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Can You Burn Drywall? Facts & FAQ

man patching drywall

Drywall is a common building material that is found in nearly every modern building. The prevalence of drywall makes it easy to come across. There is plenty of drywall waste left over after all sorts of construction projects. The amount of drywall waste and the number of extra drywall sheets have caused many people to wonder if it is safe to burn drywall. Can you burn drywall to get rid of it? Is burning drywall safe?

The answer in both cases is a pretty resounding no. Drywall is actually incredibly difficult to burn, which is one of the reasons it is so heavily used in modern construction. Even if you did manage to get drywall to burn, it could be extremely dangerous. You should not attempt to burn drywall for numerous reasons.

divider 1 Drywall Is Extremely Fire Resistant

stack of moisture-resistant drywall
Image Credit: Kirill Gorshkov, Shutterstock

Drywall is made from three key components, gypsum, paper, and water. While paper is a flammable material, the paper in drywall is used to hold together a gypsum mixture. Gypsum is not a flammable material, especially when it is mixed with water. The gypsum water mix that makes up most drywall sheets is extremely fire resistant.

Drywall is so fire resistant that 5/8 sheets of drywall commonly meet code as a firebreak. Thick drywall is so hard to burn that it meets fire codes in commercial construction and multifamily residential buildings. Many types of drywall have a notable fire rating. Some drywall will take 30 minutes to burn, but other types can take as long as 2 hours to catch fire. All of these factors make it extremely difficult to get drywall to burn at all, especially in a firepit or residential setting.

Can You Burn Drywall?

Technically, yes. You can get drywall to burn, but it is hard. You would have to put the drywall in an existing fire and wait for it to heat up appropriately. The water in the gypsum would likely have to burn off first before the gypsum started burning. Drywall does not cause large flames like other materials. The gypsum heats and starts to flake. The flakes then break down and turn into powder. The powder then slowly evaporates as it burns away. You will not get a large bonfire while burning drywall, but it is possible to do.

Is It Safe to Burn Drywall?

No. It is not safe to burn drywall. Since drywall is so common, there are dozens of different types, brands, and ages of drywall. Modern drywall made in the United States should be fairly safe to burn if it only contains paper, gypsum, and water, but there is no way to know that. There is a lot of drywall that is imported from overseas. Drywall made overseas is not subjected to the same types of regulations, codes, and standards found in the United States. That means that foreign drywall can contain other dangerous substances that are harmful when burned. There have been additional materials found in drywall, like industrial glues and sulfur, which can be dangerous if burned.

Even without the additives, the hot and fine-grained gypsum powder can be pushed into the air and cause irritation. No one wants to inhale fine, hot dust, but that is exactly what is created when drywall burns. This dust can be an extreme irritant to people. The dust, powder, and gasses put off by burning drywall can even be toxic if inhaled in large quantities or if the smoke gets trapped in a poorly ventilated area.

Even if you can get drywall to burn, you should not do it because the results could be dangerous and toxic to nearby people. The risks are enhanced for people that have breathing problems or allergies.

divider 1 Conclusion

Drywall is extremely difficult to burn and this is because drywall is made from gypsum and water. Gypsum is hard to burn. Water cannot burn. Even if you get drywall going in a fire, it is a slow-smoldering fire with no large flames. But this slow-smoldering action can be dangerous as it produces gas, dust, ash, and hot gypsum powder. You do not want to inhale any of that. The answer is no, you can’t really burn drywall, and even if you could, you really don’t want to.


Featured Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock

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