If you're new to wood heating, you're probably wondering how much does firewood cost. Inquiring about cost is always a good question for those of us trying to watch what we spend. The cost of firewood depends on what you get and how you get it, so let's look at the ways in which people obtain firewood and what kind they get.
For many people, heating with wood means paying for a load of wood to be delivered. For others, they get it themselves. No matter what kind of wood we use to heat our home, it is going to cost us something, so consider money, time, fuel and your own physical effort as part of the answer to the question "how much does firewood cost?"
Shown below is my supply of firewood for the coming winter months, all free except for the cost of hauling, cutting and stacking.
Prices of wood vary according to who you buy it from, the local economy, how much you order, the type of wood, your distance from the supplier (if you're having it delivered), and your distance from the origins of the wood. Expect something in the range of $125 to $200 for a full cord (2010 pricing).
Wood is usually sold by the cord. This is the standard unit of measure. A cord of wood is 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long. Be aware that lots of folks sell a face cord (or half cord), and that's usually 4 feet high by 8 feet long, but the width of the wood pile isn't necessarily 2 feet (half of 4). Face cords are casually referred to as "cords" so if you're buying firewood, verify what it is you're paying for...a full cord or a face cord.
Sarcastically, I'll now ask you how much does firewood cost, and I hope you'll reply, "About twice as much as it should when you don't know the difference between a full cord and a face cord." So, it doesn't matter if you buy a full cord or a face cord (or just a pickup load), as long as you know what you're buying and figure what the sales price ought to be according to marketplace value for a full cord equivalent of the same kind of wood.
Whether using wood for heating or cooking, it has a certain fuel value based on the type of wood. Expect to pay considerably more for hard woods like oak and ash, and less for soft woods like pine and cottonwood. And, much less for scrap wood of any type.
After learning about the cost of a full cord of wood, you might shake your head in disbelief and ask again, how much does firewood cost, as if you can't believe the high price of wood that you're simply going to burn. So, for those who aren't happy with the cost of a full cord of wood, let's look at other options. This should help us make a better determination of value.
I've seen wood sold as small as a bundle at the grocery store, and as large as a tractor trailer load. As you can imagine, the larger the load, the better the price (per cord).
If you're into stretching your dollars, you'll be very disappointed in the price of wood sold at the grocery store and gas station mini-marts - it's about 50 cents a piece/stick. Just walk right on past that wood. Any form of home heating is less costly than what the grocery store or local mini-mart has to offer. That wood is for the individual who enjoys an occasional fire, but isn't serious about having a supply on hand for regular use. These people don't ask how much does firewood cost because for them it's an occasional and affordable discretionary expense.
For a nominal fee, you can cut your own firewood at a National Forest. Usually the fee is about $25 or less and you are limited as to where you can cut, but it is a low cost source of firewood. It's labor intensive and might not be very convenient to where you live, so keep that in mind. You'll also need your own truck/trailer for hauling, and specialized tools for harvesting and cutting.
Shown below is an antique pair of skidding tongs that I use to drag logs and power poles around my place. They are a great tool for hauling heavy logs.
You can also buy wood by the truck load which means a pickup truck load. I've seen prices that range from $75 to $90 a truck load. That price usually includes local delivery. Be aware that the term "firewood" can mean just about anything, so ask if it's split wood or scrap wood, and what kind of wood.
A neighbor of mine used to get a tractor trailer load of logs delivered for about $600 at a time when a cord of wood was costing about $75. He would then cut and split the wood himself and get about 18 cords out of a trailer load. That's about $33 dollars a cord - half the going price at the time.
Any serious firewood processing will require a chainsaw, preferably a gas powered model as shown below. Don't count on the electric chainsaws to hold up to anything but light and occasional use.
Again, answering the question of how much does firewood cost, in the case of a load off of an 18 wheeler, it will cost you time, labor, and special equipment. Logs can be processed by hand with special equipment like a kant hook, peavey, timberjack, chainsaw, splitting maul and wedge. You'll also need lots of room to store the wood. And, don't forget weather protection for the wood if you live in a climate that is humid or has ample rain.
Okay, so heating with wood is going to cost me. Is there such a thing as free or nearly free firewood? Yes there certainly is. And, it's very common to find nearly inexhaustible sources of free wood almost everywhere.
Oh boy! Now you're talking!
Shown below is one of several piles of scrap wood on my property. How much does firewood cost when it comes in this form? Usually nothing at all. Some of this was even delivered free of charge. The pallet yard man was happy to have a place to dump his scraps.
Not so fast. Even with free firewood, you'll still have to ask how much does firewood cost because it often will cost you in terms of time, labor and fuel, even though your source of wood is free of charge for the materials. Let's explore a range of ideas about getting free firewood as part of our approach to using wood to stay warm.
If you'd like to use scrap wood to fuel your fires, you'll be interested to learn how I started Wood Rescue in my community and collected 10 years of free firewood in just one summer. If I can do it, so can you. I think you'll find that getting the word out in the community is your best means of finding an endless supply of free firewood.
As a minimum, I hope this discussion has helped you at least get a better understanding of how much does firewood cost. It should be clear that there are some variables to consider, especially in the type and form of your firewood. As with anything else, there are tradeoffs. Typically, if you pay more, you can work less and get better quality wood for burning in your wood stove. If you choose to be more conservative with your cash on hand, then expect to put more time and effort into getting your wood, and don't be surprised if it isn't top quality hard wood or doesn't come in shapes and sizes that are immediately conducive to popping into a wood burning appliance.
It's up to you to strike a balance in terms of cost-effectiveness. From my perspective, I don't mind spending more time and effort, and putting up with lower fuel density in my firewood, especially when I know my sources of wood are free or nearly so. As I recently told my neighbor (who drops off his scrap wood at my place about once a year), "The fence posts don't have high fuel value, but the price is right, and I just can't beat the free home delivery."
I wish you well as you go forth with your adventures in wood heat for your home. It can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun and a satisfying job as well.
As shown above, my dog never asks how much does firewood cost, he's only interested in how many critters might be lurking in that wood pile. As far as he's concerned, it's the only reason the "pack leader" messes around with all of that wood to begin with...it's to create hiding places for rabbits and ground squirrels, and hunting places for Boston Terriers.
See, I told you it can be fun.