Using ends of cut 2x4s?

Dear Don't Move Firewood,

I have a ton of 2 x 4 pieces to burn. Are those ok to bring to a campground?

Yours,

Avid Lumber User

 

Dear Avid Lumber User,

Someone must have put out "the Bat Signal" for 2 x 4s as firewood this week, because you are the fourth person to email me about this since Friday. So let's set the record straight on cut scrap 2 x 4 ends!

 

From a practical perspective, commercially kiln dried clean scraps of lumber (also called dimensional lumber) are a pretty safe alternative to traditional cut firewood. Because they are bark-free, and are usually stored indoors, this is a very low risk wood choice.

 

However, from several other perspectives, they become a problem. Here's a quick breakdown of the issues:

  • Some campsites ban what they consider "construction scraps" to protect the safety of their maintenance workers. Even if YOUR 2×4 scraps don't have sharp nails and brackets and screws in them, they might be banned anyways.
  • Scrap wood stored outside can absolutely still have hitchhitching forest pests on or in it. For instance, gypsy moths will readily lay eggs on wood scraps.
  • Wood scraps can fall into a grey area in terms of the legality of moving firewood across certain borders. You don't want to think something is legal, only to find out that you could be subject to fines for moving just a bit of scrap wood.
  • Treated wood is highly toxic when burned. Make sure to keep any treated wood separated from the clean 2x4s pile to avoid accidentally burning hazardous chemicals like arsenic.

 

So what's our formal opinion on 2 x 4 scrap lumber bits for firewood? Its fine for home use, backyard use, and local campgrounds when permitted. But because it brings up a lot of questions when moved farther or across borders, it'd be best to restrict using 2x4s to your nearby campgrounds, and call ahead.

 

For information on a related topic, burning pallets, see our 2013 blog "What about burning pallets?"