Firewood When You're Short On Time And Money

Firewood - When You're Short On Time & Money

Here in the Northwest, fall is in full swing—and the wood stove is seeing action again.

Right about now, lots of wood burners are taking stock of their firewood supply to make sure they have enough for winter.  If it’s been a busy summer, you might be running late and only now starting to acquire your winter’s supply of firewood.

I have a quick tip that might save you a bunch of time and money this year if you find yourself running out of both.

Time Vs Money

In years when we have more time than money, we enjoy cutting wood on our property or getting a National Forest permit to cut dead wood for $5/cord.  But as enjoyable as it is, harvesting firewood from all over the mountains takes a lot of time.  And that is time we didn’t have last year or this year.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are years when we have more money than time.  In those years, it’s very convenient to order several cords of already cut and split firewood from a friend of ours who is in the firewood business.  He’s an old logger that knows his stuff and delivers excellent quality Tamarack firewood to your location.  But you end up paying over $200/cord since he has a lot of labor into it.

The last two years, we found ourselves crazy busy AND tight on cash.  Not a good combination!  So we had to find a middle of the road solution.  And that’s what I want to share with you today.

A Really Nice Compromise

We got to thinking that much of the work with firewood is simply finding the logs and the driving time to and from the place where you found them.  So we scoured our local penny pincher paper as well as Craigslist looking for an entire logging truck load of logs.

If we had a pile of logs delivered here to our home, that would cut the amount of time and work down to a fraction of what it had been!

Just to be clear, these are logs that the sawmills didn’t want due to crookedness or other issues, but they are perfectly good for burning. And since they are “cells” or rejects, a load of these logs costs far less than you’d pay for prime logs.

I’ve been told that a log truck load of firewood should shake out to 12-15 cords of firewood, and based on my experience so far, I think that’s probably about right.  But it might be a little closer to 12 than it is to 15 (depends on how heavily they loaded the truck and all that).

Anyhow, we found a logger advertising load of logs for firewood and called him.  He happened to be doing a logging job near us and quoted us around $1,500 for a load with a mix of acceptable species—Tamarack, Birch, Red Fir, etc.  So we went for it!

I’ve seen prices as low as $1,200 for poor quality/species and as high as $1,800-$2K for really nice premium wood of a specific species (i.e. not a mix).

How It Worked Out

We worked off our pile of logs exclusively last winter and now I’m cutting on it again in preparation for this winter.  And I think it’s going to end up being right in that 12-15 cord range that I was told.  That means I’m ending up over 2-3 years of wood at a really good price($100-125 per cord), and with a relatively small amount of work involved.

The prices and species in your area are likely to be different than they are here, but the principle is the same.  Buying unprocessed logs in bulk is almost always going to be cheaper than paying someone to find them, buck them up, split them, and transport them to your home.  And honestly, it doesn’t take that long to knock out a winter’s supply of wood when it’s nicely stacked in your yard!

Do You Have Any Firewood Hacks?

Nick Meissner

Nick Meissner’s adventure with homesteading and off-grid living began in the late '90s with a less-than-bare-bones budget. Over the past 12 years, Nick has taught thousands of people about renewable energy, homesteading, water systems, and independence in general. He's deeply in love with his beautiful wife Lisa and thoroughly enjoys their two children.

  • charlotte says:

    For 7 years I heated an 1800 square foot house with a full 8 foot ceiling basement with discarded snow machine crates. When the dump upped the price to $150. a load the company would drop off the loaded trailer and pick it up when ety. The bonus was I sifted ashes for nails and metal pieces that held skids together and had 7 barrels full I cashed in for scrap when the price was up. My house was newer at the time with 6" wall studs, but 3 crates heated the house for a day. Used an electric chainsaw to cut up, and when learned where nails were didn't have to sharpen as often. Had airtight stove in the basement and .old cookstove in Kitchen. Heated all water except for shower on the cook stove. I'm known for squeezing a nickel till I believe American equal is until Buffalo bellows.

  • KBH says:

    Hey Nick - great subject as always. Really enjoy catching up on your info when I can. Got a question about RMH (Rocket Mass Heater) - have you ever looked into them? Seems that they would be a good option for 1) less wood, less work and 2) less pollution - they tout up to a 90% reduction in wood consumption and a huge percentage of heat retention. And it's all stick size, so no splitting - just collect from branch fall anywhere. I'm contemplating putting one in someday when I get somewhere cold enough for a woodstove. I've been getting my info from all the RMH promoters out there - thought I'd ask someone who's not trying to sell it.

    Thanks, KBH

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