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Can You Burn Pressure Treated Lumber In a Wood Stove?

wood burning in a hot wood stove

If you’ve got a wood stove or a fireplace, it’s natural to be on the lookout for spare or unused wood to burn. No one wants to be wasteful, and if you can burn some excess wood and save a little money, that’s just a bonus.

Can You Burn Pressure Treated Lumber In a Wood Stove?

It’s important to know that pressure treated wood should never be burned. Burning pressure treated wood releases numerous dangerous chemicals and toxins into the air, and eventually into your lungs. This can result in short and long term damage.

It’s not always easy to tell whether wood is pressure treated or not, although you can often times get a good idea if you know what to look for. Because you can’t always know whether wood is pressure treated or not, the safest course of action is to avoid burning wood of unknown origin.

What is Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated wood is wood that’s been subjected to a preservative process. Pressurized chemicals are injected into the wood using a pressurized vacuum chamber. This makes the wood resistant to natural decay, fungal growth, and insects burrowing through or eating the wood.

Pressure Treated Wood Resists Rot, Decay and Insects

Pressure treated wood is especially useful for outdoor furniture or structures, as its anti-decay properties are especially relevant when exposed directly to the elements or insect populations. As a result, pressure treated wood tends to be popular for projects like outdoor patios or decks, sheds, and similar structures.

Why It’s Bad to Burn Pressure Treated Wood

But the very thing that makes pressure treated wood long-lasting also makes it unsuitable for burning. The chemicals that preserve the wood and make it unattractive to fungus and insects tend to be extremely toxic. In fact, one of the most popular chemicals in pressure treated is arsenic, a deadly poison.

Chemicals Used In Pressure Treated Wood

Two of the most popular types of pressure treated wood are CCA and ACZA, which stand for chromated copper arsenate and ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate. Both contain arsenic, and traces of that arsenic will end up in your lungs if you burn CCA or ACZA wood. Even woods that don’t contain arsenic will usually contain pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

What Can Happen If You Burn Pressure Treated Wood

Inhaling the burnt fumes of pressure treated wood can lead to chronic respiratory illness and cancer. There have been reports of people burning pressurized wood and experiencing nosebleeds and hair loss in the immediate aftermath of burning the wood.

How Can You Tell if Wood is Pressure Treated?

The bad news is that the untrained eye won’t be able to tell with 100% accuracy whether or not wood is pressure treated. However, there are a few things you can look for that will usually tip you off.

Color

One of the biggest giveaways is that pressure treated wood tends to have a greenish color, as the injected chemicals often give a green hue to the wood. Unfortunately, though, not all pressure treated wood has the characteristic green color, as some pressurized treatments create a dark brown color instead.

Chemical Injection Sites

You can also sometimes see the injection sites, which show up as half inch splits on the surface of the wood. But again, not all pressure treated wood has visible injection sites.

The problem is that you can often spot pressurized wood, but it’s far more difficult to say that a piece of wood is not pressurized. Because of this, the safest course is usually to stay away from any wood that you didn’t cut yourself or buy from a reputable vendor selling wood for burning.

How To Dispose of Pressurized Wood

The safest way to get rid of pressurized wood is to bring it to a landfill for disposal. Many landfills will charge a nominal fee for getting rid of pressurized wood, but this will give you the peace of mind in knowing that the wood will be destroyed safely and properly.

Simply throwing pressurized wood away isn’t a good idea, because this could potentially lead to it being taken by someone who ends up burning it. While it may cost a little bit extra, disposing of pressurized wood through the proper channels is the most responsible action.

If you can’t afford to have a landfill process your pressurized wood, the next best course of action is to store it in a safe place if at all possible until you’re able to have it disposed of.

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