How To Dispose Of Wood With Nails (3 Ways To Do It!)

Dennis Howard
by Dennis Howard

With all the rules about recycling household waste, anything out of the ordinary can create confusion. A small repair or remodel project in your home may leave you with construction debris, especially wood with nails. How do you dispose of wood with nails or other metal?

Wood with nails from do-it-yourself home improvement projects is manageable in several ways. You can remove the nails, then recycle the wood and metal separately. Some municipal and private recyclers will accept wood with nails and other small metal objects.

There are many other factors involved in recycling wood waste. The other factors can include:

  • Your local and state ordinances and rules
  • The type of wood waste
  • Any treatments to the wood
  • The amount of wood waste

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Learning the Ropes – Understand the Rules and Regulations

The first place to start is with your local waste management department. Your local waste management department has the best information about what you can dispose of as trash and prepare the waste. Most waste management departments also have lists of recyclers and the materials they will accept.

Why Contact the Experts?

The differences in local and state law on waste disposal and management are like night and day. In some areas, the local rules and regulations for disposing of natural products like wood are lax. In other areas, ordinances can be extremely rigid. It is important to be aware of what your community expects when disposing of wood waste.

For example, in New York City, do it yourself remodeling debris goes in the regular curbside waste pickup. Only homeowner generated debris can go in curbside trash. If you hired a contractor to do the work, the contractor is responsible for removing the wood and other debris.

In municipalities using dumpsters or bins to collect residential waste, the waste wood must fit entirely inside the bin or dumpster. Most do not make any stipulations about nails in the wood. Since most residential waste goes directly into the landfill without being sorted, the nails are not a problem.

What About Recycling?

Recycling your remodeling wood waste is always a much better option than sending it to the landfill. Many cities and towns offer special pickup of larger wood debris. In some areas, you must make an appointment for the debris to be removed. Some recycling operations may have restrictions.

Most recycling centers that accept wood with nails are using large tube grinders that shred the wood waste. Large and powerful magnets then separate any metal from the wood chips. These wood chips are then given away or sold as landscape mulch.

Some of the Restrictions – Keeping Things Clean

Those recyclers who process waste wood into wood chip mulch have restrictions on the kinds of wood they will accept. Metals such as nails, hinges, and doorknobs don’t present a problem. However, treated and manufactured wood products can contain materials making them unfit for use as mulch.

Most wood recycling centers will not accept woods treated with preservatives or insecticidal chemicals. Treated wood typically is died a greenish color when the chemicals are applied. Some treated wood is identifiable by a series of small holes in patterns punched into the wood. In general, these types of wood waste are segregated and placed in special areas of the landfill.

Is Painted or Stained Wood Recyclable?

Most recycling centers will not accept stained or painted wood for recycling into wood chips for mulch. The stains and paint can contain chemicals that could harm the landscape plants when using the mulch.

In older homes, the underlying coats of paint may contain lead. Wood painted with lead paint is a hazardous waste product. Contact a specialist who can handle the lead-based paint safely.

What about Plywood and Particle Board?

Plywood and particleboard pose special problems. The manufacturing process for these materials uses glues and resins to hold the laminates or wood particles together. The presence of these glues and resins make the waste wood unsuitable for recycling. Most waste management rules treat these as the other non-recyclable wood waste.

Repurposing Wood with Nails

In many instances, larger pieces of structural wood with nails is still perfectly suitable for many projects. In some areas, some individuals and companies will pick up larger pieces of wood. Many of these individuals and companies advertise in local newspapers and on social media.

Repurposing wood is much more efficient and environmentally sound than recycling. Reusing wood for other projects keeps the waste wood out of the landfill. Even grinding wood for mulch is costly. The less wood that goes to waste management or recycling means fewer trees cut down for building materials.

Most individuals and companies that repurpose building materials, especially structural wood, will take your waste wood with nails and hinges attached.

Can I Burn my Waste Wood with Nails?

In some instances, wood products from home remodeling projects are burnable by homeowners. There are some factors to consider if you want to burn wood waste.

Is it Legal Where you Live?

It may not be legal to burn waste products in your area. Many locales prohibit any open burning. Check with the Fire Marshall for your city or town. There may be special requirements if you want to open burn waste wood products.

How Will you Burn the Wood?

Some people want to use waste construction debris in a wood-burning stove or fireplace. Fueling a wood stove or fireplace with waste wood is certainly an option. However, make sure that the wood you are burning isn’t treated with any chemicals.

Also, keep in mind that structural wood is dry and often burns hot and very quickly. Be careful not to overload your fireplace or wood stove. Overloading can damage your fireplace or wood stove or result in a chimney fire.

Retrieving the Nails from the Ashes

Many people use the ash from their fireplace or woodstove as soil amendments in their landscape. Before using any ash from construction waste, remove the nails. A magnet is the best method for this and certainly the cleanest.

Can I Compost the Wood Waste?

Composting is always an option. Wood is biodegradable and will break down in a compost pile. However, unless you have a way to turn large lumber pieces into small chunks and chips, the decomposition of the waste wood can take years.

Small wood chips and sawdust are better choices for composting. Larger lengths of wood construction waste are better sent to a recycling center than can grind them into smaller pieces that can then be composted or used as wood chip mulch.

Biomass Energy Production

Some electric utility companies have built generating plants that use wood and other products for fuel sources. These specialized operations take wood waste and other waste products to produce the steam that drives the power plant.

These biomass energy production operations are often partnerships between the electric utility and the city waste management department. A phone call to your waste management department or electric utility will give you the information you need.

Any large scale burning to produce energy involves producing gases and by-products. Overall, burning wood and other biomass are much more efficient and environmentally safe than burning fossil fuels.

The Best Practices for Dealing with Wood with Nails

In short, there are several ways to dispose of wood with nails. Whenever possible, you should consider those methods of disposal in the most environmentally and economical way. We suggest that you prioritize your disposal according to this list.

  • Reuse the material whenever possible. Find ways to repurpose wood material into other projects.
  • Recycle as the next step. If the waste wood meets your recycling center’s requirements, put the wood in the recycling bin.
  • Put the wood in the trash. Make this your last resort.  The goal is to keep as much material as possible out of the landfill.

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Finding the Best Solution

In the end, finding the best solution to disposing of wood with nails depends on your location. Learning about the rules, regulations, and options available in your area is the key. Before you start your remodeling project, it pays to investigate the options.

We hope that this article has given you some insight into how to dispose of wood with nails. Good luck with your remodel.

Dennis Howard
Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

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