How to Find Free Fuel for a Wood Burning Stove!

Beat Economic Woe, Recession, and the Energy Crisis

Wood-burning stoves are increasingly popular and are a great way to be green and to reduce energy costs at the same time. The easiest way to get wood, if you can afford it, is to pay for it to be delivered. The price obviously varies according to where you live and local market conditions. A typical price in the UK for wood cut and split ready to burn is around £50 ($75) for a small truckload or £150 ($220) a ton. In the US and Canada it is often measured in cords. One cord is a pile 4 ft by 4 ft by 8 ft (128 cubic feet) which typically costs around $300.

The good news is we can get firewood for nothing. Yes, free wood! Whilst buying wood is cheaper than oil, gas, or electricity, the best solution is to find it for free.

So Where do You Get Free Wood?

Well it depends where you live: Which continent and country, what your local terrain is, and whether your surroundings are urban or rural.

I live close to the ocean on the southern coast of England. So here is one radical suggestion. In 2009 a container ship shed its cargo of timber along our coastline. Of course, you would need a truck to pick it up. However, collecting cargoes from wrecked ships is an ancient tradition in the UK.

A dog stands near timber on a beach in Ramsgate, south eastern England. Approximately 1,500 tonnes of the wood was lost from the Russian-registered cargo ship Sinegorsk on Monday 19 Jan 2009. (Picture from the BBC News website)
A dog stands near timber on a beach in Ramsgate, south eastern England. Approximately 1,500 tonnes of the wood was lost from the Russian-registered cargo ship Sinegorsk on Monday 19 Jan 2009. (Picture from the BBC News website)

Unfortunately, Ramsgate is around 100 miles from my home and I don't own a truck. On the other hand, I live in lightly wooded suburbs and my house backs onto a wooded section of the local golf course.

1. Search Woodlands

I therefore scavenge the woodland for fallen branches. There is loads of fallen pieces in different sizes which I can carry or drag back to my house (luckily, I have a back gate that opens onto the golf course).

There is a good variety of deciduous trees, from oak (which is a hardwood and is long burning) to birch (which burn quicker and are better for starting the fire). The great thing about this approach is the only energy expended in creating the fuel is my muscle-power and I can certainly do with the exercise!

Tree Surgeons Often Have Timber to Spare
Tree Surgeons Often Have Timber to Spare

2. Tree Surgeons

Call up local tree surgeons and offer to take unwanted material off their hands. Generally they will keep and sell on hardwoods such as oak but are happy to offload softwoods such as pine or smaller branches and may even be prepared to leave it in your driveway.

Otherwise they need to dump the waste wood and, in the UK, the local authority makes a significant charge for accepting trade waste. It will often end up in a landfill site; a tremendous waste of good fuel.

3. Builders

Builders, when demolishing or refurbishing buildings, often have to dump or burn old timber in the form of joists, floorboards, cladding, etc. Phone them or visit the site and offer to remove unwanted wood.

4. Timber Merchants and Wood Manufacturers

People who cut up timber or use it to manufacture things like furniture often produce unwanted offcuts. These have to be taken away and dumped. If you phone them you may find they have skips behind their premises where the public can remove the unwanted material.

Furniture Manufacture Produces Unwanted Offcuts
Furniture Manufacture Produces Unwanted Offcuts

5. Websites

There are now lots of websites dedicated to recycling. These are often run by charitable groups or volunteers. Typically people advertise things they want to get rid of and either offer them for free or for a small payment. You'll often find either scrap timber or wood from tree pruning being offered free as long as you are prepared to collect it.

Sites like eBay or Craigslist also offer timber for collection or delivery but typically there will be a price to pay.

6. Pallet Suppliers

Pallets designed for handling by forklift trucks are often recycled. Businesses that do this will find a proportion of the pallets they handle are damaged and these get thrown away. These businesses are another potential source.

7. The Dump, Skips, and Recycling Centres

If you visit your local dump or recycling centre you may encounter people dumping burnable wood. Why not ask if you can take some of it away to save them dumping it?

If a neighbour or local business is having some building work done and there is a skip outside the premises, then this is another useful source. Ask if you can remove any burnable timber. Hopefully they say yes as it leaves more room in the skip for other waste.

Skips of Builder's Waste Can Be a Useful Source of Firewood
Skips of Builder's Waste Can Be a Useful Source of Firewood

8. Spare Wood at Home

If you're like me then you'll have lots of odd bits of timber in your garage, yard, or garden. Why don't you sort out what you aren't going to use and them turn it into firewood?

Old fencing burns well, as does an old wooden shed. Perhaps your trees need a prune? Get thinking and you'll probably find you have plenty of free wood in your own home.

If you then extend this search to family, neighbours, and friends, you'll find that your woodpile will grow rapidly. Some friends of ours rang me recently because they'd taken their old shed down and wondered if I wanted some of the material.

Damaged Pallets Make Good Free Fire Wood
Damaged Pallets Make Good Free Fire Wood

From Cut Branch to Firewood

So how do you convert a huge tree branch into burnable fuel?

  1. First you need to cut it into lengths that will fit in the stove. A chainsaw is ideal for this. If the diameter of the branch is more than around 4 inches, then you'll also need to split the wood along the grain into 2 or more pieces using a splitting axe.
  2. Finally you'll need to store it for around a year to allow it to 'season' or dry out.

Free Firewood Heaven!
Free Firewood Heaven!

Comments 24 comments

eovery profile image

eovery 7 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

I love a good wood fire. I might go and light one in my fireplace. It isn't very efficient, so I do not use it a lot.

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England Author

Yes I had the same problem until I got a wood stove fitted. There is something great about a real log fire!

Vivenda profile image

Vivenda 7 years ago from UK (South Coast)

Hmm - so THAT'S why you're always hanging about in the woods...

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England Author

Vivenda - You can talk - you look like a squirrel to me - where do they hang out?

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Great suggestions for those needing firewood! One that I would add is that in most states, you can get a permit from the Forestry Division to cut dead wood from state parks for your own heating use.

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England Author

Thanks for that Jerilee - we have an organisation called the Forestry Commision here in the UK but I'm pretty sure they don't allow that yet - sounds a great idea, anyway!

ahpoetic profile image

ahpoetic 7 years ago

Alaska's a place where great, efficient stoves are needed. Some places get 60 below in winter.

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England Author

ahpoetic - Yes plus the fact I guess you may not piped natural gas! The great thing about wood it is a local energy source.

Whichburner 7 years ago

Sssh, now everybody will know! Great and very helpful article.

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Forest Ireland 7 years ago

I am always happy to give away free wood. Hard to get people to take it in the past, that is all changing now with hard times.

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England Author

Forest Island - Happy to endorse this link to your interesting site and to promote your offer of free wood. Caring for our forests and woodlands is a worthwhile cause!

Cedar Cove Farm profile image

Cedar Cove Farm 6 years ago from Southern Missouri

Good info here, I'll keep it in mind. Thanks.

BEARRSD 5 years ago


Traceyq 4 years ago

If anyone wants free wood, I am in Burton upon trent and have 19 Lylondi at the front of my house and the same at the back, all really tall and needing cutting, they have generated a lot of wood as we have taken one down (over 12 inch diameter trunk) if someone would help us chop them down they are more than welcome to keep wood. Let me know

John C 4 years ago

@Rik Ravado - a guy I knew through work a few years ago lived in Aberfoyle, which is in the Queen Elizabeth Forest park in Central Scotland. Once a year he would pay the local council a fee for a weekend license which allowed him to cut up and collect any amount of dead wood for as long as the license lasted. He would spend one weekend a year stocking up on all the wood he would need (how much wood would a woodchuck chuck etc..) to last him until the following year. I can't remember how much he paid but it wasn't much. Point is, they do have that (license) system here, but it probably varies from council to council. I doubt Tower Hamlets do it, for example..

I live in Brighton and get all mine from skips and lying at the side of the road. It's amazing how much of the stuff you start seeing when you get your wood burner!

John C 4 years ago

Actually, I think it was the Forestry Commission he was obtaining the permits from, not the council. I'm sure they are probably tied together in some way though.

Fight the (electric) power!

Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 4 years ago from England Author

John C - Good thought about Forestry Commission licence. Like you I 'see' fire wood everywhere since I've had a wood stove. It is surprising how much timber is just left lying on the ground!

ron.c 4 years ago

Good info thank

george 4 years ago

landowners,farmers in my area are happy enough for me to clear fallen trees off their fences.go for a walk in the country and drag bits of timber to your car go for a walk on the beach often chunks of timber wash up.i never stop thinking of wood and i have never bought an ounce hone in on your hunter gatherer instincts.

louromano profile image

louromano 4 years ago

great article, well written, thanks for informations :)

d win 3 years ago

we have quite a pile of pine logs which we would like to have removed from our garden ..we live in Chorley Lancashire

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 2 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

My sons and I turned an old out building into a sauna with a wood burning stove. We found a years worth of wood on craigslist if we would pick it up. This is a very helpful and well written article, full of practical suggestions. Great job here Rik.

paul hewelt 2 years ago

Looking for firewood in the las Vegas area. Have transportation. 702/845-2325.thanks.

mandy draheim 2 years ago

Wanted to know if anyone around the flushing Michigan area has any free wood for a fireplace.

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