Whether you’re constructing a new piece of furniture or are finishing up the backyard deck, you may be wondering what you can do with your leftover 2×4’s. A common question is if it’s safe to burn 2x4s in a fireplace. Are 2x4s safe to burn in a fireplace?
Pieces of 2×4 that are kiln-dried in addition to untreated wood are generally safe to burn in a fireplace since they do not produce combustion byproducts that are dangerous to breathe. Kiln-dried wood is baked at low heat, and untreated wood has no chemical preservatives, so they’re safe to burn.
If you have spare 2×4’s lying around and question if they are safe to burn in your fireplace, this article is for you. We’ll explain what conditions make it safe to burn 2×4 wood in a fireplace and things to consider before lighting things up. We’ll also teach you how to differentiate treated and untreated wood so you can pick out the perfect pieces to burn in your fireplace safely.
Is It Safe To Burn 2×4 In A Fireplace?
It’s generally safe to burn 2×4 cuts of wood in a fireplace as long as the burned wood is untreated or kiln-dried. Untreated wood doesn’t contain any of the harmful combustion byproducts that burning treated wood gives off, and kiln-dried wood is treated with heat and no chemical preservatives, so it’s safe to burn in a fireplace too.
2×4’s Burn More Safely Since They Have No Bark
Before we talk about wood treatments and kiln-drying, let’s discuss the obvious: 2x4s notably do not have any bark. These wood pieces are generally used for constructing and structural purposes, such as for building a coffee table, lakeside deck, or garage shelving system, so they don’t have the natural bark still attached that some other lumber pieces have.
The absence of bark on 2x4s makes them suitable for burning in a fireplace.
The bark is not the best to burn – especially in an indoor fireplace – because burning bark produces more ash and smoke than other wood options that don’t have bark. Bark lights up reasonably fast, so we recommend using it for kindling (starting a fire). As a result, bark-less 2x4s pieces are a low-risk choice to use as wood for your fireplace.
Untreated And Kiln-Dried 2×4’s Are Typically Safe To Burn
Moreover, it’s generally safe to burn untreated and kiln-dried 2x4s since they don’t produce harmful byproducts that people can breathe in using certain wood types and treatments.
Untreated wood is just like it sounds – it’s wood that has no preservatives or additives on it – so it won’t give off potentially dangerous combustion byproducts for you to inhale.
Treated wood typically has preservatives applied to it to help preserve the wood and endure the elements, like rain (rain can rot untreated wood). There are different wood treatments, but two of the most common include pressure treatment and kiln-drying.
Pressure-treated lumber is wood treated under pressure with minerals (typically copper, chromium, and arsenic) to defend against insects and rot. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), long-term exposure to treated wood can increase the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer. These potentially harmful minerals are why you should avoid burning pressure-treated 2x4s in your fireplace!
On the contrary, kiln-dried wood is generally safe to use in your fireplace. The process of kiln-drying involves baking the wood with dry heat to lower the moisture content. A special room is typically dedicated for this purpose.
Furthermore, kiln-dried wood is crackproof, so it’ll burn slower and more consistently, resulting in a better and safer burn experience that doesn’t produce as much smoke, soot, or ash as other wood alternatives.
So to recap, it’s reasonably safe to burn your spare 2x4s so long as the pieces are untreated or have been kiln-dried.
What Is A 2×4?
A 2×4 is a nickname for a piece of softwood lumber measured by thickness and width, or nominal dimension, meaning the size is used for identification only and does not represent the actual size of the wood piece. 2x4s are not measured by length and width, which is a common misconception.
Let’s briefly talk about the basics of 2x4s before we move on to things to consider while burning 2×4 wood.
2x4s are made from softwood, which is wood from conifers, or plants that have cones. Pieces of 2×4 lumber are not made from hardwood, which is deciduous trees like oak, maple, and birch. A pine tree is an example of a conifer tree since it has cones.
Tip: While pine wood is an excellent choice for firewood in an outdoor fireplace, the high sap content from this tree has the potential to create a possible fire hazard when burned in an inside fireplace, so pine wood is best for outdoor use.
Things To Consider Before Burning 2×4 Wood In A Fireplace
After going through the work of determining whether or not you can burn 2x4s in your fireplace, you don’t want to accidentally burn something you shouldn’t and create an unsafe situation.
Please consider these few things before burning 2x4s in a fireplace:
- Separate untreated and treated wood: Keep treated and untreated wood apart to avoid accidentally burning wood that’s been fortified with hazardous chemicals such as arsenic.
- Check for nails and screws: If you decide to burn wood from that old treehouse or broken bench, sharp nails and screws could be attached. While it’s not unsafe to burn the hardware in a fire, they collect on the ground once burned, and that poses a health risk should someone accidentally step or fall on them. Use a magnet to collect if you don’t want to pick them up with your hands.
- Insects and pests: Untreated wood often has insects and pests inside, especially if it’s left outdoors. It’s up to you if you want to burn your 2x4s if you think they may have bugs inside. Burning the wood means the critters could come out!
How Do I Know If 2×4 Wood Is Treated?
There are several ways to determine if the wood has been treated. You can check the end tag of the lumber piece, use a wood testing kit, or check your woodpile for signs of rot if it’s been left outside in the open for more than one year.
Check The End Tag
Lumber that’s been pressure treated has end tags identifying the chemical used to treat the wood. This may also be stamped on the wood piece.
Use A Wood Testing Kit
A wood testing kit allows you to test your wood to see if it has been pressure treated. Our favorite is the Arsenic Wood Field Testing Kit on Amazon.
Check For Signs Of Wood Rot
If you have wood outside in the open for more than a year and has not yet rotted, then it has probably been treated with preservatives. If the wood has started to rot, so it should be safe to burn in your fireplace.