Risks in burning dimensional lumber, pallet wood, salt water wood.

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Dave A.

Minister of Fire
Mar 17, 2013
That term "salt water wood" puzzled me at first. They didn't say "drift wood" or limit it to drift wood in the Summit Manual about what not to burn. So did some searching and ended up here:


Turns out salt water wood is more encompassing.

The page essentially looks at the risks and uncertainty in burning dimensional lumber, pallet wood, mill ends, etc.

To summarize, what happens is that logs on the coasts are transported to the mills via salt water and the salt water is absorbed into the wood. Also other chemicals are added in the milling process and wood being porous absorbs these. Even if the initial concentration is low in the wood, the burning process concentrates these salts and chemicals in the exhaust gases. And they are very corrosive to metal stove and chimney components which have been observed to wear out far faster for those who regularly burn this type of wood. The problem is that there is no way (or no easy way) to know whether the wood is compromised or not.

Have seen lots of messages about burning pallet wood and mill ends, but have never seen any that mention any risks other than avoiding treated lumber or over firing more likely.

Something to think about. Not trying to tell others what to do. But now I understand better why my Century Stove Insert Manual said "cord wood only".

Lately have gotten in the habit of picking up the "free firewood" -- pallet wood and scraps a few times a week, mixing in with my next years not-fully-seasoned and more recently, just burning the pallet wood, for the small fires in the morning where I'd otherwise be using the propane boiler.

Now after reading the article am thinking about not burning until I have fully seasoned cord wood and only using pallet wood as kindling or otherwise rarely. Is that being overcautious?

And welcome to the forums, in case I missed you ;)
I am 1000 miles from salt water in anny direction so I guess I'm ok. :) If I recall the 2200 manual has the same warnings. I think they're trying to cover all the bases. The salt water transport is an interesting bit of add'l info though...
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I would not put much stock in that article. Though the author has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this (and I've found useful information elsewhere on the same site), he doesn't mention having had a lab test a single piece of lumber for the presence or concentration of any of those chemicals. There's no supporting data whatsoever to suggest that such chemicals are found in industrially processed lumber at problematic levels. None of his reference documents support his concerns about chemicals as likely hazards to woodstoves or chimneys. He's worried about wood stabilized with polyethylene glycol, but the use of PEG is rare because it takes a lot of it to stabilize a piece of wood, a lot of time for it to soak in, and the chemical itself is expensive. He cites an EPA document advising against the burning of kiln-dried wood, but the reason given in that article is that it's too dry; chemical contamination is not mentioned.
Salt wood - A process of speedily drying wood slabs by packing salt around them to pull moisture from the wood. Down side is that salt permeates the surfaces of the wood causing corrosion when in contact with metal products. Can also cause problems in finishing efforts as well.

Really doesn't have anything to do with transport of logs to mill.
I am 1000 miles from salt water in anny direction so I guess I'm ok. :)

Yeah... They never ship or transport pallets inland from their original location.

Salt wood - A process of speedily drying wood slabs by packing salt around them to pull moisture from the wood. Down side is that salt permeates the surfaces of the wood causing corrosion when in contact with metal products.

Browning shotguns. Sad story.
I live in the northwest also and it's been a long time since I've seen a log floating as part of processing. I'm thinking only the very rarest of lumber you'll find has had any time in salt water and even then it would have come from lumber milled decades ago. We use trucks now.

If the logs became corrosive, wouldn't the nails used in construction have corroded away too?

I consider "salt water wood" to be driftwood. The weathered, gray, crap you find washed up on the beach.
Highbeam, we still see tugs pulling log floats down to the pulp mill in Tacoma and export docks in Olympia. Not sure if this practice is dying, but it still happens to some degree. It has to be much less expensive than trucking, especially on crowded i5.
Log floats are still common in British Columbia, lotsa logs floating down through the Queen Charlotte Islands.
And it would take a long time for the salt to get to the interior of the logs.
Sounds like I need to get out on the water more. The latest practice for export in my area has been to debark the logs and pack them into shipping containers!
As Jon said, I tend to respect what's written on the site (chimneysweep) so was taken aback when I read it, because I hadn't ever considered there might be a problem. So posted it here to get some other opinions about it.

But also, as Jon said, there has been no scientific testing it's pure speculation and theory on the authors part coupled with some claimed circumstantial evidence (failed parts by burners of dimensional lumber), and looking further I see no other links in web searching to support this one article about risks in burning dimensional/pallet wood....

Unfortunately you read something like that and you can't rule out what's been said. So where I had been thinking about scrounging pallet wood for next season and making it a part of my regular burning (since the supply is so convenient) I don't think I'll be doing that to a great extent. But on evaluating the evidence, I think it might be overcautious to rule out the occasional fire with dimensional lumber/pallet wood or mixing pallet wood in with damper firewood.
My cat pees on the wood stacks and the stacks are in contact with the pallets, the bottom row, for three years. Guess that spare 30-NC will be needed sooner than I expected.
I am surprised everyday but I have yet to see someone come here and post pictures of how burning salt water wood killed their stove, usually it is done by over firing it.

Now I have seen first hand a catalytic combostor crumble to pieces from someone burning treated lumber/pallets, the rest of the stove was OK.
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