Can You Burn Wood With Nails in It?

Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

More often than not, the easiest questions can cause the most confusion.

Anything from if you can burn wet wood to burning painted lumber in your wood stove and whether or not your chimney will go up in flames when burning green wood.

This can at times all seem quite overwhelming.

Can you burn wood with nails in it, or should it be avoided? That is the question we will be looking at today.

Before the end, we will hopefully have been able to shed some light on this question, along with some additional topic related information.

Usually it is quite fine to burn wood with nails hammered and screws driven into it. Once the wood is burned to ash, the nails will end up at the bottom of your fire pit or fireplace and are just swept up when the fireplace is cleaned. However, there are some things that need to be taken into consideration that might be problematic in certain situations.

Nails in Firewood – Good or Bad?

As the aforementioned states, firewood containing nails usually does not cause any problems. However, it is not recommended in particular if you have a catalytic stove or a catalytic log burner.

The problem here is that most nails have a galvanized coating which might damage your catalytic converter.

Try and Remove Nails Before a Fire

It’s always better to try and remove most of the nails before you start the fire. This may be a taxing job, but it’s always the safer option, should the wood still be a bit wet, and particularly if the piece of wood has got many nails in it.

If you struggle to get all the nails out, it’s not a huge problem to leave one or two stubborn nails in the wood. However, you should try to do the best you can and pull out as many as possible.  

Wait for the Ashes to Cool Down

If you have decided to burn your wood, leaving the nails in it, you simply need to wait for your fire to burn down completely and for the coals to become ash.

People tend to favor this option, as it saves you the trouble of having to pull out nails. Subsequently, there are two options, when cleaning your fireplace or wood stove:

  • Using a strong, large magnet and pulling it through the ash pile several times to pull up all the nails and then discard the nails safely in the trash. The nails can also be recycled or reused if they are not in terrible shape.
  • If you have an open fireplace, sweeping them up with a brush and pan is usually sufficient. For wood stoves, removing the ash pan and dumping the cold ash into a bin is typically enough to get the job done. Just be sure to discard the nails safely, as not to cause damage or injury.  
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In some households, ash is disposed of on composting heaps, which is then used as fertilizer in the garden. This is obviously a no-go if you are burning a piece of wood with nails in it.

At the risk of harming pets and anyone who uses the garden, this should be avoided at all times.  

Ash Vacuums

Many people prefer to use ash vacuums to clean up their fire making area. This is a quick and easy way of cleaning up cold ashes. However, this method is not recommended if there are a few nails left over in your ash pile.

The nails will more than likely damage your vacuum cleaner, by getting stuck in the hose, or puncturing the bag inside. If you insist on using an ash vacuum, using the magnet method as described above, to make sure there are no nails left in the ash pile, is a good way of being safe.

Fire Pits and Open Fires.

Fire pits have become quite wanted and popular in recent years. Sitting around a lovely fire with friends,  when it’s cool outside, sounds great.

Whether you should burn nail-riddled wood in a fire pit might be a question worth asking. Primarily, because the fire is exposed and usually has people sitting in close proximity of it.

Guaranteeing the safety of the people in question is obviously extremely important.

Unlike a wood stove, fire pits are not closed and protected by a steel door with a window, so there is no protection should something fly out of the fire.

The likelihood of this ever happening, is, of course, extremely low, and the chances of a nail flying out of the fire, especially if the wood is quite dry, are next to zero. Still, rather safe than sorry. Keeping anybody seated at a safe distance from the fire is always advisable and recommended.

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Wood Stove.

Many types of wood are suitable for igniting wood burning stoves. But some general advice about wood – burning stoves is that if your stove runs with a catalytic converter, using wood that has nails in it is not recommended.

Most nails these days are galvanized, and it is for this reason that they might damage your catalytic converter. If you are not entirely sure what you can burn in a stove with a catalytic converter, it’s always a good idea to ask your supplier or read up on it additionally.

Generally, this is the safer option.

Burning Pallet Wood – Things to Think About

Pallet wood is often used as firewood, especially in wood stoves and on big bonfires made out of a huge wood pile.

They also almost have nails in them to keep their structure. This wood burns quite well because of how dry it is, and it is one of the most commonly burned non-local wood types.

It is also an excellent, cheap source of firewood.

Having said that, there are a few things that need to be considered when burning wood pallets. Even with nails, there are other precautions that need to be taken.

First things first, treated wood, wood that has any chemical finish or pallet wood that has been treated with the fumigant methyl bromide, should never be burned.

There is a great risk of toxic chemicals being released into the air, which could harm the environment and be harmful to your health. Wood from pallets is usually treated wood, containing preservative chemicals, that should not be burned. If the pallets are marked with the initials MB, they should not be considered for burning.

Secondly, the dryness of the wood can also play a role. Pallet wood is usually very dry and therefore this wood burns hot.

When burning non-lumber grade wood or pallets, it’s always a good idea to add and burn wood, such as seasoned wood or split firewood to maintain a safer temperature.

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Using a Chainsaw To Cut Wood With Nails in It.

Making sure that all of the nails have been removed from the piece of wood before cutting it, is extremely important. Should the chainsaw get snagged onto one of the nails while cutting, it can become an extreme hazard.

Should a nail get snagged on the chain of the saw, it could potentially fly out of the wood at a very high speed. This is obviously a massive hazard for anyone, and this can cause massive injury or even be fatal.

If you do not want to remove all the nails of the wood, just make sure that there are no nails in the exact vicinity of the you are making your cuts. Keep your chainsaw as far away from any nails as possible to avoid damage to the chainsaw and severe damage to yourself and anyone else around.

Conclusion

In summary, it is acceptable to burn wood with nails in it and it’s usually not a problem. In most scenarios it is safe and should not be much cause for worry. But, it’s always a good idea to use common sense and be cautious around this practice.

When burning this type of wood in a fireplace or a fire pit, make sure the wood is completely dry and there aren’t too many nails piercing through it. Keeping a safe distance from any fire is always advisable.

If you burn pallets in a big backyard fire, keep an eye out for the MB initials to avoid toxic fumes (methyl bromide) being released, and make sure you don’t use too much of it, or you’ll overfire and burn too hot.

Being aware of the hazards at hand is always a good way of keeping anything bad from happening. When building massive bonfires, where temperatures tend to be a bit higher, it is especially advisable to remove nails and other metal objects from the wood you are burning.  

All in all, in most cases, the answer to the question, can you burn wood with nails in it?, relies upon common sense and caution to prevail when making a wood fire and burning it in a perfectly safe manner.

References;

https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1231.pdf

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED031558.pdf