Using a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove to heat your home doesn’t have to cost you lots of money. You can find free firewood if you know where to look.
With the right tools, a little planning, and good manners, you can scavenge wood of all sorts. You might even score enough to sell and make some money, too.
Online Sources of Free Firewood
Craigslist, Facebook’s Marketplace, and Freecycle.org are all great places to find free firewood. Many times, homeowners who’ve trimmed or felled trees have no use for the downed wood. They don’t want to pay to have it hauled off, though.
Spring is the best time to look for such listings since that’s when most people prune trees and shrubs. Don’t forget your own tree trimmings are also a great source of free firewood, too.
Local Storm Clean-Up
When storms knock down branches or whole trees in your area, start cruising neighborhoods for free firewood. Lots of people will leave it on the curb or post notices on a church or community bulletin.
It’s worth calling tree surgeons or companies in your area to see if any give away firewood for free. Ask your power company, too, since they often have tree companies on contract to remove branches threatening power lines.
If the tree company wants you to pay for it, you can still get it if the dump lets you take discards. (Some let it season then turn it into mulch.)
Many people don’t know that national forests will let you harvest firewood. You need a permit, but the cost is around $5. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the participating states, it’s a great way to get almost-free firewood.
Real estate developers usually clear all or most of the trees on a lot before construction. Sometimes, they’ll have a burn pile on-site, but many areas ban such practices. Some are happy to let you haul away the downed wood—ask first, though.
Free Wood Pallets
Wood pallets make excellent firewood if they’re not made of pressure-treated wood. Small stores and garden centers are the best sources. (Larger businesses have contractors who pick up the used ones.) Don’t get grabby without asking.
Tips for Bringing Home Free Firewood
There are a few things to consider before you start searching for firewood. Besides knowing woods to look for and avoid, you’ll need the right tools and a place to store what you’ve found.
What Type of Firewood to Look For
Hardwoods like maple, oak, ash, and fruit trees burn the longest and hottest. Softwoods like fir, pine, and balsam burn well but cause dangerous creosote buildup in your chimney. So, have your chimney inspected annually.
What Type of Firewood to Avoid
Some woods produce hazardous fumes. Others burn so hot or produce so much creosote that they can damage your fireplace or wood stove. So, for your safety, don’t burn:
- Painted or varnished wood, trim, or other wood by-products.
- Pressure-treated lumber.
- Engineered materials like plywood, particleboard, and MDF.
- Hardboard or other compressed paper products.
What Tools You’ll Need to Cut Firewood
Once you’ve got your free firewood home, you need to cut it to size and let it it dry out (or season) before use.
- Cut it to length: If the wood is too big for your fireplace, use a chainsaw or ax to cut it into 16-inch lengths—a process known as “bucking”.
- Split it: Use an ax or rent a hydraulic wood-splitter to cut thick logs into pieces that are no more than 6 inches in diameter. This makes a good side hustle after storms!
How to Store and Season Firewood
Green or wet wood won’t burn well. You’ll need to dry it out, which can take six or more months. To season it, store it in a log rack where air can circulate. Make sure the top layer is bark-side up to protect it from rain.
If you plan ahead, you can clean up after Spring storms and let the wood season over the summer. By winter, your free firewood should be ready to heat your home.
Liked that? Check out my other tips to stay warm without turning up the heat.