There is something very primal about burning wood. All of a sudden, you feel connected to nature. Burning wood is a great way to heat your home or enjoy a quiet night in front of a fireplace. Unfortunately, firewood can be expensive, especially if you buy it in local stores. It can cost $5-$7 per fire unless you do some research. The average price for a cord of wood in the USA is $296. So, it is no wonder people ask: Where can I get free firewood?
Free firewood is available on websites like Craigslist and Freecycle. You can also collect it after a storm or help a neighbor cut down an unwanted tree in the backyard and ask for a part of it. Unwanted wood on construction sites or dumped wood is also an option. You can also harvest your local national forest for a nominal fee.
You will have to use some common sense when collecting free firewood. Realize that you may have to follow specific rules and be mindful of other people when you may be on private property.
What Are the Best Places to Get Free Firewood?
Here is the list of the best places to get free firewood, and maybe some of those will inspire you to think of a few more that may be available in your area.
You can find a lot of useful items on Craigslist, including free firewood. Some people have extra wood, and they are willing to give it away for free. Browse the listings and see if there are any offers in your area.
Freecycle is an online community where you can find many items that people give away for free. This site’s primary goal is to create a low amount of waste, and instead of throwing things, members give it away to those who need it. Regularly check the listings, and you may even find more than one person who will give you their firewood.
How to Prepare to Collect Wood Offered on Craigslist, Freecycle, and Similar Sites
You have to realize that wood offered on Craigslist, Freecycle, and similar sites is not like going to the supermarket and grabbing a nicely packed firewood bundle. Because you are getting the wood for free, it’s not always going to be nice and neat for you to pick up. You may have to be ready to haul it from a backyard to your track.
It may not even be cut for you. You may be expected to chop it before you take it home. Remember that you are getting it for free and the person giving it away may not want to do extra work to help you.
The video below is an example of how to be best prepared for any situation you may encounter while getting your free wood from someone advertising it on Craigslist.
Most housing developments and even single houses need to clear the land before building the homes. In addition, most houses are built with wood in the US. Because of this, there is often a lot of wood available on construction sites.
Building companies are obviously not waiting for individuals to haul the pieces of wood one by one. Most building companies have arrangements with tree and landscaping companies to manage all this. But you may hit a site at the right time, as for permission, and be able to fill your truck with wood.
In addition to wood from clearing trees, construction sites often have many material leftovers, and sometimes, you can find nice pieces of wood ready to go to a dumpster. Ask around some construction sites and see if they let you take some of the available wood. They may be happy if you clear some of the areas for them.
Go around the neighborhood and see if anyone is cutting trees on their property. By collecting the wood leftovers, you will get free firewood and help your neighbor to clean after.
If someone is moving away and they had a fireplace, ask for their extra wood. Maybe you could offer wood trimming services to homeowners and keep what you cut off.
You can even drive around and see if someone dumped their extra wood on the curb.
Severe storms can damage trees in residential areas or parks. Fallen branches are available on the ground, and you can drive around and collect whatever you find. Many homeowners will be removing those branches, or even fallen trees, from their property, so you can ask to take it.
For example, in late July and the beginning of August 2020, Hurricane Isaias became a strong tropical storm that caused significant damage to the USA’s east coast. I remember driving through Dover in Delaware and seeing many trees down that needed to be cleared off the properties.
Many neighbors would have been thankful if you could have helped them clear their backyards of broken branches and trees. Just like we said about Craiglist and Freecycle above, to get wood after a storm, you need to have the right tools. You also need to obtain permission before you enter private property.
The video below is a reminder of tropical storm Isaias in Dover.
In almost every area, you can find a dumping site, sometimes even illegal ones. You can find leftovers from construction projects there, and you can take it and use it as free firewood.
Sawmills are businesses where wood is cut and shaped to be used for commercial purposes. They often have imperfect cuts or leftovers they can’t or don’t want to sell. Sawmills pay money to other companies to get rid of it, so they should gladly give you as much as you need.
Although it is not usually completely free, national forests can be harvested for firewood for a small fee, ranging from $10 to $20 per permit. In some areas, collecting fallen branches can be done free of charge. This is good for the forest since you are cleaning out the dead trees, which would otherwise rot and waste.
With this permit, you are allowed to get a lot of wood, much more than what the average family would need for a year.
To get a firewood cutting permit, sometimes called fuel wood permit, you can follow these three steps:
- Determine which one of the nine forest service regions you belong to.
- Contact or visit your nearest national forest district office from within your region. You may also purchase a permit via mail.
- Buy a fuel wood permit.
You definitely need the right tools and skills to take advantage of this opportunity. The video below is an example of how you can legally harvest timber on public land and help the forest.
Some small companies use wood as part of their core business. For those living in small communities where people know each other, locating those places and cooperating with them will be even easier. Visit them and ask if they have wood they don’t need.
Landscaping and Land Clearing Companies
Trees in public places, such as parks and streets, are typically maintained by landscaping companies. Some do landscaping services on private properties too.
Sometimes these companies sell the wood they collect, but other times, they may have so much that they may not have enough storage space to keep it. You may want to find a local company that does this kind of work and ask for free wood leftovers.
Church and Charity Organizations
Churches and charities often distribute firewood to those in need. Just keep in mind that this should be done only if you can’t afford it. Otherwise, leave this option for those who depend on it. Even if this service is not available in your local church, they will probably tell you where to go to get it.
Rules or Tips About Collecting Free Firewood
Before you start collecting free firewood, you have to know what is permitted and what is not. There are also a few useful tips you should be aware of.
Ask for Permission
Taking something without permission is stealing. Even if it seems abandoned, if you know the owner, inform the person about your intentions.
The same goes for wood leftovers on construction sites and similar locations. If you decide to collect fallen wood, ask the property owner for permission. If you are polite, maybe they will tell you next time they have extra wood too, so they could become your almost permanent free firewood source.
Clean the Mess
Wherever you find firewood, especially if it needs to be cleaned from leaves or small branches, you should clean up afterwards. Try to leave the location as clean as it was before. This is especially important in residential areas.
- Search for firewood in late spring or summer, when other people do not think about winter and heating. By doing so, you can find enough to last you a long time.
- Try to be first at the scene. Many people want to get free firewood, so if you see that your neighbor is moving away, or cutting down trees, ask them immediately. Offering help would be even better. The same goes for construction sites. Get there when there are no wood leftovers and have a conversation with the construction guys.
- Try to find illegal dumpsites. Permission is not needed to take firewood from those places, and you will actually do a good deed and clean up someone’s mess.
- Try not to collect old furniture or treated wood because burning those can be harmful.