Is It Safe to Burn Fence Panels? Read This First!


A couple of summers ago, I was faced with the task of getting rid of an old fence panel that a friend of mine owned. Through disposing of the panels in my friend’s backyard and understanding the precautions of it, I learned a lot on how to properly dispose of fence panels.

It is usually safe to burn fence panels made out of wood. However, any additives including paint, primer, and other types of chemicals may release toxins when the fence is burned. Take precautions and be sure to remove any type of top posts or other accessories that are not made out of wood.

We will go more into detail on these things below.

Things to Consider:

Is It Made Of Wood?

If the material is NOT made of wood, do NOT burn it. This includes plastic, metal, aluminum, and vinyl panels. This article primarily talks about wood fence panels, as it is safe to burn. If it is not made of wood, there are plenty of resources to help you get rid of your old fence panels and get started with something new! Recylcing is usually available for many different types of fencing material.

Is It Legal?

There are some places in which it is illegal to burn certain materials such as fence panels. It is illegal in some areas to burn certain types of wood as it can release chemicals in the air, cause health risks. You can be cited for irresponsible burning.

The United States has announced it’s own burning laws, called State Implantation Plans, and each plan is widely different. Check out this website and find your state to see what policy applies to you and the requirements that must be met. If it happens to be illegal in your state, there are other options to dispose of your wooden fence. Your local landfill will most likely let you drop off your old fence and if you cannot haul it yourself, there are many companies that specialize in hauling junk that will take it off your hands for a fee.

Where Are You Burning It?

Veterans of burning fence panels recommend burning your fence panels in an open, outdoor area so it doesn’t affect you in a confined space. This allows the smoke to dissipate quickly in a large space, minimizing the damage it can cause to you and others.

Not burning it in an outdoor area can lead to dangerous chemicals reacting to places in your home, lead to unforeseen incidents with other chemicals commonly in your home (i.e air fresheners), and it isn’t the safest option in case a chemical did get on it (in the worst-case scenario).

Is There Any Fence Preserver/Polish On It?

Be aware of any chemicals that may be on your fence. Check out this site from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine what chemicals you may have and the best route to burn them safely.

If your fence looks glossy in any way, we do not recommend you burn it since it probably has some sort of chemical on it. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry, especially with fence panels.

Are There Any Subtle Chemicals On It?

Check what type of wood it is and how it has been treated over the years. If you don’t know, don’t bother with burning it; remember the rule of thumb! If you used any sort of new chemical or agent on your fence panel, check the labeling on the packaging to make sure that you are good to go in terms of burning your wood.

Most agents have a Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) label that helps you better understand the risks the chemical can cause. There is a great video on how to read HAZCOM labels so you can make the best decision right here.

There are some specific chemicals to look for as you decide whether your wood fence panel can be burned. Here are some common things to look for:

  • Does it have radium?
  • Does your panel have any form of arsenic material on it? If so, do not burn it as those chemicals are hazardous Source
  • Check if your fence is painted white, as it may have lead in it. However, the more neutral the fence color, the better.
  • Pressure-treating can also leave behind chemicals and make fences hazardous to burn, so please be aware of that.

Do They Have Any Fence Tops?

Is there any sort of decorative fence tops on top of it? Fence tops are almost always made of metal and aluminum and are hazardous and deadly to put in fires. If you’re not sure what your fence top is made out of, it is best to not take the chance. Most recycling agencies take scrap metal, so there are options to get rid of your scrap wood. It is simple to find the closest recycling center to you on the internet.

Are There Any Loose Materials?

Remove any loose materials that are not fire-friendly. So anything with metal is a no go. No screws, poles, or any type of decorative material should be present when you burn the wood. In some fences there are nails in the side and on the bottom to fasten it together, so double check to make sure there aren’t any loose nails anywhere. This is very important, so it is crucial to be thorough in this step.

A Word Of Caution

Please keep these things in mind as you prepare to burn your wood fence panel. As a reminder, please remember to check your local laws before burning wood fence panels and also make sure to take an extra level of precaution when burning wood fence panels. It is usually safe and simple to burn wood fence panels, but you need to make sure you are being a responsible member of your community.

If handled improperly, burning fence panels can lead to injury, sickness, or death. Be careful out there!

Burning a wood fence may seem to be difficult but it can prove to be a lot more cost-effective.

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