Can You Burn Plywood in Firepit? Find Out 6 Dangers

stack of plywood

Can You Burn Plywood in Firepit? Find Out 6 Dangers

The Dangers of Burning Plywood in a Fire Pit

You’re sitting around the crackling fire. You’re roasting marshmallows with friends. It’s a cool summer night. You toss another piece of scrap wood from your latest project into the flames. But wait—was that plywood?

We get it, plywood seems like the perfect fire pit fuel. It feels almost harmless. You’ve got that extra hunk lying around in your workshop. And hey, wood is wood, right? Wrong! Burning plywood is extremely dangerous for your health and the environment.

In this guide, we will cover why you should never burn plywood in a recreational fire. You should also avoid burning plywood in a standard fireplace. Both treated and untreated plywood release toxic chemicals. These can cause short term irritation and long term illness. They also pollute our air.

Let’s dive deeper into the hazards of using plywood as firewood and safe alternatives you can burn instead…

Key Takeaways:

  • Burning plywood sets harmful fumes free into the air
  • Glues and resins in all plywood emit dangerous substances
  • Breathing chemicals from plywood causes health issues
  • Disposing and recycling stops pollution and risk

1. Toxic Fumes From Burning Plywood Put Your Health At Risk

plywood burning in forest

Plywood is made using strong adhesives and preservatives. They bind wood veneer sheets into durable boards and planks. When burned, these artificial ingredients break down and vaporize into the air.

What exactly goes up in smoke when plywood burns?


Most plywood has glues with formaldehyde. Examples are urea-formaldehyde (UF) resin or phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin. Formaldehyde is a pungent, colorless gas. It acts as a preservative in wood products.

The fumes from burning formaldehyde can cause:

  • Burning sensation in eyes, nose, throat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe allergic reactions

Research also links formaldehyde exposure to a higher risk of leukemia. It also links it to nasopharyngeal cancer over time.

Volatile Organic Compounds

The adhesives and coatings used in plywood production contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Examples include toluene, xylene, and acetone. Burning releases these carbon-rich chemicals into smoke.

Inhaling VOCs irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term effects may include liver, kidney and central nervous system damage.

2. Burning Treated Wood Also Has Added Risks

plywood forest

Pressure treated lumber takes preservation a step further. It infuses toxic chemicals deep into the wood. This helps protect outdoor structures like decks and fences from rot and insects.

Common types of treated lumber to avoid burning:

Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)

CCA treated wood has been phased out for homes. But, it still lurks in older buildings. This preservative contains highly poisonous arsenic along with chromium and copper.

Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)

The ACQ treatment replaces some copper with aluminum but utilizes similarly toxic compounds. Burning can release hydrogen gas.

Copper Azole

This preservative uses copper as protection against termites and decay fungi. Burning copper azole treated wood produces dangerous emissions.

In addition to glues and VOCs, chemicals in treated lumber also contaminate smoke. They raise safety issues around handling and disposal. Burning any variety emits irritants, carcinogens and pollutants into the environment.

3. The Environmental Impact of Burning Plywood

plywood burning up

Backyard fire pits, chimineas, and bonfires seem harmless. But, burning the wrong materials like plywood pollutes the air. Here’s what gets released from plywood fires:

Greenhouse Gases

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide

These planet-warming compounds accelerate climate change.

Heavy Metals

  • Arsenic
  • Chromium
  • Copper

Toxins that persist in the environment and our bodies.

Particulate Matter

  • Soot
  • Ash
  • Smoke

Tiny particles that reduce air quality and can penetrate deep into lungs.

Dioxins and Furans

Carcinogenic organic compounds formed when wood preservatives and chlorine-treated fire logs burn.

Burning plywood and other wood waste should be avoided. They emit many dangerous emissions. This protects our atmosphere. Some disposal methods are better than using it for fuel. But, trashing plywood feels wasteful. We all need to make small sacrifices to preserve nature for the long haul.

4. The Legal Status of Burning Plywood

Are you wondering if burning plywood is illegal? This is due to the health hazards and environmental impact.

The short answer is: yes, burning plywood is prohibited by law.

Most areas ban the open burning of plywood and other construction debris. General regulations include:

  • No burning treated wood – The preservatives used make the smoke and ash especially toxic. This includes pressure treated lumber.
  • Don’t burn glue-bonded wood products. Plywood, particle board, and fiberboards release harmful fumes from their adhesives when burned.
  • No burning demolition or construction debris. This category includes wood with paint, stain, or prior industrial use. It contains hazardous substances.

Additionally, many towns and cities adopt EPA emission standards. These rules prohibit releasing dense smoke, soot, and ash into the air.

Burning plywood violates air quality laws as well as waste disposal codes in all 50 states. Fines for illegal burning often start around $500 plus fire department bills.

5. Responsible Alternatives To Burning Plywood

Burning scrap plywood may seem convenient. But, the health and legal risks clearly outweigh any benefits. So what should you do with leftover plywood instead?

Fortunately, there are a few great options:

1. Reuse – Upcycle plywood scraps into new DIY creations! Even small cutoffs work for projects like planters, organizers, or utensil handles. Get creative and give materials multiple lives.

2. Recycle – Some facilities accept clean plywood for recycling if you have no use. This gets processed into fiberboard, particleboard, and other goods.

3. Dispose of it properly. As a last resort, put unpainted plywood in normal waste. This is for ethical landfilling. Many towns offer large debris removal services as well.

And for fire pit fuel? Choose bought firewood. Prefer hardwoods like oak, maple, and ash. They burn cleaner.

Avoid using plywood as kindling. Find safer disposal solutions. This will reduce impacts on health and the planet. Choose responsible use through smart reusing, recycling and composting of wood waste. Our communities and future generations will thank you!

6. Comparing Safe and Unsafe Fire Pit Wood

When preparing wood for recreational fires, it helps to know what materials are safe to burn and which pose hazards. This comparison table summarizes guidelines:

Type of WoodSafe for Fire PitsNotes
Untreated natural hardwood (oak, hickory, maple)✅ YesBurns longest and cleanest
Untreated softwood (pine, cedar, fir)✅ YesAvoid large piles due to sparks
Plywood❌ NoEmits toxic VOCs from glue
Particle board❌ NoReleases formaldehyde
Pressure treated lumber❌ NoContains heavy metals and preservatives
Painted/stained wood❌ NoLeaches lead and other toxins

This covers the most common types of wood waste people may consider tossing in the fire. Always err on the side of caution and do not burn manufactured wood products or treated lumber. Stick to natural hardwood or softwood to enjoy safe, relaxing bonfires.

Can You Burn Plywood in a Firepit? Keep Your Fire Pit Toxin-Free

You may feel conflicted about tossing the last scrap plank. You learned many good reasons not to burn plywood. We get it – waste feels, well, wasteful.

But remember, plywood has some seriously nasty ingredients. They turn to poison gas in a fire. Saving a bit of garbage isn’t worth risking the safety of your family and community.

Be vigilant about your fire fuel sources. When in doubt, throw it out. Treated wood may look harmless after years outside. But, the chemicals never break down. Manufactured composites like particle board also seem benign yet contain hidden hazards.

Follow the firewood golden rules:

  • 100% untreated natural hardwood only
  • No glues, resins, preservatives
  • No stains, paints, past chemical exposures
  • Local firewood laws must be obeyed

It pays off to invest in clean hardwood logs from reliable local suppliers. This bags you charming ambiance along with peace of mind.

True, dropping cash on firewood while scraps abound stings a bit. But rest easy knowing you won’t cough up extra medical bills or legal fines down the road. Your family’s safety is priceless.

So cozy up responsibly around the fire next time! Roast marshmallows instead of marinating hot dogs in toxic fumes from manufactured wood. Here’s to keeping your fire pit happy and healthy while making lasting memories. The planet thanks you too.

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