Sometimes the simplest of questions can cause a lot of confusion. From what wood can be burned to moisture content, considerations about how it might have been treated, and what impact burning it might have on your chimney or health, it can be a minefield and even overwhelming.
In this article we’re going back to basics and asking a simple question – can you burn wood with nails in it? By the end, you’ll know the answer along with the things you should be thinking about when dealing with this sort of wood.
In most cases burning wood with nails in it is fine, they will just end up in the pile of ash you have left at the end of the fire. You may need to remove them from the ash pile though depending on how it is going to be used. Burning wood that contains nails is not recommended for catalytic stoves.
Is it Bad to have Nails in Firewood?
As mentioned above, firewood that contains nails shouldn’t cause any issues unless you have a catalytic stove. The issue with this type of stove is that the galvanizing plating that is found on some nails and screws can have a detrimental impact on the catalytic converter.
If you do have a stove with a cat and you want to ensure that you get years of service from it, it’s best to avoid burning wood with nails in it.
Do Nails Burn in Fire?
Most nails you’ll find in wood will be made from stainless steel. The melting point of this type of steel is around 1,500 degrees Celsius (or 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you look at any off-the-shelf stovepipe thermometers, anything above 460 Fahrenheit reads as too hot and overfiring a stove can damage it. The stove body itself and the internal flue gas temperatures are likely to be a bit higher than the temperature shown on the outside of the stovepipe, but still nowhere near the 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit melting point of stainless steel. Therefore, a stove run within the normal temperature range will not melt nails.
Firepits and Nails
Firepits have gained in popularity over the last few years and as a result, more people are having fires for heat generation purposes in the yard.
Whether you should use firewood that contains nails in a firepit is an important question because the nature of a firepit means people are generally sitting around it and therefore safety is paramount.
Unlike a stove, a firepit is not a sealed unit so the chances of objects flying out of the fire are greatly increased. It’s highly unlikely that a nail from the wood will fly out of the fire, especially if the wood has a low moisture content, but it’s recommended that you take precautions to ensure that anybody sitting around is it at a safe distance to reduce the risk of any flying objects, whether that be a nail or an ember hitting somebody.
Woodburning Stoves and Nails
As woodburning stoves are sealed, flying objects are much less of a concern. More of a concern is a protruding nail on a piece of burning wood that falls over – the nail could hit the window on the front of the stove. However, that window is made not from glass but from a tough transparent ceramic so the chance of this happening and causing damage is low.
Many people burn wood with nails in it inside a wood-burning stove with no issues.
Open Fires and Nails
Like a firepit, as the name suggests, an open fire is open, so the chance of shooting objects is greatly increased when compared to a sealed stove.
A fire guard is always recommended with an open fire as a safe distance between where people might be sitting and the fire itself.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, just be careful when cleaning out the ash which will have the nails left over, and dispose of them properly before using the ash in a yard or in a compost heap which is a common use for it.
Can you Burn Screws?
Screws and nails are the same in terms of what they’re generally made of and how they’re coated so the advice remains the same – in most cases burning wood with screws in it is fine but you shouldn’t burn them in a catalytic stove, and you should remove the screws from the cold ash if it’s going to be used in the yard.
Burning Pallets – Considerations
Pallets are the type of wood that is most commonly known for having nails in them. With pallet wood generally being very dry, people do tend to be curious about whether they might be a cheap source of firewood.
Although pallets can be used (and yes, even with nails in assuming that all the relevant precautions are taken), there are a couple of considerations.
Firstly, any wood, pallet wood, or otherwise which is chemically treated should not be burned. In doing this, there is a risk of toxic fumes being generated which is bad for your health and for the environment. Before burning any type of wood, ensure that it’s not treated with anything which may pose a danger. An in-depth discussion about this is beyond the scope of this article but it is something we’ll be covering in the future.
Another consideration relates to how dry the wood is. Because pallets tend to be very dry, the risk of overfiring and having to give the fire a lot of close attention is quite high. It’s best to mix it with normal log split firewood or simply use small pieces of it to get the fire started and then maintain the temperature in the safe range by using more fit-for-purpose wood fuel sources.