Heating your home with firewood you got for free is practical, economical and, most importantly, possible! Learn how to get free firewood to burn in your wood stove or fireplace, and keep your home cozy and warm.
Free is always the very best price, especially when it comes to heating my house. Having paid through the nose for electricity and natural gas for many years, the fact that I can keep my house at my ideal temperature (75–80 degrees, of course) all winter using only wood and not paying a dime to do so makes my heart incredibly happy.
In fact, it makes my heart siiiiiiing with joy! It makes me want to share the news! Trees! Forests! Wood! This stuff has been heating our homes for millennia and, when stewarded correctly, is a self-renewing resource!
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Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am incredibly (unbelievably!) lucky and live surrounded by 35 acres of my own timber. But even if you don’t have your own trees to harvest, free firewood is pretty easy to come by. All it takes is a little sleuthing, some conversation, and maybe a trailer to get it home with.
The best time to forage for free firewood is in the spring, after winter storms have wreaked their havoc, and during the spring garden landscaping boom. The second best time is, as they say, now. Even if you can’t use it until next autumn, getting a head start on your firewood now will leave you ready for when the temperatures fall again.
How to Get Free Firewood
Heating your home with firewood you got for free is practical, economical and, most importantly, possible! Read on to find out where and how to get free firewood to burn in your wood stove or fireplace, and keep your home cozy and warm.
1 // Friends and neighbors
This is one of the easiest ways to get free firewood. Just start asking around, or letting your friends know that if they have a downed tree, you’re willing to come get it. Many people, especially in suburban or urban areas, don’t have the tools or time necessary to get rid of fallen trees. Heck, even if they do, they might not need or want firewood. Let them know you’d love to take it off their hands!
2 // Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle
Make sure to check online sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for wood. I have seen so many posts from people who have taken down trees (or had trees fall on their property) and offer it to whoever is willing to cart it away. It never lasts long, so be sure to check often and jump when you see it offered! Also, remember that you’ll probably have to cut it up and haul it yourself, so be prepared. And for liability reasons, never offer or agree to cut down standing trees unless you’re an experienced tree feller.
3 // Arborists and Landscape companies
These people cut down trees and branches every day as part of their job, but like everyone else they have to pay to drop it off at the dump. Call and ask them if they would be willing to drop off logs at your house, or allow you to come pick it up where they are, instead.
4 // State and National Forests
Did you know that you can apply for a permit to cut trees and harvest fallen timber in most state and national forests? It’s true! Because our taxpayer dollars go toward maintaining those forests, in a sense, they belong to all of us! There are guidelines you have to follow, you may have to pay a small fee depending on where you are (usually no more than $20 per cord) and, of course, you have to apply for and get a permit. If you’re looking to stock up for next year in one fell swoop, this is definitely something to check out! Visit this federal website to find out more.
5 // Local County or Parks Departments
I kid you not, just yesterday I saw some folks cutting up a bunch of logs lying beside the roadway. It turns out that when the county or local parks department has to cut down trees along the road, especially in rural areas like mine, sometimes they’ll just leave them there for people to pick up for free! Obviously, please make sure to ask if you spot any trees by the side of the road before assuming they’re free for the taking.
6 // House construction sites
When we built our house, our contractor had to remove about 5 good-sized trees. We opted to cut them up and use them ourselves, but I’ve seen plenty of homes being built where the trees are just carted off to the dump or piled up and burned. Contractors, and some homeowners, are usually more than happy to have people come take the trees instead. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of this unwanted wood!
7 // Chip Drop
I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I literally just found out about Chip Drop a few months ago, so maybe this option will be new to you, too! If you live in a more urban area, Chip Drop is a great option for you. You can sign up to get free mulch or logs (or both) dropped off at your house. The only drawback is that you don’t know when it will happen, or what exactly you’ll get.
8 // Advertise yourself
There’s no shame in asking! Print up a small poster letting people know that you’re looking for trees to cut or windfall to remove. Put these on community boards in churches, supermarkets, the post office, newspapers and feed stores.
How to Season Green Wood
Unless you happened to score a cord of cut and seasoned wood, your’re going to have to cut it and let it cure and dry in a sheltered spot for about six to nine months — although keep in mind that some hardwoods, like oak, can take longer than that!
An easy way to tell if your firewood is dry enough to burn is to use a moisture meter. The moisture content of seasoned wood should be less than 20%; any higher than that and it will be difficult to catch on fire and put out hardly any heat. It will also produce sappy tar-like creosote, which will line the inside of your chimney and potentially catch on fire (it’s also a toxic carcinogen which can cause respiratory and skin issues).
Other signs of seasoned firewood:
- Weight — Seasoned wood is much lighter than green wood
- Smell — Wet wood will still smell sappy, while seasoned wood won’t smell like much
- Cracking — As wood dries it will start to crack on the ends and all along it’s length
- Color — Seasoned firewood will be more grey or bleached-looking
- Bark — The bark layer will easily fall off seasoned firewood
In the end though, the best way to make sure your wood is seasoned long enough is to cut it and keep track of it’s age and storage method yourself.
Free Wood You Shouldn’t Use
There are some free things that are too good to be true, and the following types of wood are, unfortunately, just that:
- Christmas trees
- Pressure or chemically treated pallets
- Painted or treated wood
- Plywood or particle board
- Punk wood
Remember that painted and pressure-treated wood can be full of chemicals that are harmful to your health and will muck up your chimney with creosote! If you’re offered any of these for your fireplace, I would give a firm thanks, but no thanks.
Lastly, a good thing to keep in mind is that even though you can obtain wood for free from many places, you’ll probably have to cut it and haul it yourself. A good pair of gloves, a maul, an axe and a chainsaw are important tools to have when heating with wood. Also, please always ask and receive explicit permission before gathering wood from others!
Do you know of any other ways to get free firewood? Leave a comment below telling us how!
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This post is part of a Self-Reliance Challenge organized by a group of bloggers and websites. The challenge is designed as a way to share ideas for how to increase your self-reliance and live a more abundant lifestyle.