The Reason Why Your Firewood Smells Bad

Many homeowners might think that burning, splitting and handling of firewood should not smell bad, but that’s not always the case as there are types of firewood, especially one, which can make any activity related to it slightly unpleasant.

Why does my firewood stink?

First of all, if your firewood actually stinks when cut, split or burnt, that’s probably because it’s red oak.

Red oak has a notorious reputation as being the “smelly wood” in the wood burner community, as it can smell like vomit, poop, urine, manure, or in short, anything that has a foul odor.

Image by putevodnik via Pixabay

No one really knows why does this species have that distinctive smell, but the fact is that it stinks pretty bad.

If you burn red oak, but feel that the smell is stronger than would seem normal, it might be because it’s not properly seasoned.

As a matter of fact, the smell of red oak decreases dramatically once seasoned; sadly that doesn’t remove it completely…

Red oak is not the only type of firewood which has an odor to it, as elm or hickory is know to also have an unpleasant smell.

Even wood which has more of a nice scent to it like ash or cherry can still smell bad if it’s not properly seasoned; generally speaking, that’s the most common reason why firewood has an unpleasant odor, regardless of its type.

How to Season Firewood

Firewood seasons best in stacks, and there are many types of them, but one of the most common and easy to make is a vertical stack.

Here’s a video by Wranglerstar who shows how to build one.

Similar Posts


    1. That’s interesting… Generally pecan doesn’t have any foul odor, although some smell could be produced if it’s rotten. Are you sure you haven’t misidentified the tree by any chance?

      1. Yeah, I don’t think it’s the species of wood, at least not with a pungent smell like his and with what I’m smelling. I’m betting some kind of urea emitting algae or something similar.

        I have a bunch of poplar, and some smell like this when fallen, and some don’t. BUT ONLY THIS YEAR. So I’m not at sure what’s happening here yet.

        Poplar /never/ had a cut smell before.

  1. My dad just got some firewood that he stacked up outside. Smells like manure. When he burns this, will this make house smell like manure?

    1. That alone shouldn’t smell up the house. The thing is, the wood your dad got might be not dry enough, and that’s why it smells.

      As long as the wood is actually seasoned, even if it has some odor to it, you should be fine.

      1. I made a lamp base from a very weathered railway sleeper, originally sourced, (I was informed), from the Australian rail network. When I cut it down the smell was pretty putrid to say the least. I’ve sealed it several times with a good wood sealant, but if you sit close to it, the vague whiff of a cheesy, manure kind of smell is apparent. I can’t really give it house room as a result, which is a shame because it does look lovely.
        Any ideas how I could extract that smell for the foreseeable please?

      2. Great. My dad just got a half a cord of unseasoned(possibly red oak, it stinks) wood and he’s planning on using it even though it’s still fresh. The seller listed it as oak & pecan. It smells like glue, as best I can, describe it. Earthy and Woody and…like glue lol.

  2. I have a nice stack of oak wood seasoning in my driveway.alot of times i go outside it smells like some sort of gas whats the deal!!

    1. Well, that’s probably because it is just oak.

      As i talked in this post, oak can give off very different foul smells, and gas could be one of them.

      But it could be that the wood had been mistreated, in one way or the other.

      Did you buy the wood already split, or did you cut it all up by yourself? It may be that it had been soaked with some sort of chemicals… or at least, contaminated with.

      But again, i wouldn’t worry much about it. It all depends on where you got the firewood from, honestly.

  3. Just burned live oak that was supposed to be properly seasoned.

    It gave off a very strong ammonia smell.

    Is this normal for live oak?


    1. If the oak is actually “live”, in sense that it is not dry enough, sure, it can give off all sorts of smells, ammonia included.

      The thing is, you probably aren’t sure the wood you got is dry enough. You have to use a moisture meter to figure out whether that’s true or not…

    1. Same thing here, but with poplar. No clue.

      I /am/ starting to worry about this. If this is some kind of wood pathogen that is spore based, what the frig and I releasing into the air when it’s in the fireplace? The air motion would move some of it around in the house before it heated up enough to denature.

      And some mold infections are not at all understood and /none/ of them respond to antibiotics.

      (running in circles screaming and shouting like my hair’s on fire)

  4. Ok, we just cut up a fallen poplar that had fallen and was sitting rotting for some time.

    I know rotted wood doesn’t smell the same, however, I have /never ever/ smelled wood this bad. Further, poplar, though considered a “weed tree”, is almost always a readily neutral and good burning wood.

    For the love of Mike, why does my fallen poplar smell like horse@#$% ???? Like literally, like mucking out a stall.

  5. Thank you very much for clarifying this Julius. I’ve been purchasing wood from one guy for the past 4 to 5 years. This year the batch smelled like a barn yard. Clearly I was taken…I will need to find a better source.

  6. I have been noticing for a while that our wood sometimes smells like creosote – don’t think it is coming from the chimney- my partner was cleaning out the ash pan this morning and then came over and said, “Smell my hands”- and there was that smell that I have noticed myself. It’s a very fuel-y smell. We get our wood from a good source, a guy that has his own woodlot, it’s seasoned hardwood that he splits. Seems like if it had fuel spilled on it, we’d notice before it burns.

    1. Hmm, well that’s interesting.

      Most likely it does indeed have something to do with the chimney. Do you have it swept at least twice a year, as well as inspected?

      Then again, the wood might have also sucked up some kind of liquid and that’s why it gives off that smell, but you seem to be skeptical about it too.

  7. I was given a bunch of black locust wood from a friend that had it seasoned in his garage for over a year. We are burning the wood in our house fireplace that was Fully cleaned last year. The wood burns great but the smell is very intense of gasoline and chemicals And even hurts the eyes. Any idea what could be causing this? I was told that the wood was not contaminated with chemicals And was stored in a Covered shed For over a year. Thanks!

    1. I had the same issue and I am familiar with the dreaded smell you are describing. Through deductive reasoning and also finding a few snake skins on the wood, I think I may have disturbed a nest. Could it be snake piss?

  8. Is there something I can do to get the manure smell out of the wood we bought?
    It is oak and elm?
    Please help

    1. I have same issue our house smells like horse manure/ vomit from the wood. Help. What can we do to get the smell out ? we bought a half-cord of the stuff.

  9. I got a load of firewood chosen by my mother-in-law (so I’m stuck with it) and this stuff smells like cow manure. On top of that, some of it seems kind of rotten, it smokes really bad, and doesn’t burn very easily. On the bright side it’s split and it will burn with patience.

  10. Bingo, ya hit it right on the nose. Over the years I’ve burned lots of different wood, Red Oak probably not one of them. I’ve recently found a supply of pieces that I could have of cut offs from a log mill, mainly White Oak, Black Oak, Red Oak, Poplar, and some Pine. I’ve burned several pieces of my supply noticing that some of it smells bad (not paying much attention of where the smell was coming from) .

    Today I was burning wood and it was stinking so I thought I’d Google it. I typed in “burnt wood smells like ammonia” that brought me to this site. It said Red Oak can smell bad. I looked to see which type of wood I was burning…… Bingo! Red Oak was that wood. My supply is free and my wood burning stove is in my garage, so I’ll endur.

    Life is good…

    Thanks for the website info.

  11. I cut, bucked, and split large black locust tree two years ago and I’m now burning the wood in my stove. Today I went outside just after tossing in a couple small pieces into the stove and I noticed a strong fishy smell to the smoke, kinda like when you cook fish in the house. Fortunately the stove is tight and you can’t smell it in the house. I hope my neighbors can’t smell it too strongly.

  12. Can red oak have a pleasant smell? I have a bunch with an aromatic scent, faintly piney or cedar-like.

    After burning four cords by Feb 1, yet finding ourselves about half a cord short this heating season (thanks, COVID-19) I was looking at the end of the seasoned wood in our barn and running the expensive furnace.

    After a runaround and high quotes from dealers, I found an old dude nearby; I have long eyeballed the woodpiles covered up in his yard. We haggled and I got 3/4 cord old red oak. He assured me that it had been seasoned. It was dry and sounded ready to burn when knocked together. It burns well in a hot stove.

    I say all this because I often end up with red oak and once seasoned, never had any odors. This batch smells good in the barn, in fact. Going to look soon at a friend’s 70’ red oak that came down in an ice storm. It is all mine for next year.

    Thanks for a good post. I will give you a shoutout at my blog.

  13. Can the smell of bad wood make you I’ll? We got a load of wood and it smells terrible. I had to open the windows of the house. It burns the eyes and lungs. What can it be . Never had this happen before.

    1. Hmmm… interesting.

      Perhaps the wood is not seasoned enough? I’ve heard of more than one story of people buying supposedly “dry” wood, only for it to turn out to be not at all.

      Other than that, I am not sure.

    2. Had a similar problem with water oak. Was a huge old tree with rot hollow up the middle. Logs in house smelled like a gas leak. Gas co. came out and tech said he smelled the leak but could not find it in our plumbing. Eventually I put one piece outside in a covered plastic tub. When I opened and carefully smelled it choked me and burned my nostrils, like sulfur dioxide. A single log makes the house unbearable. Any shared experiences or insights anyone?

  14. Hi I have a question. We burn oak and pine never had a problem before. This year our neighbors are growing pot. Tons of it. The smell from it was so bad I had to go to hospital. I can not be any where around it. Anyway the wind blew this way and was wondering if the few weeks could it have penetrated the wood?. Thank you.

    1. Hello,

      I don’t think that wood could absorb such smells in this period of time. Matter of fact, I think it would take awhile, if not forever to really seep into the wood in your circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *