Can You Burn Rotten Wood?

Last Updated on February 11, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

Can I Burn Rotten Wood?

Rot and decay is an inevitable part of wood naturally decomposing over time. If you have some wood that looks a bit past its best, you may be pondering the question “can you burn rotten wood?”.

Regardless of how your wood is stacked or stored, it will eventually start decomposing as it gets older. There are various external factors that may speed up this process.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with burning rotten wood

However, the fire you make with rotten wood might be suboptimal. It’s a bit more difficult to light, and it doesn’t burn nearly as long as proper solid wood.

It’s also not great if you want to produce heat steadily and burn efficiently. Having said that, it still can’t be considered as useless wood, so long as the rot is not extensive.

If the middle heartwood is still quite hard and only the outer edge of your piece of wood has started to rot, this does not render the wood useless, it can still be used for a good fire.

Some Precautions Need To Be Taken:

If you are burning wood that is badly rotted or molding, it will produce heaps of smoke that have a horrible odor. Other than the bad smell, this smoke is known to make you a little sick.

Burning rotten materials and certain types of fungus or mildew might also be as bad for your health.

So if your wood is in a very bad state, it might just be better to chuck it out the back or on the compost pile and let nature do its job, the piece of wood will be gone by the next winter.  

If you have decaying wood lying around that you want to get rid of, burning it is probably one of the better options. A good way is to start a fire with some basic wood, such as a good seasoned firewood, and once the fire is going, and the temperature is adequate, add the rotten wood.

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Decomposing wood is quite difficult to light as it is usually wet or damp, when it does get burning, you may see it burn with a green flame.

Moldy wood:

When you burn moldy wood there are some things you should keep in mind.

Using moldy wood in a wood – burning fireplace is acceptable because it is a closed system and the mold is primarily burnt off.

When cooking, however, moldy or rotten firewood should be avoided as the mold spores could spread by being propelled through the smoke. This could be detrimental to your health.

Always keep molded wood outdoors as the mold might spread in a warm environment. Never keep molded wood or rotten material in your basement.

Identifying if the Wood Is Rotten

There are some basic tells that are easily spotted when firewood has gone rotten. The trick is sorting out the lightly rotting wood, from the wood that has been rendered almost useless.

Rotten wood soaks up water, causing a host of visible alterations.

Decomposing wood can be characterized by the following:

  • Wood with mold or fungus growing on it.
  • Texture is soggy and soft.
  • Wood rot leaves darker spots.

As said before, if the center of the wood is still in good shape and only the outer edge has slight rot or mold growth, it will still be a decent wood to be burned.

What Do I Need To Know About Rotten Firewood?

Punky Wood

If you have the chance to collect your own firewood by chopping down some trees out back make sure that the wood you collect isn’t punky wood. Punky rotted wood is when the center of the tree has become rotten. This is weak wood and should not be taken back to your home for burning.

Wet Wood

More often than not, wood that has rotted will be very damp. Wet wood does not burn properly and produces large amounts of smoke that can cause a host of problems. Rotten sapwood will often be so full of water, that it becomes spongy to touch.

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Keep It Outdoors

Storing rotten wood or moldy wood inside your home can be very detrimental. Because it is so soft, rotten wood attracts a lot of insects. The increase in temperature from the inside of your home may cause these insects to spread out and breed in your warm house. It’s a good idea not to bring rotten wood into your home.    

Wood Stoves

A wood stove is made for all kinds of wood. The standard recommendation is regular wood. Burning rotten wood in a wood stove is not recommended.

The large amount of moisture in rotten firewood will produce more than usual amounts of smoke, potentially causing creosote buildup that will block up your chimney and possibly cause a chimney fire.

Good quality firewood is the one to stick to here when you burn wood in your fireplace. Also, stay away from pressure treated or painted wood for your indoor fireplace.

Why Does Firewood Rot?

We need to take into consideration the lifespan of firewood. Your pile of firewood will eventually start rotting, this is inevitable.

The only thing that can be done is to attempt to slow down wood rot by storing your firewood correctly.  

Stacking your firewood properly and offering good protection against rain and ground moisture are the most obvious methods of protecting your firewood from decay, mold and fungi.

Piling your wood on a tarp and covering the top, while still allowing enough airflow to pass through the wood pile is paramount.

The bark on your firewood may also be a contributing factor to rotten wood.

Typically firewood comes with the bark still attached, by removing it, you might be staving off the problem of rotten wood. Moisture may collect between the wood and bark, accelerating the decomposition process.

Protecting your wood from moisture is very important and wood with bark tends to contribute to wet and rotten wood.

Higher-quality wood with a good density, that is well seasoned, will not rot as fast as conventional unseasoned, regular firewood.

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Follow These Easy Steps To Keep Your Firewood From Rotting:

Keep it off the ground

Ground moisture will penetrate the wood and cause it to rot. Storing it in a firewood rack or on a pallet is always advisable.

Good Ventilation

Make sure your wood is always well ventilated. This will dry out a lot of the moisture that collects in your wood pile.

Cover it Up

Keep your wood dry. Protecting your firewood from the elements is important. Precipitation like rainfall and snowfall will cause your wood to rot rapidly. Keep it covered with a tarp and open it up if there is good sunshine and dry weather.


Conclusively, if you want to burn rotten firewood on a camp fire or in a fire pit that is outdoors, there is absolutely no danger involved other than that the fire you have made might not burn as long and might not generate as much heat because of the moisture contained in the wood.

However, if you want to burn rotten wood in an indoor fireplace or wood burning oven, be aware that if the wood is too wet it will cause a creosote build-up inside the chimney. Creosote could eventually cause your chimney to become a fire hazard.

Another important thing to remember is to never store rotted wood or wood with mold inside your home or basement, following the outside storage guideline is a much safer bet if you want to avoid insect infestations and mold spores inside your home.

It is also important to make sure that your wood has not in any way been pressure treated, stained or painted, before being burned. This could be a potentially huge hazard, as it produces toxic smoke when it is burning wood that has been treated. When in doubt, it is always better to consult a professional for assistance. Now you have the answer to “can you burn rotten wood?”, what will you do?