Does Wood Conduct Electricity? Can Electricity Travel Through Wood?

Woman holding wood wonders does wood conduct electricity, is wood a conductor of electricity (is wood conductive, and can electricity travel through wood and wishes to have conductors and insulators explained.

Have you ever wondered, does wood conduct electricity? Both wood and electricity are important aspects of human life.

Wood is found all over in nature, in gardens, yards, parks, and of course in the wilderness in living form. It is also a popular construction material for buildings, furniture, art, and much more.

Electricity is also everywhere, it exists in nature, from lightning to static. And of course, electricity is an essential energy source for people around the world.

So does wood conduct electricity? This question could be asked out of curiosity or a desire for safety in the workplace or the home.

The answer is, of course, it depends.

This guide explains the electrical conductivity of wood and the factors that determine it.

Is Wood Conductive?

The short answer is no, wood is not ‘conductive.’

However, the main components of wood are lignin and different kinds of cellulose.

This means that it does not have the free electrons that are usually required for an electrical charge to pass through a material.

In other words, wood is an insulator and not a conductor.2

Cellular Structure of Wood

Wood is the structural material of trees and makes up the majority of stems and roots.3 Is wood a renewable resource?

Of course, plant types other than trees have wood, such as various shrubs, but for the purposes here wood should be taken as an example. Its job within the tree is both structural and mechanical as it is responsible for conveying things like water and nutrients within the tree.

It is composed mostly of cellulose within a matrix of lignin. So does wood conduct electricity?

Most of the atoms that comprise wood have their valence electrons strongly connected to the nucleus, and therefore wood is considered an insulator that does not conduct electricity. However, sometimes it can, which depends on a couple of factors.


Electricity is something that most people are dependent on in their daily lives, yet few understand how it actually works.5

It can seem like a highly technical and daunting topic, but in reality, the basics are straightforward.

Graphics with text that shows the factors influencing the electrical conductivity of wood such as moisture, wood type, temperature, length, fake wood and finishes, and current.

Electricity is just a word used to encapsulate all the phenomena associated with electrical charge.1

Electric Charge

An electrical charge is a property that means something will experience some type of force when within an electromagnetic field. This sounds complicated but everyone has experienced it.

The charge can be either positive or negative – usually as a result of being carried by protons or electrons – and a positive charge repels a positive charge and a negative repels a negative. This is one of the similarities between how electricity works and how we commonly experience magnetism.

Something without a net charge is called neutral.

Electric Current

Electric current is commonly known as the continuous movement of charged particles through space. In other words, it just means the movement of an electric charge.

This space can be empty, or the particles can move through an object, for example, a wire. The particles themselves are, in engineering, most commonly electrons or ions.

They are what carry the charge. The strength of the current can be called the amperage and be measured using a device called an ammeter.

These currents can create magnetic fields to be used in various kinds of technology. They can also produce heat, for example within a lightbulb.

This human-generated electricity is often what we mean when we use the term shorthand and consider topics like the carbon footprint of electricity. Most people learn in elementary school that the basic atomic particles of atoms are neutrons, protons, and electrons, with the neutrons being neutral, the protons being positively charged, and the electrons being negatively charged.

The protons and neutrons do not move easily because they constitute the nucleus of the atom. Electrons however move around the nucleus, they are what give the nucleus its solar system look.

Photo that shows electric current between two objects making them a good conductor of electricity.

(Image: israel palacio9)

They are also the lightest particles. Usually, it is the movement of these light electrons that is the conduction of an electrical current, in other words, the movement of an electrical charge.1

Conductors and Insulators

Whether an object is a conductor or an insulator depends on how it reacts when charged. Conductors will allow the charge to flow from particle to particle, through the object.

By contrast, insulators will impede that electron movement across itself. When an insulator is charged, the charge generally remains at or near the place where the charge is applied.

Conductor of Electricity (Conductor in Science)

As mentioned, a conductor is an object that allows the transfer of charged particles. If a charge comes into contact with a conductor at a given location, the charge will be distributed across the entire surface of the conductor, usually through the movement of electrons.

This distribution will occur until the charge has reached homeostasis. How does this work?

Well, since the ability of a material to conduct electricity is a direct result of the capacity for movement of its electrons, it all depends on how tightly the electrons are tied within their atoms. With metals, for example, the outermost electrons are only loosely tied within their atoms and are often exchanged between other atoms.

This is why electricity is conveyed so readily by metals.1

Does Wood Conduct Electricity if It Is Wet?

Yes, wood does conduct electricity if it’s soaked with water, and this is one of the most common ways wood conducts electricity.6

This is because a large amount of wood contains water, and water is an excellent conductor of electricity.

How Trees Store Water

The cellulose and lignin structure of wood allows trees to stand tall and firm, but it has other functions as well. It contains the tree’s vascular system which transports water, nutrients, and various other substances to move around the tree.7

They are responsible for the conduction of water from the tips of the roots to the edges of the leaves. So in wood that is alive, water is stored in cell walls, in the protoplasm of the wood cells, and also just as free water in space within the tree.

There are three basic categories of tree wood: bark, sapwood, and heartwood. The bark is not usually used for construction wood applications.

Sapwood is the young outer wood and its main job is to conduct water. Heartwood is the inner, more aged wood that has undergone a chemical transformation which affords it better resistance to forms of decay.

How Water Conducts Electricity

You may think of water as a good conductor of electricity. After all, it is mentioned that wood only conducts electricity when it is wet.

But like pure wood, pure water is an insulator that does not conduct electricity well. This is because pure water has no charge and will not sustain a significant electric current.

However, pure water rarely occurs in nature. Water from your tap, the rain, the sea, etc. is not pure water.

They contain countless other chemical impurities such as salts and minerals. These particles are charged ions.

They are what allow electricity to flow through water and have given it a reputation for being such a good conductor. A relatively small amount of impurities is sufficient for this.2

Can Electricity Travel Through Wood? Does Wood Conduct Electricity?

So yes, due to the moisture content of wood and the mineral content of water within wood, wood can conduct electricity.

The main factor in determining its conductivity is the moisture content.

Dried wood will have a significantly lower capacity for this than wet, living wood.

How To Dry Wood

Wood drying is either natural air drying or some type of artificial drying.8 There are a variety of methods used to dry wood from freeze-drying to chemical seasoning, but by far the most common methods are air drying and kiln drying.

For air drying, the wood is simply exposed to air for a prolonged period. Usually, timber will be stacked in a cool dry, and shaded location.

How fast it dries will of course depend on air circulation, the climate, etc. Air drying is considered to be the least expensive and slowest method of drying.

It can take months to years to complete. It is also considered to produce the highest quality dried wood.

As such it is favored by almost all artisans. Kiln drying just means the artificial introduction of heat.

This can be done using simple gas or electrically powered heat or through less conventional means like solar and steam. In professional applications, the temperature, humidity, and circulation are specifically controlled.

The advantages of kiln drying are that if the temperature is hot enough it can guarantee the death of fungi and insects along with lowering the moisture content below what would be practically feasible with air drying alone.

Other Factors

As mentioned moisture content is probably the biggest factor in determining the conductivity of wood. Usually, if the moisture content is 8% or below, the wood will have extremely low conductivity.

However, there are other factors at play.

Wood Type

It has been noted that certain wood types are better conductors than others. These are those that have horizontal fibers and may be due to the ability to store water or the ability of electrons to move between the stored water molecules.


Temperature affects the ability of wood to conduct electricity. Higher temperatures mean higher conductivity because the viscosity of the ions increases.


For wood to conduct electricity from one object to another, the current has to move along its length. Since electricity loses power with movement, the larger the piece of wood, the less it will practically be able to conduct electricity across its surface.

The smaller the piece of wood, the better as a conductor.

Fake Wood and Finishes

Various kinds of composite wood materials, often made of chemical pulp, will conduct electricity differently than real wood. This will be dependent on their specific chemical makeup.

In addition, real wood can be industrially treated with various chemicals, which can change its conductivity.2


The frequency of the electrical current applied will be a factor in whether the current can make it through the wood. Stronger current, i.e. higher voltage, will go farther.

Is Electricity Safe With Wood?

Electricity is not necessarily safe for all wood. If the wood is wet it can conduct electrical current, which, depending on the strength, could pose a danger.

The safest way is to consult a professional before doing something you deem could be potentially dangerous.

Is Wood Heat Resistant?

In general, wood is not considered heat resistant. Of course, it can be used to make houses and furniture and easily withstand everyday temperatures.

But if you are thinking about applying fire to it, you should know what is going to happen. There are a couple of ways wood can become heat resistant.

This usually involves a chemical treatment for example with things like boric acid and ammonium phosphate. In conclusion, wood is not a good conductor of electricity, however, it is excellent at holding water.

is wood conductive

(Image: Paula10)

And while water is not a good conductor of electricity it is excellent at holding minerals which are excellent conductors of electricity. Therefore, wood as it exists in nature can be considered a good conductor of electricity due to the mineral-rich water it holds.

Of course, it will usually not conduct as well as metal, but it can conduct well enough that you should take safety precautions whenever using strong electrical currents around it. Always consult your lumber supplier or a trained professional for specific safety advice.

Various other factors such as wood treatment type and temperature must be taken into account to answer the question, ‘Does wood conduct electricity?’4

Frequently Asked Questions About Does Wood Conduct Electricity

Does Wood Hold Moisture?

Wood has a very high moisture-holding capacity. The exact amount of water held by wood is determined by a large range of factors, but in a natural setting, drier wood will almost always be older, dead wood.

Which Dry Wood Is Best?

In general air-dried wood is considered the superior product. Air drying will remove moisture and therefore the conductivity of the wood.

Read More About Does Wood Conduct Electricity


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3Wikipedia. (2023, November 13). Wood. WIKIPEDIA. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

4Viktor. (2020, September 10). How Do You Make Heat Resistant Wood? THEDIYPLAN. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

5NYU | TISCH & ITP. (2023). Electricity: the Basics. NYU. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

6Lehigh University. (2009, May). ELECTRICITY – A Secondary Energy Source. LEHIGH. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

7Purdue University. (2021, September 02). Purdue Landscape Report: How do trees use water? PURDUE. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

8Reeb, J. E. (2023). Drying Wood. OREGONSTATE. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from <>

9Two square blue LED lights Photo by israel palacio. (2018, August 13) / Unsplash License. Resized. Unsplash. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from <>

10Brown Firewood Photo by Paula. (2016, July 25) / Pexels License. Resized. Pexels. Retrieved November 22, 2023, from <>