Have you seen the outrageous retail prices for firewood at grocery, convenience and hardware stores? It amazes me that anyone would pay prices ranging from $5.00 to $7.00 for a few sticks of wood that might only burn for an hour. I recently asked a clerk how much of this overpriced firewood they actually sell and he told me that they had sold two pallets worth in less than a week. At these prices a cord of firewood could cost over $1000! (Based on a face cord with around 215 pieces of firewood between 16” and 18” long) This stuff isn’t for us common folk who rely on firewood for our primary source of heat or have firewood stored as a backup heat source.
There is inexpensive firewood all around us!
For landowners fortunate enough to have wooded acreage, they have a free supply of firewood to meet their needs. But what about the average family or homeowner? There are several fairly inexpensive options that can help you avoid the sticker shock of retail firewood prices.
One option is to call a local tree service. I’ve spoken with several over the years who will gladly drop a load of wood at your house right after they cut down the tree. They will usually charge a small fee for this service but there is still a good bit of work to do splitting and stacking the wood. Another drawback is that the wood isn’t ready to burn and will have to season first. Some tree services process and sell firewood and will deliver seasoned wood to your home for a fairly reasonable price as well.
Another option is a local internet service like Craigslist. Homeowners will often post free firewood as long as the respondent will cut and remove the wood themselves. You should be cautious when responding to these listings as many of the free offerings are for pine trees. Pine doesn’t burn as hot as hardwoods and can create a fire hazard due to creosote buildup. There are also plenty of local sellers of firewood on Craigslist offering delivery and even stacking for a fee. Again, be cautious and ask about the type of wood being sold and inquire as to the sellers definition of “seasoned”.
Six cords of firewood $20!
The last option we will examine is one of the best in my opinion and is often overlooked by suburbanites; the National Forest. I know it seems like a no brainer, but were you aware that you can get six cords of firewood for $20! National Forest offices and some ranger stations sell a fuel wood permit that is good for one year and allows the permit holder to gather six cords of firewood. Here are the frequently asked questions about the fuel wood permit from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia.
Check with a Forest Service office for details and any required forms. After you receive your permit, make sure that you understand where you can gather wood and what wood you can cut BEFORE heading to the forest. The best rule of thumb is only to cut trees that are dead AND down on the ground unless you are given other instructions from a Forest Service official. After the derecho that barreled through the Mid-Atlantic back in 2012, many forest areas were opened up to allow cutting down of trees that had severe damage. This example is an exception, certainly not the rule.
The other great thing about gathering wood in a National Forest is spending time outdoors. Pack up the family, get some fresh air and make a day of it. You never know what you’ll see when you head out and you might just find the perfect log to make the Pinterest planter box your wife has been telling you about for a year.