In many homes, Christmas is a time for unwrapping presents around the Christmas tree. When the gifts are unwrapped and it’s time to take down the Christmas tree, it may be tempting to dispose of wrapping paper and your tree in your fireplace. After all, wrapping paper and pine trees are mostly products of wood, they should burn just fine, right? Well, while they may burn easily, you should never put either wrapping paper or Christmas trees in your fireplace. Burning both of these products can be potentially hazardous.
Wrapping paper isn’t like normal paper. The colors used to make the decorative design of wrapping paper are made from ink pigments which contain a variety of different chemical compounds and metals. A lot of these pigments will make colorful flames when burned. This may look neat, but it can actually be very dangerous. Although America has standards for using safe ink in wrapping paper manufacturing, when the ink burns, the chemistry may change and then you never know what airborne particles you may be breathing in.
Wrapping paper also burns differently than wood does. Because of its high surface to mass ratio, wrapping paper burns quick and hot. This can cause a few problems in a fireplace. First, if you have a big ball of wrapping paper, it can create a large flame. If your chimney hasn’t been cleaned in a while, this can ignite combustible resin and creosote and cause a chimney fire. Also, since wrapping paper is so light, embers can travel up the flue and out of your home, landing on your roof or lawn.
It seems that burning your Christmas tree in the fireplace would make sense. However, the wood of your Christmas tree will not burn well. Wood needs to be seasoned before it is used in your fireplace. Since your Christmas tree was likely cut a few weeks ago and has been watered, its wood will be wet. This type of wood does not burn efficiently and creates a lot of smoke. Since it can’t burn very hot, a lot of secondary compounds in the wood get are released instead of being burned. These compounds will condense on your chimney walls and turn into resin or creosote, which is a combustible fire hazard.
If you really want to burn your Christmas tree, you can chop it up and properly season it by stacking it off the ground and letting it dry until next winter.
We here at The Chimney Guy want you to have a safe holiday season. If you have any questions or concerns about what you can and cannot burn in your fireplace, or if you’re in need of chimney maintenance or servicing, please contact us today at 920-830-1920 or go online to schedule an appointment with us today.