Why Is Burning Wood a Chemical Change?


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Wood is a popular material in the world and it’s the base material for the formation of a lot of things including buildings, musical instruments and so much more. Mainly wood has a lot of functions in its natural form, it is responsible for the support of the tree and transporting nutrients throughout the stems of the tree. It does this with the xylem and phloem; two of the transport mechanism of the plant. The Xylem tissues transport water while the phloem tissues transport minerals and other nutrients.

For students taking the science classes, the topic of chemical changes is a fun topic to learn and absorb but the question is always common around them; Is Wood Burning a Chemical Change, and Why is Burning Wood a Chemical Change? We would be exploring that in our article today and explain exactly why wood is a chemical reaction and how.

So, Why Is burning wood a chemical change? This is because it’s an irreversible process that triggers a change of state and use of energy and a large amount of heat.  

What is a Chemical Change exactly?

Let’s go back to our basic high school chemistry to answer this question. By a definition, a chemical change is a process in which the atomic arrangement of certain substances i.e. Reactants, changes under the influence of external factors such as temperature, pressure, etc. This is a fancy way of putting it, it simply means a process where a substance undergoes irreversible change and becomes a totally new substance. Wood to ash.

The products formed as a result of a chemical reaction are completely different from the original ones and have different physical and chemical properties. Most people are of the impression that chemical reactions only happen in the lab but in reality, it’s happening all around you; respiration, making chess, burning fuel, striking a match, etc.

We have explored what is a chemical reaction but let’s dive deeper into why exactly burning wood is a chemical change.

Why is Burning Wood a Chemical Change?

chemical change

There are certain things that must hold valid if a reaction is a chemical change and we are going to look through all of them with respect to wood.

• Conservation of Matter

The law of conservation of matter states that matter can neither be created nor be destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another.

This law applies to all chemical reactions and therefore, the chemical equations should always be balanced in terms of atoms.

However, it may seem like some matter is lost as the ash is definitely lighter than the wood but calm down, it will all be explained.

CH4   +   2O2    —->   CO2   +   2H2O

The wood burns with oxygen to give carbon dioxide and water leaving ash as a residue. Since the atoms are balanced, the burning of wood has satisfied this requirement for being a chemical reaction.

• Kinetic energy consideration

For any reaction to happen, energy is needed and in the case of wood, a spark is needed maybe from your matchstick. There are a lot of energy forms and factors to consider in a reaction and they include; catalysts, temperature, the concentration of reactants, etc. influencing the rate of reaction.

The burning of wood is confirmed to be a chemical reaction as an energy source is needed and was produced hence satisfying your curiosity

• Synthesis of new materials

As earlier said, new products are formed in chemical changes/reactions, in this case, charcoal and ash are the new materials formed and differ in characteristics from the original substance.

• Energy Consideration

During a chemical reaction shuffling of atoms take place that requires breaking and formation of chemical bonds hence a constant energy bubble.

And When energy is released in the form of heat, there are terms for them; the reactions are known as endothermic and exothermic, respectively depending on the release of heat with respect to the initial reaction temperature.

Since all the conditions of a chemical reaction are fulfilled in the process of burning wood, therefore, it is a chemical reaction, no need to question it again.


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