Construction waste as firewood

We’ve talked about burning cut pallets before, but what about construction waste? As always, we’ve got you covered.

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

I work in construction and have access to large amounts of processed construction lumber fall off. Is it ok to bring some of that wood for campfires as it is no longer a tree in its natural form?

Yours, Mark

Dear Mark,

There is sometimes a gap between a regulation, and every single possible thing that could apply to that regulation. Your question is regarding “processed construction lumber fall off,” so what I’m envisioning is the little clean dry bark-free segments of 2×4 or similar dimensional lumber that get trimmed off so that the whole piece is the correct length. If that’s right, then this sort of wood product presents a very minimal risk to tree health, and it would be OK in theory to use it for camping. However- and this is a BIG however- this sort of wood may still be either under regulation in your state, or may be turned away at the campground gate. The first thing- that it may be under regulation- is because the definition of untreated firewood varies a bit, and these scraps could be included. It isn’t because they are the same, it is because of what I first said- the gap between a regulation and every single possible type of burnable wood product. Then, the second part is the campground issue. Some campgrounds will not permit the burning of scraps, pallets, or other construction types of wood. This is generally for worker safety, for fear of chemicals like arsenic, or sharp brackets that could be released in burning and cause injuries for maintenance workers.

But this is untreated wood, you protest! And it doesn’t have nails or brackets! I know, but just because yours is clean and safe doesn’t mean everyone’s is.

Anyway, the point that I’m getting at is that processed lumber scrap is fine to burn in theory, but in practice it still may be forbidden in some areas, and in some campgrounds. I would advise checking with local regulations and calling ahead to the campgrounds. A little time on the phone can go a long way.