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Wood burning stoves are becoming an increasingly popular way to heat homes. Not just due to their aesthetic appeal, but for many practical reasons too.
Unlike other forms of fuel, wood heat allows you to take control of your energy bills, improve your energy security and become self-reliant.
One of the major reasons for this is due to the cost and accessibility of firewood in many locations.
To make maximum savings, it’s also useful to know where you can get free firewood or at least very cheap firewood. This doesn’t just mean scavenging but also taking advantage of free firewood programs located throughout the country.
With that said, here are some of the best places to source free firewood or at least very inexpensive wood.
Scavenging Fire Wood Locally
Scavenging wood from local sources is probably the main method that springs to mind for most people. It can be quite an effective way to get free firewood or at the very least firewood at a fraction of the cost of commercial wood.
First things first, it’s essential that you always ask permission from the landowner that the tree or wood is located on. You never know what they intend on doing with the wood themselves, so it’s wrong to assume that it’s free for the taking.
Great places to find local free firewood include construction sites where trees have recently been felled. Keeping a lookout for dead or dying trees in your local area is also a great tactic, although may require you to fell the tree. This is obviously more work, but often provides a substantial amount of free firewood.
Recycling Waste Wood
Old furniture that is in disrepair can often be a great source of firewood. If you don’t have any of your own, ask friends and neighbors. You may also find waste wood products in local landfills, woodworkers yards or construction sites. Just make sure to take extra care removing nails, staples, and screws.
Many people have good success getting access to old wood pallets. These are widely used in manufacturing, construction and transport and so are incredibly common. Once they have come to the end of their life, they are usually given away for free. So it’s certainly worth locating your local wood pallet supplier or enterprises that use them in your area.
Online Sources of Free Firewood
Perhaps one of the most accessible ways to access free woods is online, from websites such as Craigslist, Facebook and even Twitter. You will often find people cutting down trees in their neighborhood who would genuinely appreciate it being removed free of charge by someone who is going to put it to good use.
Of course, you will need to have some mode of transportation and maybe a chainsaw, although you will find that many people cut them into logs that are ideal for burning in stoves and fireplaces.
An effective tool to collect firewood are band saws, these will make the job quick and efficient to achieve. Here is a good article covering what you should avoid in terms of wood cutting with a saw.
National Forests Tree Cutting Permits
Although you will usually need to seek permission from the forest ranger or forest district office, many national forests issue permits allowing people to cut trees and wood in certain locations they deem appropriate.
You will typically need to be issued with a Forest Service-issued permit and adhere to strict guidelines, however, it is a very convenient way to gather free wood for your stove or fireplace. Check out the US Forestry website for more information on the tree cutting guidelines.
Astonishingly, in 1982 the National Forests combined issued more than 600,000 permits to cut firewood, which just goes to show how the country still heavily relies on such an ancient resource.
Local Tree Cutting Services
You will easily find a range of tree cutting services in your area and as they cut down trees for a living they will often have an abundance of spare wood.
You may discover that this is easier in some areas than others, for instance, in Concord, where I am located wood is highly valued, although my sister in New Jersey often has an easy time getting free wood since tree cutters have to pay to dispose of their wood.
As this has become increasingly popular, you will find that many companies have a form on their websites, where you can easily provide your contact details, giving you another easy backup option for locally sourced free wood.
State Cut-Your-Own Firewood Programs
You will also find that many states offer you the opportunity to cut your own wood from forests and woodlands. Although this is not typically free of charge, it is incredibly cheap, with many states offering a chord of wood for as little as $10 to $20, and a minimum of one chord per trip.
In addition, you will nearly always need to bring your own chainsaw and transport, so bear this in mind. The conditions and criteria vary from state to state, so always do your research.
For example, Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a permit to cut four cords of wood starts at $20. There is also a list of conditions including having to tag the wood you cut and where and when you can harvest wood. To locate your nearest National Forests and Parks by State check this Map.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers cut-your-own firewood permits for State Forest land in Chenango, Madison, and Broome counties.
As mentioned above, they use a lottery to choose the locations you are permitted to harvest wood. They typically sell cords of wood for $15 per cord, with a minimum of three cords per sale. You will know which trees to harvest as the Rangers will have tagged them.
If you are interested, you can find out more by contacting the DEC in Sherburne for Chenango and Madison Counties at (607) 674-4017 or Kirkwood for Broome County at (607) 775-2545.
The New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry allows firewood to be cut for your own use only. They allow this in 6 statewide forests and cords are sold at $20 per cord, with a cap of 6 cords per harvest season.
You will be permitted to remove wood from trees picked out in specific locations and like many other states, you will need to supply your own cutting materials and transport.
Transporting Firewood in the United States
As a responsible wood stove owner, it’s important to be aware of your duty to transport wood with awareness for the environment and conservation. Today, many states also have regulations and laws that govern the transportation of wood products.
Firewood may itself be dead, but it often still remains a viable habitat for many bugs and insects. The main issue with this is that many of these are potentially invasive species that could also carry diseases. If allowed to take hold in another area, they could lead to catastrophic consequences to forests, woodland, and other animal species.
An example of an invasive species is the emerald ash borer, which as their name suggests bore into ash trees. Without being transported by humans, these insects generally stay in their local habitat.
For these reasons, it’s important to check the restrictions and rules for transporting firewood in your state. Many states have rules restricting the movement of wood products beyond a 50-mile radius, which is a general recommendation.
Alternatively, you could buy the wood prepared and cut from the local supplier of your choice, although, bear in mind that convenience typically has a higher price.
Although using wood as a fuel to heat your home is much cheaper than many other options including gas, electricity, and oil, it can be expensive particularly at certain times of the year, or if you reside in an area of high demand.
However, the good news is that there are many great methods out there to source free firewood or cheap firewood locally. With a little research and due diligence, you can save even more money on your heating bills.