Befriend Tree Companies
Talk to a few tree services to find out what they do with all the wood that they haul off from job sites. Some undoubtedly sell it, but others may be willing to give it away, so they don't have to deal with it.
Scout Contruction Sites
New construction generates a lot of waste – and lumber is a big part of it. Hone in on a construction project in your community; then, talk to the job foreman to see if he'd be willing to let you have their lumber cast offs. It'll help to cut down on their dumping fees, so you probably won't have to work too hard for a yes.
Note: Pressure-treated lumber shouldn't be used as firewood. It releases dangerous toxins when burned.
Curb Shop for Firewood
If you live in a town with large trash collection, try curb shopping for your firewood. Just cruise around a few neighborhoods, and look for logs that have been drug out to the road after a recent tree trimming or removal. Not sure if that primo pile is up for grabs? Just ask.
Tip: Also be on the lookout for shipping pallets. They're usually made of hardwoods like oak, and burn beautifully.
Get Wood from National Forests
Contact your nearest National Forest to see what their firewood policy is. Many will issue a permit that allows you to cut wood from within the park, if you stick to a few rules:
Contact Your CityYour city has to deal with tree maintenance, just like everyone else. Contact your city's Parks and Rec department and the Grounds Maintenance division to see if there are any opportunities to nab free firewood.
Put Out the Word
Tell your friends and family that you're looking for free (or cheap) firewood; post a request on Freecycle; leave a note tacked to a community bulletin board. The more people who know what you're after, the more likely you are to get it.
Stock Up at the End of the SeasonAny store that brings firewood in for the winter will be eager to unload it by the time February gets here. Wait for those markdowns. Then, load up at a discount.
Buy the Right Type of WoodSome types of wood burn better than others. Get the most out of your purchase by selecting one of the woods listed here:
Only Burn Well-Seasoned Wood
Wood that has been seasoned for the proper length of time is easier to light; burns hotter and longer; and creates less creosote. So, how long should you let your firewood sit before putting it to use? At least a year. That'll give it enough time for the sap to dry and for the wood to lose most of its water weight.
Note: You'll find lots of ads for firewood, but don't count on it to be well-seasoned wood. In fact, you should probably expect most of it not to be (Sellers of aged wood set their prices higher to account for the extra time involved.) Save cash and get more heat out of your purchase by buying your firewood a year ahead.
Know What a Fair Price Is
Firewood can be measured by the cord, the rick, the pickup load or a myriad of other ways. Make sure you understand what you're getting and what it's worth:
Make Sure You're Getting What You Paid For
If you're paying for seasoned wood, it should look seasoned – grey and cracked at the ends, not orange and sappy. If you're paying for a cord of wood, you should receive a stack that measures eight feet long by four feet wide and four feet tall. If you're paying for hardwood, the logs should have considerable weight to them, and be easily identifiable as a hardwood.