How to Use Pallets for Firewood Properly

Pallets – they are everywhere. Many things can be made from them, such as firewood racks, sheds, or can be even used to stack firewood on, but what about using the pallets for the actual firewood?

Should you use pallets for firewood

Why not? Pallets are (most of the time) made from wood, often times safe to burn and they’re even seasoned, so you don’t have to wait for them to dry!

They are often disposed after being used for some time, so why not reuse them not just for various building projects, but for heating your place?

That being said, using pallet wood as your sole source of fuel in your stove, fireplace or a furnace is generally a bad idea.

That is because this type of super dry wood creates a lot of heat, which will only require more attention when operating the appliance, to prevent overfiring and other damage.

It’s best to use pallet wood in conjunction with actual firewood splits.

In other words, use the pallet scraps to, perhaps, start a fire and get it going. Once that is working, put in the real firewood.

To reiterate, just using wood you can get from pallets to heat your home might sound like a great idea at first, but it really isn’t.

It is difficult to maintain a steady and safe temperature when burning this kind of stuff, so it really is more of a kindling, not solid and maintainable source of firewood.

I should also mention that processing pallets into burnable firewood takes some effort. Not saying that it’s extremely demanding, but a single wooden pallet won’t give you a ton of heat compared to actual firewood.

Best tool to cut up pallets for firewood

There are many tools you can use for this type of job: chainsaws, table saws, reciprocating saws, hands saws, miter saws, and so on and so forth, but there’s always the optimal tool.

Actually, you might even consider processing the pallets into firewood with the power of a human body, by using a sledgehammer to smash them into peaces, although you would probably not last very long doing so.

Long story short, the right tool for the job is no other than a circular saw.

It really feels that the tool is made exactly for this task. A chainsaw isn’t a bad option, but if you hit the chain on a nail, you’ll have to resharpen or even replace it every single time.

Circular saw blades, on the other hand, are a lot more durable, as they are carbide tipped.

You could certainly get away with even something like a regular hand saw, but once again, you would get tired pretty quickly.

Some people use reciprocating saws, and while they do work, they’re simply too slow, and vibrate in your hands making you only sore after some time (if done for a while, that is).

Identifying safe to burn pallets

If you want to turn pallets into firewood, you have to be absolutely sure they are safe to burn first.

Many of the pallets you might stumble into will have some sort of identifying information depending in which country or continent you live in, and where the pallets came from.

Generally speaking, you should avoid burning any pallets that have MB stamped on them, which means they were treated with Methyl Bromide; when burnt, they release toxic smoke dangerous to you, and the environment.

Pallet containing HT (heat treated) and DB (debarked) markings
This picture shows a stamp which tells that the pallet should be safe to burn, because it was only HT (heat treated) and DB (debarked)

Image by Oaktree b via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes a pallet may have no stamp or mark on it at all, which probably means that it’s a native pallet, meaning that it is used only in your country. Most of the time they are not treated with chemicals, so you should be good to burn them.

Even if a pallet falls into every “good to burn” criteria listed above, it cannot be used for firewood if you can see any oil spills or weird stains on it, which might suggest that the pallet has absorbed dangerous chemicals.

Do not burn pallets that have been painted in color, such as red, blue, brown, or any else.

The subject of determining whether a pallet is safe to burn or not is pretty big, so if you want to dive in deeper and make sure you know everything before you even begin, please have a read here. (At the bottom of this website, there is a very helpful infographic regarding the topic).

Where to find free pallets?

Many local businesses that utilize pallets in their work give them away for free, as most of the time they will need to pay money for others to discard them regardless.

Try asking some of your friends if they know people who run those types of businesses, and see if you can score some free pallets.

How to cut them up

The basic idea is to cut just right where the plank meets the supporting beam (red lines) on both sides. After doing so separate pieces, in this example, three of them will be left so you will need to cut them into thirds (blue lines).

Obviously, there are many types of pallets out there, so the cutting lengths and spots might differ, but this example should give a general idea how to do it.

If you don’t want to break your back that much while always leaning down when cutting up pallets, you might try to put them on some sort of table, or if you have enough pallets, stack them high enough to make a make shift table.

Circular saws are normally corded, and that might not always be the best choice for you. As example, if you find a source of pallets, and you don’t have much space to store them in your vehicle or trailer as they are, you might want to cut the pallets up first on the spot.

For that reason, you might want to buy a cordless circular saw. The price will be higher than of one with a cord, as you have to include the cost of batteries (and you should probably get two of them).

And even then, using a cordless power tool is often times more convenient, especially as you will have to constantly move around and bend down during the pallet cutting up process either way.

The only thing you have to keep in mind is if the charge on one or two batteries will be enough for you to finish the job.

The burning of pallet wood

As you might have noticed, i did not say anything about removing the nails. I suggest not removing them from the pallets, as it takes too much time – after all, the nails will fall into the ashes, making them easy to remove with something like a magnet from an old speaker.

If you have a catalytic stove, you might not want to burn pallet wood with nails, as it might cause problems with your catalytic converter.

Similar Posts


  1. A very good information piece.

    I am concerned about your comment about HOT & FAST fires caused by overloading the container that holds the bits of pallet wood I use the chips for lighting the fire and store them in a medium sized plastic dustbin ready cut and ready for use.

    Is it safe to store the chips in this manner ?

    1. Yes, there is nothing wrong about keeping the chips in those containers, just make sure to keep them away from the wood stove, or any heating appliance you use.

      Happy burning!

  2. I have a pallet that seems fine, except for one red filled in circle stamped onto it. I can’t find anything to explain this; it’s not painted at all (with the exception of an additional circle, but this one in green, on the other side of the pallet). would you happen to know anything about this?

    1. Hmm, that’s interesting.

      If I had such a pallet, I’d pass on it. I really wouldn’t want to risk burning a treated pallet. You can’t be too careful here.

  3. Where can you buy a used or homemade kindling/stick chopper,I have tried adverts,asking people who show them on u-tube without any luck,just need a one for pallet wood for own use only,if someone !are them they could make a good living selling them to an older person like me who cannot use a axe now (to much for the back+hands,would love to buy something electric,THANK you joe Cumbria🌝☎

      1. That kindling device shown on Amazon is great – I have one. Sometimes not just for kindling – such as a narrow/thin piece that’s hard to stand up on it’s own.

    1. I’ve seen maybe three or four blue CHEP pallets all the years I’ve been scrounging, and they were definitely used and abused. All of them had water damage and were embedded with dirt. Never was tempted to burn ’em.

  4. Does anyone know of where I could buy or locate(with a chance to buy)a kindling machine or attachment for electric log splitter please? I have been looking and hoping a used or homemade one might be for sale,l just need it for our own use,had to give up with the axe,shoulder injury and age now AGAINST me,but would love one electric or motor,THANK you so much joe

  5. I’m Crazy Cat Lady. I’ve heated my house exclusively with scavenged HT pallets and safe-to-burn
    demolition wood for at least six years. My tools are a battered Toyota Tundra pickup truck, a 7-1/4″ circular saw, a thirty-y.o. contractor’s wheelbarrow, a cutting station I built myself from my late husband’s WorkMates, a Waterford Ashling wood burning stove, and the persistance of poverty. Is it fun, glamorous, or becoming a NetFlix movie? Nope. If a person is poor enough and has the skills, tools, strength, and knowledge to help herself, she can heat her house, water, and cook her food in the winter. Works for me; blessings upon people who harvest/cut/split firewood.

    1. Upon reflection, I misspoke in this post. I went dumpster diving for MANY pounds of gaggingly rancid peanut butter and bug-and-larvae infested cereals in late 2017. I turned them into four pound lumps that burned nearly as well as eucalypsis. Fun times. Crazy Cat Lady.

    2. That is cool and good for you for being so efficient, frugal and innovative. I’m sort of in the same boat now, hardly working due to Covid19. Just took insurance off my 21 year old car and switched it to my almost as old Silverado so I could get pallets and free firewood. I also use a circular saw for smaller wood pieces and parts of pallets. Just picked up some free pallets and maple rounds this weekend. I frequently make soup, stew and chili on the wood stove. Even if I was rich I’d still do that. Smells great cooking for hours. My condolences about the loss of your husband. Split some rounds today, don’t own a gas splitter. I agree re: blessings to those who also process their own firewood.

  6. I have a quick question- I picked up six pallets yesterday for firewood in an outdoor fire pit, but didn’t read warnings about treatment until just now. The pallets themselves are unmarked, and mostly unpainted, but, depending on the pallet, they either have blue, orange, or red paint just on the ends of some of the planks. Do you think they’re chemically treated?

    1. I think they would be.

      The thing is, even if only the corners are marked with color, it could signify that the whole pallet had been treated in some type of way.

      I would not suggest burning this stuff, even in an outdoor pit.

  7. Still looking for an old or used or homemade kindling cutter like you see on you-tube,I’ve ended up with a rotated cuff injury in one shoulder during an axe,(thought the doctor had found me a kindling cutter when he said the name)l was told to find a machine+to stop using the axe!!he is a good doctor,so my journey goes on,has anyone got a machine to sell,or will be kept in watching coronation st.can someone please help me . Find a machine please Joe from South Lakes,THANKYOU??

  8. Hello good-Julius. I’m not sure that I agree about pallet wood burning too hot. In a log burner it burns warm with an orange flame but by no means exceptionally hot. I burn it almost exclusively with no problems and a clean chimney which seldom needs to be swept due to very little residue build up.
    I appreciate your need to promote safety but I genuinely have no issues with pallet wood and see it as a free source of fuel and far better than overpriced kiln dried logs (I could get through £100 worth of them in a day such is the ridiculous price)
    Gepetto Moreblessing from Kuwait

  9. Picked up a bunch of pallets today. Some actually seem like decent quality hardwood – maybe even oak. They have that slightly reddish color like the oak rounds I split recently. Trying to mix the pine pallet wood with split rounds. Since I’m only working part time due to a downturn in company business I’ve been home more, going through more wood.

    I looked at Julius’s diagram of where pallets should be cut – that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. I found a sifter my neighbor gave me years ago. When I empty the wood stove ashes I use it to filter out the nails. Sometimes after cutting one end of the top slats they can be taken off by bending and moving back and forth. Also on the way to get the pallets picked up some old 2x4s from the side of the road. Didn’t appear to be pressure treated. There was also a door so I believe it was from an inside removal.

  10. Still here, still burning wooden pallets. I started scrounging pallets on June fourth of this year, (2021) and have an estimated seven cords of dry, seasoned hard and soft wood. Today is October 2, 2021, which means I have at least a month before the weather turns poopy to keep scrounging and cutting. I’ve expanded my “storage areas” which is fancy talk for “I put some more pallets down” to throw firewood on. Oh, yeah, and I bought a refurbished Makita circular saw last year, but everything else is the same and getting older, just as I am.

  11. Great site and advice.
    I burn heat treated pallets, mainly as kindling and also the blocks used in these pallets along with logs.
    My question is: are the ‘chip board’ type blocks many pallets now use, ok in a stove?
    I’ve steered clear so far but wonder if they are safe to use?

  12. I tend to use my multi fuel stove for just 3 or 4 hours in the evening for 6 months of the year.
    I had my chimney swept yearly but hardly any soot was coming out, so I have it done once every two years.
    We missed last year however so we have had a 3 year gap this time.
    I was surprised how little soot there was given the 3 year gap. I would say not much more than what you could fit into a child’s seaside bucket.
    We are in a bungalow so the chimney length is around 18′
    Do others find this?

  13. Hello ,
    Im disabled and on a fixed tight budget. I have parkinsons and problems with my eyes,so the doctors made me give up my CDL . used to work on the powerlines and such. Anyway, I gather up pallets from lawnmower and small equipment dealers. they seem to have rather thick shipping crates. the wood is almost 3 inch diameter rough swan logs and i also go for the regular pallets. I watch for the HT stamped on them. My Son and i use a sawsall to cut the nails between the pallet boards and we have built a fence with all the wood we accumulated from the planks. As for overfiring, Yes you can overfire your stove if you have a good draw. i also use a barrel stove with kit, in my basement surrounded with concrete, . I have a damper in the flue too, but you have to feed the stove like a baby if you dont have regualr cord wood.All in all its 7 years of heating my house with 80% pallet wood.

    1. David,
      Yes i agree. I also have a barrel stove in the house and find the draft can get the flue to glow a little bit if you dont watch it Julius is right you can overfire your stove,but,and i mean but, its a cleaner fire,and the guys near me sell ricks of wood for over $100 and it still has the crappy bark on it.or its not as dry as they claim and it plugs up your chimney with creosote. I only use the HT stamped pallets and use a battery powered chainsaw to cut them down to make more room in the truck bed. I also start collecting early in the year and and right now,i probably have about 5 to 6 cords of wood. stacked and wrapped in plastic in my basement to keep moisture out.I dont worry about pulling nails out since they cn be collected after being burned and they go into a barrel to be taken to the scrap yard to be sold for steel. WIN WIN.If i didnt have pallets for heating, i couldnt afford to heat my house since the price of wood and other ways to heat is exceptionally high.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *