Burning wood and barbecuing sensibly

Burning wood and charcoal is a major source of small particle air pollution. For example, when you use a fireplace, fire basket or barbecue. If you would like to burn wood, do it as cleanly as possible.

Would you like to light a fire outdoors or barbecue? Then these tips will help to do this as cleanly as possible. This way you prevent health risks for you and the people around you.  

Tips for using a barbecue or fire basket

  • An electric barbecue produces much less pollution. This is better for your health and for the people around you.
  • Check the direction of the wind before you light the fire. And warn the neighbours that there could be smoke (if it blows their way). They can then close their windows in time.
  • Use dry firewood for the fire basket. This produces less smoke and fewer health risks. You can recognise dry wood from the loose bark and cracks in the wood. You can also check it using a moisture meter.
  • Coconut charcoal is a sustainable alternative to normal briquettes. The coconut briquettes burn longer than wood charcoal, produce hardly any smoke and do not stink. They are made from the shells of old coconuts. This is a product left over after the coconuts are dried and fired. No trees have to be cut down to make them.
  • Light blocks in the fire basket or outdoor fireplace from the top. This causes less smoke.
  • Would you like to barbecue and do you live in a densely-populated area? Or is your garden part of an enclosed garden? Go to a public barbecuing spot. You can find more information on the page Barbecuing rules in The Hague.

Health risks

Inhaling fine particles can lead to breathing difficulties and a heart condition. Read more about the health risks of burning wood on the website of the GGD.

Other ways to heat your home

Would you like to buy a fireplace or a woodburning stove? Look first at other ways of heating your home. For example:

  • air source heat pumps

  • solar panels

  • infrared heating panels

  • pellet stove: this is much cleaner than a woodburning stove or fireplace but it does emit more fine dust than gas or electric heating. Make sure the stove is installed and maintained properly and that it has good smoke removal and a sufficient air supply. And use approved pellets. This way you can limit the negative effects of a pellet stove.

Read more on the website of Milieu Centraal.

Tips for burning wood for heat

  • Would you like to buy a fireplace or a woodburning stove? Pay attention to how much heat the stove produces. And to the size of the room where it will be placed. Make sure the stove is not unnecessarily big. Ask for advice from the company where you are buying the stove.
  • You are advised not to burn wood when there is no wind or in misty conditions. The smoke and vapor will continue to linger in and around your house. This is harmful to your health.
  • Dry wood burns better and involves fewer health risks than wet wood. You can recognise dry wood by the cracks in the wood and loose bark. You can also use a moisture meter. Burning wet wood is harmful to your health and to the environment. It also produces less heat as well as more soot (creosote) in your chimney. Burning painted, varnished or preserved wood and waste timber, plywood or chipboard is prohibited. These types of wood will emit (extremely) harmful substances.
  • A good woodburning stove has a damper to regulate the air supply. When you use the stove, open the damper to the chimney as well as the sliding door of the stove. Is the fire getting too hot? Put less wood on the fire but do not shut off the air supply. Otherwise the wood will not burn completely and more harmful substances will be emitted. Make sure to ventilate the space where you are burning wood. A woodfire uses a lot of oxygen. Always crack open a window or door to ensure there is enough fresh air.
  • Light blocks in the woodburning stove or fireplace from the top. This causes less smoke.
  • You can check whether you are burning the wood correctly. Look at the colour of the smoke coming out of your chimney. If you do not see a colour, then the fire is burning well. If you see white, grey, black or blue smoke, your wood is burning badly. The colour of the flame in the woodburning stove is also important. Bright yellow is good. The stove window will also stay clean this way. An orange, uneven flame indicates that the wood is burning poorly. You can improve the burning process by increasing the supply of air.  
  • Let the fire burn out naturally. If you try to extinguish a wood fire by decreasing the air supply, the wood will no longer burn completely. It will then emit more harmful substances. You are advised to let the fire burn out while leaving the air vent of the stove open.
  • A clean chimney will properly remove the smoke to the exterior of your home. Have your chimney cleaned at least 1 time a year by a professional chimney sweep. For more information go to the website schoorsteenveger.nl.

    It is wise to insulate your chimney and flue well. And to make sure your chimney is the right size for your fireplace or woodburning stove. This way the smoke will be removed in the correct way. Are you in doubt as to whether your chimney is suitable for your fireplace or woodburning stove? Ask an installation company for advice.

    If the chimney is not tall enough it can cause a smoky fireplace. A rain cap can also lead to problems if the smoke is caught underneath. Replace a rain cap with a chimney cap deflector.

How to light the woodburning stove safely and sensibly

Watch the video by Milieu Centraal: Je ziet het niet, maar het is er wel (YouTube).
Or watch the video Woodburning stove animation (in Dutch) using the link below.

Watch the video Woodburning stove animation (Vimeo channel of InfoMil)

Woodburning alerts

In unfavourable weather conditions, such as little wind and mist, the smoke lingers longer. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will then issue a woodburning alert. It will call on people not to burn wood. You can sign up for this alert at rivm.nl/stookalert.


    Are you bothered by your smoke from the fireplace, barbecue or woodburning stove of your neighbours? Try to solve the problem with them. If you are not able to reach an understanding, you can ask the housing association or the municipality to help. Look for more information under Report domestic nuisance.

    More information

    • Request the brochure 'Verstandig hout stoken'. Send an email to: schoonstoken@denhaag.nl.
    • Do you want to burn wood? First check the website Stookwijzer.nu. There you will see if it is possible in your area.

      Published: 12 July 2023Modified: 12 July 2023