Home » Frugality, Gleaning, Household

Free Firewood

22 May 2012 10 Comments

I love free firewood!

With electricity prices continually increasing, it’s making less and less economic sense to heat your home with electricity. And you can’t beat the warmth and coziness of a slow combustion fireplace.

Getting firewood can be a problem – a cut and split load of seasoned hardwood costs something like $220/ton. If you have a trailer and are prepared to load it yourself, it seems to go for about half that price.

I’m not sure on the exact prices, though, because I’ve never needed to pay for firewood.

Last year, I met a guy through FreeCycle who had a few trees blow down in strong winds. I helped him cut them up and stack the small branches, and could take away as much of the wood as I liked. It took some time, and I had to split it when I got it home, but I got enough firewood to last us a year or more.

I also collected an old hardwood fence that someone was replacing. It burns very well, and fence pailings are easy to cut down to firebox length with a circular saw (be careful of nails) and split with a machete. Perfect kindling!

We have a lot of gum trees on our property, and they drop a lot of sticks we can use as kindling. Sometimes they also drop larger branches, which get added to the firewood pile.

I know of people who use timber pallets as free firewood. You need to be careful they haven’t been chemically treated, though.

There’s an industrial area near where I work, and one of the businesses has big crates of timber offcuts out the front for people to take away as firewood. Presumably it would go to landfill otherwise.

Where do you get your firewood? I’d love to hear from anyone that’s growing their own!

10 Comments »

  • Marijke said:

    Hi, New to your blog. We’ve been carting around firewood most of the weekend. We are on a 25 acre block with plenty of gum trees. We love those trees but we’ve tried to made a bit of a plan with them. We dedicated 15 acres to bushland for wildlife, 10 acres of paddocks that we would like to clear of all new regrowth, but keeping the bigger trees for shade. And then the 5 acres around the house where we aim on establishing a food forest. We’ve lopped some trees for the safety of our house, and some to keep the maintenance/walking track accessible, they are cut, split and drying for next year. We gather sticks for kindling and to make sure they don’t jam the mower/slasher. We try not to waste anything, including timber cut-offs.

    You might find this link interesting: http://www.motherearthnews.com/maxwells-house/a-better-way-to-stack-firewood.aspx we’ve been using this technique to stack our wood and it not only looks pretty it actually works…

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Marijke: It sounds like you’d have as much firewood as you need right there on your property, just from fallen trees and branches. Excellent! I checked out the firewood stacking link, but despite looking great it’d take up too much space for me. I also need to keep the wood up off the ground to avoid harbouring a termite nest. The amount of wood in that photo looks like about 4 years’ worth for us, maybe more! We really don’t burn very much.

  • Dani said:

    Darren – we get our fire wood from the guys who are “Working for Water” (http://www.dwaf.gov.za/wfw/) They are people who are employed to remove the alien vegetation – specifically the Australian Black Wattle – which is over running this country. They charge us ZAR200 ($24) for 1000 pieces – and they even cut it into conveniently sized pieces for my Dover Stove 🙂 2000 pieces would be more than adequate for our needs – so ZAR 400 ($48)is our winter heating / cooking cost.

    A word of caution to you and Marjike who commented above. It is not advisable to use high resin wood (pine and gum tree) in a fireplace, as the resin, even after allowing the wood to dry out, can settle in the chimney flue, and, over time, can cause a fire in the chimney. If you do use high resin wood it is imperative that the flue gets professionally cleaned every year, as flue fires are hidden dangers waiting to happen.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Dani: That sounds like a good deal – getting cheap firewood and helping to control an invasive species (sorry about the wattle, it’s native to my area!). I’m actually planning to plant black wattle out the front of my property, to give us privacy from the road and to keep the unmowable grassy bank under control. I’m planning to coppice it for firewood. It’ll be under power lines, but shouldn’t grow high enough to cause any trouble. Besides, I won’t have to get Council permission to “prune” it if it’s near power lines :-).

    The type of gum Marijke and I are talking about is eucalyptus, not the type of tree that most other countries call “gum” (or sometimes “sweet gum” – we call it Liquidambar here). Eucalyptus is an excellent firewood that burns hot and clean – not at all like the resiny sweet gum. I do have some Cypress, which is a little resiny, but I only burn that once the fire is established and the flue is hot.

    A cold flue and a smoldering, cool smokey fire (e.g. when burning wet or unseasoned wood) are the main causes of creosote buildup, whatever species you’re burning. High efficiency fireplaces (like mine) burn more of the vapourised volatiles; less smoke up the chimney also means less creosote.

    But you’re absolutely right, it’s important to clean the flue periodically. A chimney fire simply isn’t worth the risk!

  • Marijke said:

    Thanks for your concern Dani, chimney has just been cleaned and will be every year. We have to go with what we’ve got…

  • farmer_liz said:

    This is the first year we haven’t had to buy firewood. Last spring we cut up a massive pile of branches (from previous tenant who cut down all the big trees for fence posts) and stacked them up to dry, this winter it has dried out enough split, and the bonus is that the big snake-habitat branch pile is cleaned up! On our new property we have about 100 of these piles to clean up (also owned by a fencer!), so think we should be self-sufficient for firewood from now on. We have considered charging people a small fee to cut their own on our property, but not sure about all the health and safety / liability implications…. we once paid someone $5 to cut wood on their property and fill our ute, it was hard work, but cheap firewood!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @farmer_liz: Wow, it sounds like you have a lifetime’s supply of firewood! You could also use it to build great hugelkultur beds – could be worth a try?

  • Firewood For Life said:

    I’m always on the lookout for nice firewood. We normally cut our own from the trees on our property. We are fortunate enough to have 20 acres full of sugar maple and beech (my two favorite firewood trees). I was outside my house about 4 or 5 days ago during strong winds and heard a huge tree fall somewhere in the woods behind my house. I took my son for a walk tonight and yep…..a nice big beech tree ready to be cut up for firewood. It makes it a lot easer when I can just cut up a blow down.

  • Mike said:

    Hi, I’ve been really enjoying exploring your site – looks like you have a wonderful setup.

    We are based in the UK but have family in Aus. My grandparents beach house is in a area where the Tee Trees are all coming to the end of their natural life and collapsing. Seems like every time they go down there there is another tree to cut up. It is realy changing the feel of the place. Here in the UK we have a small woodland plot that provides all our families firewood needs, although it takes a lot of work to get and stay ahead on the firewood supply!

    Anyway, someone commented about resinous wood causing creosote build up in the chimney. This will only happen if you are doing something wrong:

    wet wood – it needs to be properly seasoned (like 2 years or so, no a few months). Wood loses a lot of moisture quickly but then slows down and takes ages to reach about 20% moisture content.

    too little air – if you try to slow down a fire by restricting the air supply you can end up with a really smokey burn. If you go outside and look at your chimney a good burn will be smoke free, with just a shimer of heat haze. If you are making smoke then you need to give your fire more air!

    Mike

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Mike: Good tips on the resinous wood issue – that matches my research and experience. Thanks for visiting!