Is Juniper Good Firewood? A Guide to Heating & Cooking with Juniper Wood - Backyard Boss
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Is Juniper Good Firewood? A Guide to Heating & Cooking with Juniper Wood

Juniper is a name and a berry used for cooking, and less often it is a firewood. But its relative heat-source obscurity is only regional, as many areas of the US traditionally use juniper for outdoor fires and as a smoking wood for BBQ. Here, weve rounded up everything you need to know about juniper for heating and cooking, including details like drying time, BTU output, smoke and creosote concerns, and sustainable juniper wood harvesting.

Juniper Firewood Details

Firewood name: Juniper Wood
BTU: 21.8 million BTUs per cord
Weight: 3535 pounds green/ 3151 pounds dry
Seasoning Time: 6 months
Resin / Sap Content: High
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Smoke: Medium
Smell: Excellent

Varieties of Juniper

Juniper comes in many varieties, below we have listed the most significant details about the most commonly used Juniper as firewood.

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Blue berries of juniper
All varieties of juniper produce small blue berries, which are often dried and used as a cooking spice.

BTU: 21.8 million BTUs per cord
Weight: 3535 pounds green/ 3151 pounds dry
Seasoning Time: 6 months
Resin / Sap Content: High
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Smoke: Medium
Smell: Excellent

Western Juniper

BTU: 26.4 million BTU per cord
Weight: 5410 pounds green, 3050 pounds dry
Seasoning Time: 12 months
Resin / Sap Content: High
Splitting Difficulty: Medium
Smoke: Medium
Smell: Excellent

Shaggy Juniper

BTU: 21.6 million BTU per cord
Weight: 3511 pounds green, 3112 pound dry
Seasoning Time: 6 months
Resin / Sap Content: High
Splitting Difficulty: Easy
Smoke: Medium
Smell: Excellent

Juniper Firewood Burn Characteristics


Juniper is a dense softwood and therefore produces more heat than other softwoods. However, softwoods produce less heat than hardwoods. On average, a cord of juniper will produce 21.8 million BTUs, which is 13-percent less than a cord of red oak firewood. The average home will need just over five cords of juniper firewood for one season of heating.

Juniper is a quick-burning wood. This makes it easy to light, but you’ll need more wood to keep your fire burning for the same amount of time as a hardwood fire. Coals produced by juniper firewood don’t last long. If you don’t keep a watchful eye on restocking the fire, you may find yourself with nothing but cold ash.

You can improve the BTUs of your juniper wood fire by mixing it with a small amount of hardwood. This allows the fire to start quickly thanks to the juniper but stays burning longer with the addition of a few hardwood logs.

Seasoning Time of Juniper Firewood

Rocky Mountain juniper has a low moisture content that results in a short seasoning time compared to other popular types of firewood. It takes six months to season juniper wood unless you have western juniper wood. Western juniper should be seasoned for at least a year.

juniper wood seasoning in the rack
Seasoned juniper logs should be stored outdoors with protection from rain and snow, but not fully covered.

Seasoning juniper beyond one year is unnecessary. Always stack wood off the ground with room for air to circulate around the cut edges.  Leaving about 2-3 feet of space between stacks of firewood is enough to provide circulation. This will speed up the seasoning process since airflow is critical to reducing the moisture in your firewood.

Moisture content of 20-percent is ideal for burning juniper wood. You can visually inspect your firewood to see if it has reached the right level of moisture. Seasoned juniper firewood will be gray or tan, with almost no bark remaining attached. It should feel light and make a hollow sound when banged against another piece of wood.

Freshly cut juniper wood can have an internal moisture content of approximately 45-percent. Wood that is cut in the spring or summer months will have more moisture than wood that is harvested in the winter. This is because sap moves into the body of the tree during the warmer months. If the moisture content in your wood hasn’t been reduced enough through seasoning, you will find it very difficult to start a fire.

Need a great rack for seasoning your Juniper? Check out these great firewood rack selections.

Resin / Sap Content

Juniper has a short seasoning time and is easy to light despite having a high resin content. When burned, the resin creates the delightful snapping and popping sound many of us enjoy. However, it can make the fire potentially more dangerous. Juniper wood fires require a screen to protect your home from sparks or coals escaping the fireplace.

Even though juniper has more resin than the most popular firewoods, it isn’t more difficult to work with. You won’t notice much difference in the splitting difficulty of green or seasoned juniper wood. This is an advantage compared to other high-resin woods that are very difficult to split when they are green.

Juniper Firewood Smoke & Scent

Blaze of Glory” A late Autumn moment in the Juniper Forest of Central New Mexico with a chill in the air and the warmth of the setting sun slowly vanishing to give way to a dancing fire.
Burning juniper emits a moderate amount of heavily scented smoke. It is especially good for campfires, as the fragrant smoke is a natural insect repellent.

Be prepared for a moderate amount of smoke when lighting a juniper wood fire. While juniper firewood burns relatively clean, the trapped resin creates some smoke.  Wet wood will produce more smoke than dry wood. You should only burn seasoned juniper wood to minimize smoke.

Juniper wood fires create a moderate amount of creosote. This is because juniper logs burn at a lower temperature than hardwood logs. With a lower temperature in your fireplace or woodstove, more of the released organic compounds remain unburned. These compounds travel up your chimney as smoke. As the temperature decreases, they condense to form creosote. If you mix juniper wood with a hotter burning hardwood, you can reduce the amount of creosote produced.

Juniper wood creates an amazingly fragrant fire. The cedar tree is closely related to the juniper tree, and they have very similar scents. You’ll smell rich, deep wood along with a hint of pine needles and juniper berry when burning juniper wood. Some describe the scent as spicy, earthy, and dry. If you’ve ever enjoyed the smell of walking through a pine forest, chances are you’ll enjoy the scent of a juniper wood fire.

You’ll only need one log to create a scent that fills the whole room due to the powerful perfuming ability of juniper wood. The scent can last in a room for hours. This makes it possible to start a fire with juniper but then switch over to a longer burning hardwood. Even once the juniper logs have burned down, you’ll smell the fragrance released from the logs.

How expensive is juniper firewood?

Juniper firewood is an economical option for firewood. Depending on your location, juniper firewood can be slightly less expensive per cord than oak firewood. However, you may use more juniper wood since it burns more quickly with less heat. This makes a direct price comparison more difficult.

Purchasing unseasoned wood is always a cheaper option than buying seasoned wood. This can be a great option given the short seasoning time required for juniper wood. Keep in mind that you will need to have a protected outdoor area to store the wood to keep it dry while it’s seasoning.

Is juniper wood sustainable?

juniper tree alligator juniper wood trunk
Juniper can be invasive in some areas, so their removal is imperative to the health of native species.

Several varieties of juniper are considered invasive species. Overgrowth of juniper trees in forests pushes out native plant life and decreases the water table. Good forest management requires the strategic harvesting of these trees. Using juniper as firewood creates a market for the cut trees, preventing the waste of natural resources. This makes juniper firewood a very sustainable choice.

When looking for sustainable juniper wood, always opt for naturally seasoned wood. While kiln-seasoned wood is available, the process produces more emissions than the natural process. Additionally, speeding up the seasoning process is unnecessary given the short seasoning time for juniper firewood.

Juniper trees grow quickly. In as little as seven years, a juniper tree can be ready for harvest. This makes their wood an easily renewable resource. Many hardwood trees require more than a decade to mature, which makes juniper a more sustainable choice of firewood.