewood. These include the type of tree, if it suffered from disease and the length of time the tree has been like this. Certain situations will mean you won’t be able to burn the wood for safety reasons.

Do Standing Dead Trees Make Good Firewood?

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Standing dead trees do make for good firewood. But it’s a little more involved than chopping down logs and putting them in your fireplace, woodstove or campfire. You have to check the tree for disease and how long ago the tree died. Some diseases are okay while others are not.

Also, the wood you use should be free of leaves and needles. Dead trees, either bare or without bark (partial or full), makes ideal firewood. However, you may want to consider sourcing wood from other places and keeping your dead trees for emergency use.

But if the tree has long since ceased, you will want to cut it down. This is because dead trees to present a problem as they dry out. One good storm or high wind event could knock it right down on your home, car, pets, or children.

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Can You Burn Wood From a Dead Tree?

You can burn wood from a dead tree as long as it’s dry. So, how soon you can burn it will be another story because you should avoid burning anything that’s moist or fresh. Usually, you will still have to season it before you can use the wood.

It’s a good idea to get a moisture meter to measure how dry the wood is before you cut it. This will tell you how soon you’ll be able to burn it and how long you have to let it season. 

Long-Dead Trees

However, if the tree has been standing dead for longer than five years, it may not be good for burning. This is because there’s a high likelihood it has succumbed to rotting or molding. If you burn this, it will release into the air and go straight into your lungs.

The following table contains the best trees to use as firewood when dead and which others to be careful about using.

ExcellentCheck before UsingExtreme Caution
Oak
Hickory
Black Locust
Tulip Tree
Beech
Mulberry
Ash
Cherry
Maple
Walnut
Sycamore
Elm
Soft Maples
Aspen
Birch
Pine

Can I Use Old Fallen Trees for Firewood?

You can use old fallen trees for firewood, but standing ones are better. This is because there may be a sign of decay and rot on the fallen tree since it has close contact with the ground. But, if you’re willing to wait, you can definitely use it eventually. 

However, you always want to check fallen trees for signs of rot, disease or infestation. Not anything like this will make for good firewood and it will present some health dangers if you burn it. In the event toxins enter your lungs, a whole host of issues can occur such as worsening asthma and bronchitis, among many others.

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How Long Does It Take for a Dead Tree to Dry Out?

The length of time it takes for a dead tree to dry out will depend on the type of tree you have. For instance, an oak may be dead for several years but it will still be quite moist in the center. Alternatively, a two-year dead pine may be very dry all the way through.

Dries in About Two to Three Years

So, you can expect a dead tree to dry out for two to three years. However, it’s also important to understand you’ll still have to season it. This means even the longest dead trees will have a certain amount of moisture over the ideal 20% for burning.

As a note, trees dry from the top down. So, wood closer to the roots will be more moist than what’s closer to the top. You’ll know a dead tree is dry because of how the bark falls away easily and it will have a gray appearance that’s dark or dull.

Season for a Year After Cutting

Once you cut down the dead tree and chop it into logs, you can expect the wood to take at least a year before you can use it. This will ensure it’s dry enough while preventing a fire hazard due to too much moisture. 

However, this is where a moisture meter will come in handy. You may be able to use the wood sooner than a year as long as the moisture content is between 15% and 20%.

Final Thoughts

A standing dead tree can make for excellent firewood. You just want to make sure it doesn’t have a disease or show signs of rot. This includes mold and pest infestations. Wood that has these problems will present dangers to your health, particularly in the lungs.

However, you won’t be able to burn the dead tree right away once you cut it down. You will have to season it for a while. The length of time will depend on how moist the tree is in its current state. This means you’ll need a moisture meter to be sure.

Having said all that, dead trees are much drier toward the top than toward the roots. So, you will probably be able to burn top wood much sooner. Just make sure the wood is free of leaves and that the bark is peeling away.

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