Can You Safely Burn Pallet Wood?

Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

In today’s day and age, wood pallets are all over the place. They are used so frequently in shipping and transport, that it’s pretty easy to get a lot of them, usually free of charge.

Our big question today is, can you burn pallet wood, and is it safe?

Wooden pallets can be a very good source of firewood. However, there are some factors that need to be taken into consideration when burning certain types of pallets that have been treated with toxic chemicals such as methyl bromide.

There are also some points to be considered when safely dismantling pallets before being able to burn them.  

Let’s have a look at some things that need to be taken into consideration when using pallets for firewood.

Is Pallet Wood Good for Burning?

Pallet wood is usually quite dry, which means it burns well and at high temperatures, but that also means that pallet wood burns up fairly quickly, which means you will constantly need to feed your fire.

Depending on the type of wood your pallet is made of, will also determine the type of fire you will make. Pine pallets are softer and pine wood generally burns faster, but is easier to light.

The heavier oak pallets will be somewhat longer and give a greater heat intensity. However, most pallets are made from softwood, so there shouldn’t be any difficulty in making a distinction.

The dry nature of the wood does not allow for a great creosote build-up, so they are safe to use in a wood stove or log burner.

Just keep an eye on your fire, as pallet wood tends to burn out quickly. It may not be the best source of wood when it comes to heating.

Due to the fact that pallet wood burns so fast, you will need fairly large amounts of pallets to keep wood  pallet fires going consistently. That is why we recommend using it in addition to well seasoned firewood.

Mixing old pallet scraps into your own firewood is never a bad idea.

Making sure your scrap pallets are safe is always a good idea, we will be discussing this in our next point.

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Knowing What Pallets Are Safe To Burn

As mentioned before, not all pallet wood is safe to burn. There are certain factors that need to be inspected before making the decision of using pallets for firewood.

Make sure to follow through on this guideline closely, inappropriate use of pallets as firewood, can be dangerous and detrimental to your health.

What was the pallet used for?

Pallets are used transporting all kinds of goods, and this can be the difference between safe pallet wood and contaminated pallet wood.

If the pallets were used for the shipping of harsh chemicals, or you are looking at oily pallets, you probably shouldn’t use these pallets for firewood. Inspecting them and using clean pallets is always advisable, a dirty pallet may be contaminated, and may cause a lot of popping when burned.

Old Pallets

Burning pallets that are old and corroded is not advisable. Many pallets that have been lying in your backyard for years may have accumulated a lot of moisture and are not optimal for a nice and hot flame.

The pallet shipping stamps may have also faded, making it difficult to know if they have been treated with dangerous chemicals such as the fumigant methyl bromide. These chemicals do not disappear over time.  

 Is the pallet painted?

Some pallet manufacturers paint their pallets, so you will often see blue pallets or brown pallets. Burning of pallet wood that has been painted is never a good idea because toxic chemicals may be released into the environment via the smoke the fire makes. Colored pallets should never be burned.  

Shipping stamps

Check your pallets for shipping stamps. Some pallets that are used in international shipping need to be treated or fumigated.

Certain methods of treatment and fumigation include the use of a dangerous chemical called methyl bromide. Chemically treated pallets should never be burned. We will be exploring the different stamp definitions a little further down.

Pallet wood with nails

This isn’t really such a big issue, but if you are using an electric vacuum to clean your fire pit, I would refrain from using pallet lumber that still has nails in it, as this may damage your hoover. Using a scoop or a strong magnet to remove the nails from the ash in your fire pit works quite well.

Shipping Stamps and Definitions

Most, if not all pallets these days will be marked with shipping stamps, indicating exactly how they have been treated and by which methods they have been made safe for transport around the world.

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There are several different ways of achieving the international standards of shipping.

Here they are aligned with their corresponding abbreviations:

  • EUR – Old European Union Pallet logo. It could possibly be treated with chemicals, so burning should be avoided.
  • Epal – New European Union logo. These pallets are generally safe to use
  • HT – Heat Treated. These pallets have been heat treated with heat only and are generally safe to burn.
  • DB – Debarked. These pallets are untreated and safe for pallet fires.
  • KD – Kiln Dried. Heat treatment has been used here, making them safe for use in fires.
  • MB – Methyl Bromide. The fumigant chemical methyl bromide is toxic to humans, thus, these pallets should never be burned.

Using wood from pallets that have not been stamped or haven’t got a recognizable stamp, is usually not a problem.

These pallets have most likely only been used locally and not for shipping across borders and therefore they will be untreated.

However, if the pallets are very old and the stamps may have faded off due to weather and corrosion, it’s always best to keep those aside, even if they have been heat treated.

Rather safe than sorry. In addition to this, it is always good to remember not to burn pallets that have been painted.

How Do I Safely Dismantle Pallets?

If you have ascertained that your pallet wood is untreated and unpainted and perfectly safe to use, it would be advisable to break it down into smaller pieces.

It’s pretty difficult to fit a whole pallet into your fireplace, and as long as you are not making a pallet bonfire, you want to pull it apart into smaller chunks of wood.

Safety first…make sure you have all the necessary personal protective equipment required. Gloves, safety shoes and protective eyewear are a must here. Basic safety precautions to take care of any eventualities.

Having the right tools helps. Purchasing a pallet breaker or pallet breaking tool at the local hardware store is advisable if  you are going to be breaking down pallets frequently.

Having the necessary leverage to pull the wooden deck planks from the big wooden blocks holding the pallet together is key.

Steadying the pallet with your own body weight, by standing on it, and using a crowbar to pull the wood apart is also an option.

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Make sure to remove any nails from the wood and take care not to fall or step into any of the exposed nails.

When you are pulling the boards off with the crow bar, be sure not to pull toward your face or head, in case something snaps loose.

Hitting yourself in the head with a crowbar is dangerous. Never leverage your full weight to snap off a piece of the pallet, you might slip and go flying in one direction.

Using a saw blade to cut your pallets apart is never a good idea, as it will probably dull and wear your blade down.

Conclusion

All in all, pallet wood can be used as an effective way to build a good fire, best mixed in with some seasoned firewood to ensure a consistent heat and burn.

Paying attention to the shipping stamps or pallet treatment codes, color and the quality before burning pallet wood is a must though.

If the pallets have been treated with the chemical methyl bromide or have been painted, do not burn them.

Harmful chemicals and toxic fumes will be released into the air through the smoke and inhaled. This is detrimental to your health.

Old, dirty pallets that have been used for the transportation of hazardous goods should also be avoided. And signs of chemical exposure to the pallet should be a red flag.

Unstamped pallets are generally safe to use, as they are generally used for local transportation and, for that reason, are not treated with any chemicals.  

If you are looking for any free pallets to take home, try asking around amongst the local community. Many wholesaler outlets and supermarkets have stacks of old pallets standing around that need to be discarded.

Asking the manager or owner of one of these businesses will usually end you up with some free pallets, as these shops need to pay for them to be discarded. Rather than having them end up in the landfill, it’s always better to burn them.

Hopefully, we have answered the question, can you burn pallet wood?, and you are all set to use discarded pallets for any pallet project you may have, be it to burn pallet wood in your outdoor fire pit or using them for DIY furniture construction or decoration.

References:

https://www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout/methyl-bromide