Free firewood - where to find it for your wood-burning heat stove

Stack of cut firewood logs in wooden area

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Heating a home with wood in a wood-burning stove is generally the cheapest form of heating, but if the firewood supply is rare or expensive in your area, supplementing with scavenged firewood can help to reduce your heating costs. There are many places to find free or almost free wood for burning and in many cases, you may be doing a great service to others.

It should be noted that when dismantling or recycling any wood products, use care and watch for nails or large staples which could ruin your cutting tools and make this free wood, not-so-free in the long run.

Important Firewood Scavenging Rules

  1. The most important rule in scavenging firewood is to always ask permission from the property owner before you gather it.
  2. Be informed as to by-laws or regulations in your area which could prohibit tree removal or pick-up.
  3. Be a good scrounger and never, ever leave a mess behind.
  4. Never try to remove a standing tree that could impact hydro lines during the removal process.
  5. Always ask if the property owner has a preference as to how many stumps you should leave.
  6. Have someone knowledgeable about tree removal with you to reduce the risk of injury.

Dead or Dying Trees

You'll often see dead trees on commercial or residential property, or near nature trails. In many cases, the property owner does not have time or money to have these removed. Some could be considered hazardous and could injure someone or cause property damage if ​the wind were to bring them down. Ask if you can remove them and take the wood. Many homeowners, especially seniors do not have the ability or tools to remove deadfall and you could be helping them by removing this hazard.​

Road Log Droppings

In areas where trees are harvested, you can often find small logs on the side of the road that ​have fallen off logging trucks. Some of this wood may be perfect for burning. Avoid road wood that is embedded with gravel, as attempting to cut this wood could harm your chainsaw.​

Downed Trees After a Windstorm

Windstorms can bring down many trees that could and should be removed from access areas. Some homeowners need help removing and disposing of such wind debris.

Woodworker Scrap Wood

A local woodworking shop or a hobby woodworker you know may have scrap wood they have no need for. Some of this wood makes excellent kindling and you're providing a disposal service to them.

New Construction Area Tree Clearing

Where commercial or residential land is cleared for new development or road expansion, there may be heavy brush or cleared trees that can be salvaged for firewood or kindling.

Wood From Pallets

Many consumer goods are stored or shipped on wooden pallets including construction materials and furniture. Often, stores cannot return pallets, have no use for them and are anxious to dispose of them. Pallets can be easily dismantled and the wood recycled or burned as firewood.

Hydro-Line Clearing

Hydro crews regularly remove trees or conduct brushing to control tree growth around and under power lines. While some of the brushing may be run through a chipper, it's often possible to negotiate a wood/brush removal which will save them time and effort.

Construction Sites

Construction sites often have wood scraps or sub-standard lumber that they can't return or use for the project. This can provide a good opportunity to obtain salvage wood. There are sheet products you shouldn't burn, though.

Landfill Wood Salvage

Some landfills allow scrap wood removal to reduce the amount of refuse and encourage recycling. Old wood furniture, crates, pallets or old building materials can make good firewood. However, not all wood is safe for burning.

How to Store Your Free Firewood

Many folks simply stack firewood against the house or between two trees. The trees can provide a fairly staple wood holder for a cord of wood most of the time, however, when the wind blows, trees tend to sway and that usually results in an unorganized firewood heap.

Another solution is to use a firewood rack for outdoors or indoors to keep a small pile handy for burning. You'll find a good assortment of racking available. Find a practical and economical one that suits your needs. The reason racking firewood is important is that green wood must air dry to reduce smoking while burning.