Closely related to the cedar tree, Juniper (Juniperus) is a genus of coniferous shrubs and trees deriving from the Cupressaceae family. They are a tree that favors mountains areas and can be found across America in such locations.
Junipers are particularly well known for the berries that they yield, though are considered an invasive species within the US. For this reason, juniper firewood is sustainable. But is it worth using as firewood?
Juniper is excellent firewood if you intend to use it as a heating source. With a heat generation of up to 26.4 million BTUs per cord, it is safe to say that juniper burns hot. It is easy to prepare however, it can cause safety issues when used in an open indoor fireplace because of sparks and smoke.
What Are The Varieties Of Juniper?
There are several types of junipers, but not all of them grow into trees large enough to provide a decent amount of firewood for the effort of cutting them down. Some varieties include:
- Alligator Juniper – It has the lowest BTU of any juniper species but is the easiest to split.
- Shaggy Juniper – Though harder to split, its shaggy bark is perfect for kindling.
- Rocky Mountain Juniper – One of the hottest burning juniper types, it is high in resin so produces more smoke and sparks.
- Western Juniper – Possibly the most popular juniper firewood type, it generates the 2nd highest heat of any juniper but is harder to split.
What Are The Physical Characteristics Of Juniper?
|Heat per cord (Million BTUs)||21.6 – 26.4|
|Weight dry (lbs per cord)||3182|
|Weight green (lbs per cord)||3570|
|Seasoning time||6 – 9 months|
|Resin / Sap content||High|
Does its Wood Split Easily?
Though Juniper is a dense wood, it is categorized as softwood. It is not prone to developing knots like beech logs would, growing a soft, straight grain.
Despite its high resin content, it is not messy to work with. This means that you will not have to worry too much about sticky sap getting everywhere. Though you may want to favor splitting seasoned juniper as most of it will dry up.
Western juniper is the hardest juniper wood to split while alligator juniper is the easiest. If you use a hand ax, you will want to favor the easier juniper kind, but it is generally an easy wood to split.
How Much Resin Does It Have?
Juniper does tend to have a very high resin content, making it a moist wood during the winter months. However, during the summer months, juniper’s sap content spreads through the tree to help its berries grow.
Rocky Mountain juniper is very high in resin. You will want to make sure to harvest this wood during the winter months when the resin is concentrated in one place rather than spread through the wood.
How Does The Wood Smell?
Although it is a fast-burning wood, juniper does produce a very pleasant fragrance. The fragrance is a slightly sweet pine smell that tends to linger in your home for hours after the firewood has been used up.
You will only need a few small juniper logs to have your home smell wonderful.
Heat Output And Efficiency Of Juniper
Juniper wood as a whole has an excellent heat output. This is because despite being a softwood, juniper is dense and so can burn hotter than most pine or cedar firewoods.
Western juniper is the second hottest burning juniper wood but is the most widely available in North America. It can reach a heat output of 26.4 BTUs, which may be too hot unless used in a log burner.
On the opposite end of the scale, the alligator juniper is the coolest burning juniper species with a BTU of 21.6. Though this is still an excellent heat output.
Fire Characteristics Of Juniper
As a softwood, juniper does burn moderately long, as it is thicker than most softwoods. It does burn slower than other softwoods like cedar and pine firewood would, but still does not burn for as long as hardwoods.
The resin makes juniper a good fire starter – especially shaggy juniper whose uniquely textured bark ignites very quickly.
Juniper is high in resin also causes some safety issues regarding its fires nature. This is particularly true of rocky mountain juniper which has one of the highest resin contents.
The reins will cause a juniper fire to crack and pop, creating sparks. While this is a nice ambiance in any home, the popping sparks could pose a hazard.
Creosote is the black tar-like substance that builds up as a consequence of burning any firewood. The more smoke a wood produces, the more creosote it will produce.
In the juniper’s case, not only will its resin cause a possible ignition of previously built-up creosote, but it will smoke a moderate amount as well. The smoke, while not unhealthy, will cause a moderate amount of creosote.
Due to being denser than other softwoods, juniper will create better coals than fir for example.
Is It Okay To Burn Juniper In A Fireplace?
Juniper is an exceptionally good fire starter. Its bark ignites very quickly and will burn hot enough to heat your home for the time it burns.
The popping and sparking as a result of the high resin content will mean that you will need to invest in a fire screen to stop hot sparks from setting fire to your belongings or use it in a log burner.
You will also need to consistently keep on top of the creosote deposits in your fireplace’s flues to prevent the stray sparks from igniting it.
While you can burn juniper in a fireplace, its smoke and safety issues make it a better-suited wood for a log burner.
How Expensive Is Juniper Firewood?
Being an invasive, sustainable species, juniper firewood is usually priced quite cheaply where it naturally grows. However, you will need to buy a fair few cords if you intend to use juniper as your main heating source.
How Long To Season Juniper?
Being a softwood, juniper only takes 6 months to dry even though it is a dense wood, too. This is because its main moisture content is resin rather than water.
You will need to ensure that the wood’s resin content has depleted before burning it to reduce the amount of smoke that it produces. Luckily, juniper is one of the fastest drying woods there is.
Juniper varieties with a higher resin content such as wester juniper may need longer than 6 months to properly reduce their moisture level. But you will only have to wait 9 months or so before you can use it.
Pros And Cons of Juniper Wood
- Easy to process
- Efficient heat output
- Very pleasant smell
- Widely available
- Dense for a softwood
- Creates a cozy ambiance
- Moderate smoke
- Moderate creosote build-up
- High resin content
How Does Juniper Compare To Other Firewood?
Compared to its close relation to cedar, juniper is excellent firewood. It burns significantly hotter and doesn’t take as long to season. However, oak is considerably denser than juniper and will produce a hot fire for longer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is Juniper Good For Smoking?
Juniper wood is extremely good for smoking and is a very popular wood used by many for such occasions.
Is Juniper A Hardwood Or A Softwood?
Many people mistake juniper for hardwood as it burns like hardwood for a short while. But, juniper is classified as a softwood.
Why Is Juniper A Sustainable Firewood?
Juniper is considered to e a sustainable type of firewood because it is an invasive species and is one of the most widely available firewood in many areas.
Juniper is a good choice of firewood to use in a log burner when you want to get a nice, hot fire going for better quality firewoods. It can be used in your fireplace but will spark and smoke thus it is more suitable to be used in a closed fireplace.
I am the guy behind Theyardable.com. I grew up on a homestead and I am here to share the knowledge I have and things I learn while living in the countryside.