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Old 11/18/07, 07:58 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,039
burning sweet gum wood ?

Hey, I told my dh that I would inquire here about burning sweet gum. This sweet gum tree got blown over by a storm on our property this summer. We burn with wood using a lopi stove. Can we use this or is it best to be left for a bon fire?

And , I appreciate all the comments, I wouldn't have as much fun living out in the country without HT to come to for advice.


AR Transplant

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Old 11/18/07, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,037

I've burn it before. Don't even THINK of trying to split without a hydraulic splitter.....That suff doesn't split, it tears. Also, if you like nice straight even wood piles, save yourself the frustration and bon fire it. There won't be a straight row in the pile.

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Old 11/18/07, 10:49 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: MS
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Originally Posted by OkieDavid
I've burn it before. Don't even THINK of trying to split without a hydraulic splitter.....That suff doesn't split, it tears. Also, if you like nice straight even wood piles, save yourself the frustration and bon fire it. There won't be a straight row in the pile.
I agree with above post. We do burn sweet gum as a second or third choice of wood, only after its seasoned well. Neighbors tell us its safe to burn in the fireplace, but it takes a long time to dry out. If you split and stack it now, don't plan on burning it in your stove until next winter or possibly the next. To use now, it'll be much too wet. Even with a hydraulic splitter, you'll be saying things you don't want the children to hear.
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Old 11/19/07, 07:22 AM
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Haney Family Sawmill
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Location: Woodbury,Tennessee
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The basic word for burning sweet Gum "Don"t"
If you figure out the BTUs used in cutting hauling splitting and all you will loose on what green sweet Gum Produces. Dry it goes but if I just didn't need to dispose of it I would line ditches for erosion and cut something else. It does make good Tobacco sticks and even though it warps bad the lumber is pretty. It also smell like Cow Piles then you cut it.

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Old 11/19/07, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: East TN
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To quote an old timer.. That stuff wouldn't burn in hell with a blow torch. on the other hand another old timer once told me, you know what kind of people wouldn't burn that type of wood?.......Cold people!

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Old 11/19/07, 08:29 AM
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Beeman, those are good quotes! LOL!

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Old 11/19/07, 08:33 AM
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Location: Coastal NC
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I have had no trouble burning it, it is getting it split that is the problem. As suggested earlier, its best to just use for erosion control. Sweet Gum isn't worth the effort.

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Old 11/19/07, 08:48 AM
Living the dream.
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Morganton, NC
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For some reason the smaller stuff under 6 inches seems denser than the larger logs. We took a bunch down at a buddy's place and he has been burning it, the larger stuff split pretty easily after some seasoning, but seems to be pretty light and pithy. But like any wood, burn it dry and burn it hot and you should have no problems.

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Old 11/19/07, 10:09 AM
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Location: GA & Ala
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I would burn it in a bonfire just to get rid of it..I hate those trees. However, goats seem to love the green leaves. Hard to split that wood, but it will burn, rots fairly easily - similiar to pine.

It would be like my next to last choice, naw, I take that back - probably my last choice to use as firewood. But if the tree blew over, I'd cut it up, split what I could and let it season for one year and then burn it.

It's a self renewing tree, just wait till all those little sweetgum balls start making more trees - lol..


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Old 11/19/07, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: NW Georgia
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I burn it after shredding/splitting it and letting it dry for a long time, and my experience is consistent with what the folks above are saying/writing. I really only use it as firewood to avoid wasting or otherwise disposing of the tree. God had a reason for making the Sweet Gum, but I've not been smart enough to understand it yet.

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Old 11/19/07, 11:25 AM
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Location: MS
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We've only tried splitting it with a hydraulic splitter when it was green. That was work!! Does it split any better if you cut to fireplace length and wait a year to split?

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Old 11/19/07, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Louisiana
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I've burnt it several years. As has been said, a hydraulic splitter is a must. Stack it under a shed, or under a tarp, and let it dry for a year. Keep it dry.

Mix it with a little oak or other hardwood, and you'll be fine. It does produce more ash, but that's an aggravation, more than anything.

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Old 11/19/07, 04:35 PM
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Definitely mix it with other wood.

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Old 11/20/07, 09:36 AM
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It depends. Do you have a large woodlot? Do you have tree cutting services nearby, or large landowners with timber, National Forest land, etc.

If all I had was gum, I'd burn it... around here, I'd never do it, as each year, I have access to hundreds (sometimes tens of thousands) of cords of oak... my sister alone has over a hundred cords lying on the ground (tops) and only a few folks have took advantage of the free wood.

I'm reminded of Europeans during the big war burning their furniture, trying to stay warm.


Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Seneca
Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival. W. Edwards Deming

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Old 11/20/07, 09:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Texican, you are one blessed man with all that free wood.

Dh has the opportunity to cut free wood, he did last weekend and will do so again in the near future. It is not really convenient, but free is free.

I will tell dh about the opinions and let him decide. Interestingly, for the first time he is able to borrow a wood splitter this year, so maybe in a year or two he will want to split this. We do worry about the future possibility of getting free wood. Many of our friends are selling their land and moving into town. That is hard to imagine but it is so.

Thank you so much for your advice, it really helps a lot when faced with things like this.

AR transplant

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Old 01/20/11, 12:18 PM
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Country Lady poses a great question, "Does it split any better if you cut to fireplace length and wait a year to split? "

My husband and I are confused about sweet gums because of all the mixed information out there on the www. While it is difficult to deal with in the beginning, ie, splitting, we wonder if it is properly seasoned (say 2 seasons) why not burn it? The BTU's are 20.6 - 21.9, which is not great but, mixed with other hardwoods it seems it would be a good way to help supplement the supply.
We have quite a few of them and just hate to see them not being utilized if at all possible.

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Old 01/20/11, 05:03 PM
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The problem with true sweet gum is that the grain (wood fibers) looks like twisted spaghetti inside. It's is truly nasty to split by hand. There've been times I've had to take a chain saw to it after I've had a couple of wedges stuck in it going every which way.

You end up trying to tear it apart.

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Old 01/20/11, 05:31 PM
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Location: Arkansas
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I have burn a lot of sweet gum. Once you start a fire with other wood it will burn but it pops if not truly seasoned. I wouldn't burn it in a fireplace without a good screen to keep it on the fireplace. I have a wood splitter and it doesn't make a smooth cut anywhere you try but it will burn.


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Old 01/20/11, 08:55 PM
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it burns fine. we burned it for yrs and yrs. the secret is, you let it season for a yr before splitting it. after its dry it split amazingly easy. then you stack it and its ready to burn. it does even better the following season. some areas are ate up with gum wood. so it makes sense to burn it.

but as mentioned if its green its next to impossible to split...by hand.

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Old 01/21/11, 09:50 AM
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Location: Southside Virginia
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Our farm is overrun with Sweetgum, due to previous owners cutting any tree of value (oaks poplars etc) and leaving the ones they couldn't get $$ for. We burn lots of it, it's not as hot as oak but burns well when dry. It has a lot more moisture in it than most hardwoods such as oak and maple, so it takes longer to dry. We don't split anything that we can shove into the stove, so only the first big rounds over 12" get split by our homemade splitter, which has no problem splitting it. Allowed to dry, it is very good wood, green, it's about like pine; can't get it started and won't burn.

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Old 01/21/11, 11:40 AM
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We haven't had any problems burning it, but, like others said, splitting it green is a HUGE pain!

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Old 01/21/11, 12:06 PM
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Location: NC
Posts: 314

We're about to take down a huge number of sweet gum. In nc, our lot seems to be only junk pine and sweet gum. :P We're thinking of renting a chipper because we need mulch and it's cheaper to chip what we cut than pay for mulch. But, can you chip sweet gum? I think the chipper takes 4 inch logs/limbs, if I'm remembering correctly.

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Old 01/21/11, 02:09 PM
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We burnt one with no problems.

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Old 01/22/11, 08:02 AM
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While I don't burn wood now, we always did growing up. In fact, I just sawed up some on my sawmill for my uncle. We figured it was easier to saw it than split it with an ax. I looked pretty when sawed but it's not really worth the boards. We just sawed a few cuts to make it easier to stack as fire wood

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Old 01/22/11, 08:13 AM
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Location: North Carolina
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I burn sweet gum all the time - makes a fine fire- definately better than yellow pine. I dont find it all that difficult to split by hand what is next to impossible to split is black gum.


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Old 01/22/11, 08:14 AM
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Location: alabama
Posts: 385

My daddy works at a sawmill where we had access to the wood pile many times I would grab a sweet peace. The only way I have found it easy to split is if you first have cut the tree into 8 maybe 10 inch pieces but that can take more time and energy too. The pieces that we used were the end pieces that were cut of on the cutting yard. If you are going to split sweet gum I have found it easier to start on the outside working your way in not trying to split it down the middle like it is a piece of pie.

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Old 01/23/11, 11:19 AM
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Location: South Carolina
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This reminds me of when I was in college. I was in the forestry class and we had a competition between the forestry club and one of the frat clubs. They had several members of the football team on their side. We put our smallest member up against one of these big guys in a wood splitting contest. Put the big guy in front of a piece of green gum and our guy had a much larger piece of dry oak. At "Go" the little guy split the oak with one swing while the big football player stuck his ax in the gum and couldn't get it out,LOL. They never knew the difference, city slickers LOL.


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Old 01/10/14, 09:17 PM
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Location: Virginia
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Funny Trick Hank. I have split a fair amount of Gum with my Craftsman Splitting ax alone.

Slabbing or taking chunks from the edge inwards with the rings is the easiest way. Obviously a 16 inch log will split easier than a 24 inch log, but I prefer 24 for my stove as it will hold 30+ inch pieces. The rule for me is ALWAYS split it green, if not it gets like mentioned above a tight stringy hard mess to split when dry.

Many times I will stand a piece up and slab it on the four edges and then slab the middle before it falls apart from splitting it. I tried some in his hydraulic splitter and it really put it in a bind trying to split the log in half, and then I did the same with his splitter taking slabs off of it and it was not as nearly as hard as trying to split the log in half.

My friend has cut down 300 gum trees and gives me all I can slab... the btu's according to what I have read are around 20 to 21 million per cord as opposed to 26 million per cord for oaks, except live oak and that is 31 million per cord.

I theorize on the coldest nights I can burn my oak and then the other less colder nights, just gum. When it is 5 degrees like it was this week, believe me in a 150 year old building with 11 foot ceilings and only a wood stove to supply heat, I am not going to get picky.

Keep it dry or it will not last very long after it is split...and like mentioned give it a 6 months to a year to dry, but when it is already split or slabbed, it will dry in a hurry. I try to have my wood ready a year in advance so this year I am burning the gum I got last winter and split on the spot before loading it in my 1957 side dump truck.
chimneysweeponline.com/howood.htm btu/cord reference for starters.

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Old 01/10/14, 09:26 PM
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I've never tried splitting it.. Would it split better if it was wet and frozen?


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Old 01/11/14, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 219

Drat. Wrote out reply, website or something crashed when I went to post it. Trying again.

Sweet gum will burn as others said. It may split easier after it dries a month or two.

Lumber uses: Pallets. When dried and kept from twisting, it is used in furniture. Large gum trees have nice red streaks in the wood. Can also be used as a base for veneering. It is strong and tough. Dump trucks have a slot in the top of the bed where a 2 x 8 can be placed to protect the steel top of the bed from loader operators who ling to bang the top of the bed to empty the last of the load out of the bucket.

Sweet gum could be used in interior barn construction. Sweet Gum is NOT decay resistant. Could be used for interior stalls, gates, walls, or alleyways.


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