Firewood prices should reflect quality and dryness

I had a man call me about some firewood. He was already to start a fire and the wood he bought wouldn't light! It took him a long time to get the fire started. That's when he realized that the wood wasn't properly seasoned although it was advertised as such.


Plan ahead

My advice to him--"Now's a good time to get ahead of the game!" 
Use this wood for next year by covering it properly
keep it off the ground with pallets, old wood rails, or concrete slab; cover it with a piece of metal or plastic roofing, old plywood, or even a sturdy folded tarp, but insure that ONLY THE TOP is covered so the sides are vented. 
The wood requires air movement to continue to season. Covering the pile entirely will trap moisture under a tarp. If you can put the wood under a shed, or a building, that's even better.

Now go and buy yourself some properly seasoned wood for this yea rand keep it off the ground and covered as described above. You shouldn't be paying alot of money for green wood, so if you get some this year, you'll have it for next year. When next year arrives, use the now-seasoned wood and buy some more green wood. In the long run you'll be saving some money! This is your best tactic when buying wood if you can't ascertain how seasoned the wood is.


Pricing Firewood 

Good seasoned firewood is variable in price of course, due to demand and availability. Without being in your community it is hard to give you guidelines, but I suggest you call several vendors to get a better sense of what's available. 

Questions to ask:


What quantity are you buying?...a cord, a face cord, a trailer load, a dump truck load....Ask specifically what is the dimension of the trailer or truck. You may do some calculations for yourself.

  • A CORD of wood is measured as 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 8 feet long. 
  • A FACE CORD is 4 feet by 8 feet by one log wide. Three of these together makes a cord.

How the wood was stored? Was it stored on the ground or on pallets etc., was it freshly cut and split, was it a live tree or dead tree, was it stored inside a building or outside? 

HOW LONG has it been stored?

  • Seasoned wood refers to wood that has been dried for at least 6 months and has less than 20% moisture content, as defined by the EPA of the United States government. In laymen terms, again this is variable, and being "seasoned" simply requires being out of the elements (covered and off the ground) for 6 months to a year. Usually this is long enough for the wood to dry, provided each piece has enough air circulation and the pieces are not too large.
  • If kept in dry storage for over that time, you will definitely have well-seasoned wood and your firewood price may be on the higher side. It will probably be worth it. 

Firewood prices in the United States: you can usually expect to pay from $200 to $400 for a cord of split and properly seasoned hardwoods.


Red Oak

We've even had someone come to our wood lot and inspect before buying. Why not? If you can inspect, look at the wood--does it look dry?

Smack two pieces together--do they "thunk" in a dry-sounding way? Is it really heavy--that may indicate excess wetness and is not fully dry.

You'd be amazed at how perceptive you are even if this is the first time you do this.

If you can't inspect ahead of time and you are wary, ask the vendor to come by with his load and inspect before they dump it.

Lastly, find a good source and stick with them.


Firewood is labor intensive

Once firewood has been delivered to one of our clients, each piece has been touched 17 times. That's alot of labor! AND it's been stored for 9 to 12 months.

Firewood often falls into the category of you get what you pay for, so exercise discretion but don't be too frugal!

For further reading I recommend a non-profit site from Canada called Woodheat.org 

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K Thomas Lawson, ISA Certified Arborist® No. MA-0305A