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A Quick Guide to Using Paperbark as Firewood

A Quick Guide to Using Paperbark as Firewood

From its bark to leaves, paperbark trees give us strong wooden furniture and aromatic teas and oils. However, they are still considered invasive in most parts of the world.

Converting these paperbark trees into firewood is a great way to put them to good use!

In this article, we’ll walk you through the paperbark’s characteristics and how well (or not!) it performs as firewood. 

Is paperbark a good firewood?

Is paperbark a good firewood
Image: Santa Barbara Beautiful

Paperbark makes great firewood for firepits, log burners and other outdoor burning activities. It produces a medium heat output of 20 million BTUs per cord but gives off a lot of smoke, creosote and sparks when burned. 

As a hardwood, paperbark is dense enough that it can sustain its fire for hours. Its sap content also helps the bark of this wood to ignite easily, almost as quickly as softwoods. 

However, the amount of sap in the paperbark produces more smoke and creosote, even when it has entirely been seasoned. 

Below are the physical characteristics of paperbark firewood.

Tree NamePaperbark
Scientific NameMelaleuca quinquenervia
Height 30 feet
Life Span100 years
Type of WoodHardwood
Seasoning Time1 to 2 years
Heat Output (million BTU per cord)20
Sap ContentHigh
Splitting DifficultyDifficult
Coal ProductionModerate
Creosote Build-upHigh

Fire Characteristics of Paperbark Firewood

Fire Characteristics of Paperbark Firewood
Image: Arborwest Tree Farm

Paperbark firewood is difficult to split and has high sap content, creosote build-up, moderate heat output, and coal production.

Let us walk you through each fire-burning property of paperbark firewood.

1. Difficult to Split

Difficult to Split
Image: All About Gardening

Like any other hardwood, paperbarks are very dense and, thus, difficult to split. This wood is prone to knots and interlocked grains, making cleaning harder.

It’s best to use a hydraulic splitter and split the wood along the grain to achieve a clean cut of paperbark firewood.

2. High Sap Content

High Sap Content
Image: All About Gardening

Paperbark contains a lot of sap, mainly because its flowers are filled with nectar. 

We recommend harvesting paperbark wood during winter because this is the time when they have the lowest level of sap content. With low sap, the wood will season more quickly. 

3. Moderate Heat Output 

Moderate Heat Output 
Image: Country File

The bark of paperbark trees is known for its high combustion rate. This translates to its moderate heat output of 20 BTU, which can warm your home.

Paperbark also has a high heat efficiency rate since about 80% of its heat energy is converted to heat as it burns. It’s good firewood for cooking because of its efficient heat output. 

4. High Creosote Build-Up

High Creosote Build-Up
Image: Tyndall Firewood

Paperbark firewood produces a lot of creosote, a thick black and tar-like substance that forms when the wood is burned in an oxygen-poor environment. 

It’s best to check your fireplace at least once a year and remove the creosote build-up to prevent unwanted fires.

To reduce the creosote build-up, make sure that the firewood is fully seasoned before burning, and burn the wood in an area with adequate airflow. 

5. Moderate Smoke Output

Moderate Smoke Output
Image: Wallpapers Craft

Paperbark firewood produces a medium smoke output due to the wood’s high moisture content. So when the firewood is burned, it releases more water vapor and smoke into the air. 

Prolonged exposure to smoke harms health as it causes eye, nose, skin or throat irritation, respiratory problems, heart diseases and even cancer. That’s why paperbark is best burned outdoors. 

6. Moderate Coal Production

Moderate Coal Production
Image: Snowys

Paperbark produces only a moderate amount of coal. This is mainly because of its high moisture content, making it difficult for the wood to convert into coal. 

Coal production slows the burning process and produces heat to keep the fire burning. This is how paperbark firewood works to extend its burning time when lit.

Pros and Cons of Using Paperbark as Firewood

Pros and Cons of Using Paperbark as Firewood
Image: Wikipedia

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using paperbark firewood.

Moderate heat outputHigh sap content
Long burning timeHigh smoke and creosote output
Renewable sourceDifficult to split

Paperbark is an efficient burning wood. It produces moderate heat output but with a long burn time thanks to its dense wood fibers. 

It’s also a renewable source of fuel for heating because this tree can still be replanted even after harvesting them. 

Unfortunately, paperbark wood is challenging to split because of its knotty and grainy structure. 

Paperbark also has high moisture and sap content, which results in high smoke and creosote output, making them unsuitable for indoor fireplace use. 

How long should you season paperbark wood?

How long should you season paperbark wood
Image: Trop Plants

Paperbark wood should be seasoned for 1 to 2 years. This is a vital step to lessen smoke and creosote emissions and ensure efficient firewood burning.

We recommend splitting the wood into smaller pieces so that more of its surface area is exposed to the wind and sunlight as it fully dries out. 

To be sure when you can finally use it, use a moisture meter and aim for a level of 20% or less before burning.

FAQs on Paperbark Firewood

What are the varieties of the paperbark tree?

The most common of the 150 species of paperbark trees are the Swamp paperbark, Weeping paperbark, Melaleuca, and Broad-leaved paperbark trees. They are native to New Guinea and Australia and are typically used as ornamental trees.

Are paperbark woods sustainable?

Paperbark woods are sustainable when turned into firewood, since they’re otherwise known as an invasive species.

What are the health risks associated with burning paperbark firewood?

Burning paperback firewood is associated with health risks related to the heart and lungs, including heart disease and cancer.

What is a paperbark tree used for?

Paperbark bark is commonly used to make canoes, shelters, baskets, and mats. In contrast, its leaves make medicinal teas and antiseptic and antibacterial oils.

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