Where To Get Free Firewood for Your Homestead Wood Stove

Did you know there are many places around where you can obtain free firewood? Learn how to get free firewood for your wood stove.

A chainsaw positioned in front of a pile of wood.

A hardwood cord can cost anywhere between $250 and $500, depending on where you live. A cord of softwood runs between $150 and $300. Although you can’t beat the convenience of making a phone call and having split, seasoned wood delivered, it may be worth putting in some hard work to save money. 

You may also appreciate the satisfaction of being self-sufficient, learning and fine-tuning the skills it would take to live in a world without fire delivery folks. Cutting up firewood for my woodstove with my cute little electric chainsaw gave me the confidence to handle fallen limbs around my house without asking the mister to help. Time in the woods has also made me feel more confident in identifying tree species throughout the seasons. That improves my herbalism/survival skills.

You may also find yourself in one of those awkward situations where the power is out, and the furnace is no longer running. Maybe you have a wood stove you light for ambiance, but now it actually needs to produce some heat. This is a common occurrence nowadays, and if you don’t have a cord of dry wood sitting in your backyard, you might find yourself freaking out a bit. 

But fear not! Whether you want to save money, practice your woodman skills, or need heat ASAP, there are several places to find free firewood.  

Marketplace & Classifieds

After a storm, or when they are changing their landscaping, the average homeowner often wants trees removed from their properties. This is a great way to get free firewood. You help them clean up the mess in their yard, and you get free heat. It’s a win-win situation. We often search Facebook Marketplace on Fridays so we can spend the weekend collecting and processing the trees. 

While you may feel comfortable cutting small limbs down for people who have offered you free wood, I urge you not to take the risk of cutting down trees for strangers. It’s best only to answer ads that show or mention the tree(s) is already down.

Splitting firewood in the woodyard.
Processing firewood in our makeshift woodyard.

In addition to searching the classifieds, you may want to put up some wanted ads in the local classifieds, Marketplace, Craigslist, and maybe some flyers at local stores if you want to source large quantities of free firewood this way.

Local Sawmills

Sawmills get all the usable lumber from the trees they source, but there is often a fair amount of leftovers. Many woodstove folks have already struck a deal with their local mills, but you might luck out if you reach out to the ones in your area. Some sawmills run on a first-come-first-serve basis. These chunks of firewood may not be pretty and may need some splitting, but you can’t beat the price. Even ugly and wonky pieces of wood burn.

The Side of the Road

Roadcrews not only clean up trees along the roads after storms, but they also do preventative work. If they’re doing a big job, they bring in a wood chipper to deal with the limbs they cut. For smaller jobs, they tend to leave the limbs on the side of the road under the powerlines. You can talk to your local Public Works to get permission to collect this wood. 

Construction Sites

Construction companies will often sell the trees they’re removing if the wood has value as lumber. Pine and lower-quality trees rarely have value, so the construction companies just want them gone. If you’re willing to load up a trailer or two of logs, they’re happy to have you take them off the site. This firewood is most often full tree length, so you may need to have a chainsaw to break it down to manageable sizes for transportation.

Strapping down a load of logs in the back of the trailer.
Loading up a trailer full of logs from a local construction site.

Downed Trees & Standing Deadwood

Did you know that you can make the forest around you more pleasing and get free firewood at the same time? You can create your own recreation trails for mountain biking, ATVing, walking, or snowmobiling. Maybe you want to open up some space for livestock or a garden? It may also improve your property value when you remove the low-quality and biologically mature trees to promote the growth of younger and healthier trees. 

If at all possible, it’s best (liability-wise) to log your own property. You can also ask friends, family, and neighbors if they need some logging done. Some public forests offer tree harvest to the public. Simply contact your Department of Parks, and they can guide you through any permit requirements and restrictions they may have.

It’s easiest to harvest dead trees in the spring and summer (no foliage = dead), but it can also be done in the autumn and winter. Look for trees with the bark falling off or obvious signs of rot. Pine and other evergreens are easy to find and identify as dead regardless of season because they’ll lack needles. 

One flaw of harvesting downed trees and standing deadwood is that not all of it will be good. You may find a fair amount of rotted or punky wood that doesn’t have much energy left. It can still be burned, but you won’t get much heat from it. We use those pieces in the burn barrel or in the solo stove. 

We really like logging our own backyard. It’s a sustainable source of firewood, and we really love seeing the result of our hard work. The quality time of these “dates” with nature and bonding is an added benefit for us.

Getting Free Firewood for Next Winter

If you’re collecting firewood for next year, simply split it and store it indoors or on pallets. You can often find free wood pallets at hardware stores, pet shops, or grocery stores. You may even be able to find them at your local Transfer Station.

If you’re storing it outside, place your stacked firewood where the sun can warm it, and the wind can blow through it. A single row exposed to the sun and prevailing winds is best because the sun heats and evaporates the water from the wood, and the wind whisks it away.

Getting Free Firewood for Right Now

Although a year ahead is certainly a better place to be, if you miscalculate how much wood you’d need, you may be trying to get free firewood right now. Been there. Try to find small stuff that doesn’t need to be split. The longer the tree has been standing dead or cut down, the more likely it will be seasoned enough to burn well. Don’t turn up your nose at limbs. Limbs season very quickly, and a lot will fit in a firebox, producing substantial heat. 

If time is of the essence, it’s wise to find species of trees with a short seasoning period. Douglas fir, larch/tamarack, pine, and ash all have relatively short dry times. 

Other Free Firewood Information

Although having a trailer and a power saw makes the process of getting firewood easier, you can do it with just a kid’s sled and a bucksaw. Maybe you don’t use your woodstove as your primary heat source, but you’re having a power outage. With these simple tools, you can get your house warmed up.

With all self-sourced firewood, make sure you are checking for screws and nails. Although this is less of an issue when you’re logging the forest, it certainly can be a problem when you’re getting trees from someone else’s property.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sometimes. Check with your local town office or forestry department, as they may offer programs or permits that allow residents to collect fallen or trimmed wood from designated areas.

Public land, like forests or parks, usually has its own set of do’s and don’ts. Check with the local authorities, get the lowdown on permits or rules, and make sure you’re not unintentionally breaking the law.

Now, private land is a whole different ball game. Before you start sawing away at that sweet stack of potential firewood, do the neighborly thing—ask for permission. Just because those trees are close doesn’t mean they’re fair game. Get a thumbs-up from the landowner, and you’re in the clear.

Ensuring your gathered firewood is well-seasoned is pivotal for an efficient and enjoyable burn. Look for visual cues—seasoned wood often exhibits cracks and splits, indicating it has undergone the drying process. Additionally, seasoned wood tends to appear weathered and slightly aged.

To perform a quick check, give the firewood a knock. Seasoned wood produces a hollow sound similar to a firm tap on a well-seasoned door. This auditory cue reliably indicates the wood’s readiness for the hearth.

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A pinterest-friendly graphic on getting free firewood.

Whether you’re on a budget, relish the self-sufficiency vibe, or find yourself in the pinch of an emergency requiring swift warmth, the options for heating your home without breaking the bank are indeed within reach. Embracing the methods outlined adds a practical layer to your homestead journey and fosters a sense of resourcefulness. So, whether you’re stoking the flames for financial prudence, the joy of self-reliance, or in a heated hurry, the warmth of a cost-effective, self-sustained home is just a well-tended fire away.

What’s your go-to method for heating your home on a budget or in a pinch? Whether it’s a clever DIY solution, a lesson learned from an emergency situation, or a favorite self-sufficiency hack, share your heating wisdom in the comments below.

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