Heating a home with wood is generally the cheapest form of heating. But if the firewood supply is rare or expensive in your area, supplementing with scavenged firewood can help to reduce your heating costs. There are many places to find free or almost free wood for burning and in many cases, you may be doing a great service to others.
It should be noted that when dismantling or recycling any wood products, use care and watch for nails or large staples which could ruin your cutting tools and make this free wood, not-so-free.
Follow These Important Firewood Scavenging Rules
- The most important rule in scavenging firewood, is to always ask permission from the property owner before you gather it.
- Be informed as to by-laws or regulations in your area which could prohibit tree removal or pick-up.
- Be a good scrounger and never, ever leave a mess behind.
- Never try to remove a standing tree that could impact hydro lines during the removal process.
- Always ask if the property owner has a preference as to how much stump you should leave.
- Have someone knowledgeable about tree removal with you to reduce the risk of injury.
Dead or Dying Trees
You’ll often see dead trees on commercial or residential property, or near nature trails. In many cases, the property owner does not have time or money to have these removed. Some could be considered hazardous and could injure someone or cause property damage if wind were to bring them down. Ask if you can remove them and take the wood. Many home owners, especially seniors do not have the ability or tools to remove deadfall and you could be helping them by removing this hazard.
Road Log Droppings
In areas where trees are harvested, you can often find small logs on the side of the road that have fallen off logging trucks. Some of this wood may be perfect for burning. Avoid road wood that is embedded with gravel, as attempting to cut this wood could harm your chainsaw.
Downed Trees After a Windstorm
Windstorms can bring down many trees that could and should be removed from access areas. Some home owners need help removing and disposing of such wind debris.
Woodworker Scrap Wood
A local woodworking shop or a hobby woodworker you know may have scrap wood they have no need for. Some of this wood makes excellent kindling and you’re providing a disposal service to them.
New Construction Area Tree Clearing
Where commercial or residential land is cleared for new development or road expansion, there may be heavy brush or cleared trees that can be salvaged for firewood or kindling.
Wood From Pallets
Many consumer goods are stored or shipped on wooden pallets including construction materials and furniture. Often, stores cannot return pallets, have no use for them and are anxious to dispose of them. Pallets can be easily dismantled and the wood recycled or burnt as firewood.
Hydro Line Clearing
Hydro crews regularly remove trees or conduct brushing to control tree growth around and under power lines. While some of the brushing may be run through a chipper, it’s often possible to negotiate a wood/brush removal which will save them time and effort.
Construction sites often have wood scraps or sub-standard lumber that they can’t return or use for the project. This can provide a good opportunity to obtain salvage wood. However, there are sheet products you shouldn’t burn, learn more in: What Not to Burn in Your Heat Stove
Landfill Wood Salvage
Some landfills allow scrap wood removal to reduce the amount of refuse and encourage recycling. Old wood furniture, crates, pallets or old building materials can make good firewood. However, not all wood is safe for burning.
Construction sites often discard end pieces of wood. Ask first then carefully pick out burnable wood. Watch out for nails and pretreated or painted wood. Pretreated and painted wood can give off nasty unhealthy fumes and is not recommended for woodstoves. Manufacturers who have goods and equipment shipped in wooden crates are also good sources for free wood. We have gotten many perfectly good pieces of odd sized plywood from businesses.
I figure since I pay taxes, public lands are great places to get free food. Sometimes a permit is needed or a small fee is required. Check before chopping! Look over the area first and see if what is available is worth your time and money. Contact the local highway department and public works department to find out where they are taking down trees and branches. Often wood is left for the taking. Maybe you can make a good connection and get a lead once in a while on thinning sites. Military reservations, the forestry service, the park service all have wood that is often available. Just spend some time calling the local, state and federal offices found in the yellow pages. Sometimes free just means a phone call.
Landscapers, Tree Doctors and Logging Companies
All of these professionals create wood capable of becoming firewood. Sometimes their employees moonlight and sell firewood from work sites on the side. Call and ask if there are sites you can help clean and haul away their debris. Some wood professionals will decide is too small in diameter to be worth dealing with and it might be available. Establish a relationship with these people and know where work sites will be. A good idea is to bring them coffee, lunch or a six pack once in a while to cement a relationship. Maybe they will even deliver!
Check the free advertising sites on the internet like Craigslist , Freecycle, SuperPages, City Data, Free Ad, Trading Post for postings for free firewood. Also watch the local newspapers, supermarket bulletin boards, church notice boards and free ad papers. Don’t answer ads that say bring logger truck and jammer. Those jobs are for guys with lumber boots, high water pants and striped denim shirts.
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