Burning Slab Wood – A Good Idea?

Here’s the deal – slab wood is cheap.

And i mean, a lot more inexpensive than, for example, a cord of regular firewood like oak, pine.

That is the only reason why it seems to attract that many homeowners. They think that they can beat the system by using it as their sole fuel source, saving potentially thousands of dollars per season.

But let me tell you, the reality is far from what you may think at first…

Yes and no…

The thing about slab wood is that it’s not actual, proper quality firewood. All it is is just scrap pieces of what’s left off during the processing in the sawmill.

I know that there are definitely a bunch of people who use this type of wood as their primary source of fuel for heating their homes, but in my opinion this isn’t of the best ideas.

Hot and fast fires

The main gripe about burning slabs is that they create a ton of heat in a short period of time.

I find it very easy to get the wood stove going way too hot if i only use the slab pieces, and it makes sense why. Most of them are relatively thin (when compared to actual firewood).

So even if you end up putting just enough where you feel like it’ll last for hours on end, think again. All of that load will burn up in no time, and you will need to feed her up again.

In the end this means more time messing with the wood, more time monitoring the whole process. A waste of time…

May come with more bark than wood

This is a big one. How many BTUs can you get from a load entirely depends on how much actual wood there is in the slabs.

If the pieces contain more bark than wood, you will get worse results – the fires won’t even be able to produce enough heat to sustain the right temperature to heat your place.

What will you get for your money has all to do with your local sawmill. Some folks luck out here, others do not; this is an important fact to be aware about.

Not easy to process

There’s a reason why this type of ‘firewood’ is cheap – the fact that it takes more time than you’d think to cut it up explains it, i think.

There is no simple method to go about this – you have to figure out how to keep the whole bundle in place, and saw it into necessary lengths.

Sometimes you may get as lucky as getting 16 inch pieces right from the sawmill, but that doesn’t happen always. Once bought, you will probably get length pieces delivered, and it’s going to be your job to figure out how to tackle it all.

You probably won’t be able to replicate this setup…

To top it off, you might need to let everything dry first. Just that the things aren’t that thick, doesn’t mean you can throw them into the stove right away.

Those pieces may require just as much time to season like regular firewood; always be sure to measure the moisture content first.

But it’s not useless!

I think you already got the gist of what i think about slab firewood; that being said, there are still ways you can use it for your burning needs.

What i love about slab wood is that it is great for starting fires. All that bark to wood ratio gets a pile blazing in an instant – add a piece of nicely seasoned oak or two on top of it, and you got yourself some heat!

You can also get great results by mixing – that is, put a bit of slab pieces, then load up the firebox with solid firewood. This will help to keep everything burning at a nice and even pace, slowing down the need to use up that much of your firewood stack.


What i am trying to explain here is that dealing with slab wood is not as easy and simple as you may think. Sure, if the money’s tight, this is better than nothing, but if you have more money to spare, actual firewood will prove to be ultimate choice.

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  1. Hey there. I think I Can maybe answer my own question but I like to bounce this off of you. I’m getting older and decided to burn some slabs in my fireplace which I know from the start is the wrong kind of wood but it’s lighter to handle. After burning for a week my flu really plugged solid and I was really surprised Since the slab wood was dry
    Do you think my burning Bark edge instead of Heartwood plugged it up?

    1. It’s probably because of the bark, and the resin that’s in the heartwood too.

      If you only burn these kinds of slabs in your fireplace, it makes all the sense why it could cause issues with your flue getting gunked up.

      1. Some good points made in this article, but also seems like a bit of prejudice against slab-wood that is somewhat exaggerated. If it is all bark, that is a problem, however if you desire, you can age it longer and many times, the bark will separate.
        It does not take nearly as long to dry as regular firewood. It is much thinner and the air gets to it faster. That is just simple physics.
        It is much easier to use as you do not need to split it, except for kindling. Finally, most lumber yards band the stacks of slab-wood in several places to make it size it and make it easier to stack and load. When you get it home, DO NOT cut the bands. That will hold it all in place while you run your chainsaw down through it at the sizes of you choice.
        Agree that it is not a total solution, but you could easily use it for 50% of your needs and save quite a bit of time and money.

  2. were in lebanon,pa area can i get truck loads of free hard wood slab wood
    if close id make several trips per week

  3. Stuff works AWESOME as the spring & fall seasons, to take the chill off your place, instead of getting home from work and cranking up the thermometer, I start a sladwood fire, it gets hot quickly, dies down, maybe a couple more thicker pieces & let it go out. Saving my firewood for actual cold weather.

  4. We burn 100 cords of slab wood a year. Yes, one hundred cords. Many semi truck loads. We switched from regular round log firewood. We no longer have to process that firewood by cutting and splitting. We would then have to pick that wood back off the ground to put in the building. Now we stack the 8 foot bundles outside, haul them in with a skid steer every 3 weeks. Cut the banded bundles with a chainsaw, and load into the boilers. Much less work, no large heavy pieces to lift, no wasted wood stuck to the frozen ground outside.

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