Many folks harvest firewood from their own woodlots, using the activity to thin out lower-quality trees, thereby improving the forest.
If you plan on cutting down trees and working up your own firewood supply, even if you've had experience, we recommend that you take the time to learn about personal protective equipment, setting up a safe work environment, the proper techniques for felling and bucking trees and maintaining your equipment.
Get permission from the owner before removing any wood from another person's property. This includes logs lying roadside or pallets stored behind a business. We recommend getting the permission in written form that details where and which trees you may cut (or deadwood you may remove), how you plan to take it from the property, and condition in which you will leave the site after you've finished. Note: The landowner may need to file an Intent to Cut form with the town and pay a timber tax on the wood you cut.
You can get a permit to harvest dead and down wood from the White Mountain National Forest. You must have a permit before removing wood from the National Forest. Call 603-528-8721 for more information.
Safe Timber Harvesting This manual contains all the essential information for folks who plan to cut their own firewood, although most homeowners won't need the sections intended for professional logging operators, such as managing work crews and skidder operations.
Buying and storing firewood
People who don't have access to a woodlot, or don't choose to cut their own, purchase wood from firewood dealers, loggers and, for small quantities, convenience stores or roadside stands. Wood is sold log-length (8'-16'), tree length (over 16'), cut-to-length; cut and split, and green or dry. Obviously, the more the wood has been processed, the higher the price.
Last summer and fall firewood prices reached, $250 per cord for green wood and more than $350 for dry wood. Those purchasing wood this spring should expect to see lower prices. Wood pellets seem to have settled to between$250- $300 per ton (as reported by woodpelletprice.com).
What's in a cord? New Hampshire state law defines a cord as 128 cubic feet. To measure a stacked pile of wood, measure the length in feet of the pile, multiply it by the height in feet of the pile and multiply that by the depth (or length of the individual pieces of wood) in inches. Divide the result by 12 and you will have the cubic foot measurement.
For example, a pile 10' long by 4' high by 16" deep is 10 X 4 X 16÷12 = 53 cubic feet. A stack 4' X 8' X 48" equals 128 cubic feet. Measure firewood when the wood is stacked. When you purchase wood from an unknown dealer, try to stack it as soon after delivery as possible to make sure you received the agreed-upon volume.
How much do I need? The amount of wood required to heat a house depends on a number of factors: the size and interior layout of the house, how weather-tight the house is and the type and efficiency of the wood stove. A 1500-square-foot, fairly weather-tight New Hampshire house will burn between four and five cords of seasoned wood during an average New Hampshire heating season.
Sources of wood Many firewood dealers purchase wood from loggers. Often the firewood dealer is a logger and harvests wood from his/her own wood lot. Others purchase stumpage (standing timber) from landowners who may want to thin out their woodlots. Harvesting may occur in conjunction with a timber sale, where higher-value logs are removed and sold to a sawmill.
All timber harvesting is regulated by New Hampshire state law. The N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration and The N.H. Department of Environmental Services all have laws that pertain to timber harvesting. To learn more, visit UNH Cooperative Extension's Selling Timber Web page or call the UNH Cooperative Extension forester in your county for more information.
Other wood markets sometimes compete with firewood
This increases the price and reduces the availability of firewood. Weather or muddy logging conditions can also upset the wood markets. This past year loggers were faced with tough conditions, which combined with competitive pulpwood prices, causing firewood to be expensive and scarce.
Street trees, or trees that grow in a more urban setting, often decline due to the harsh growing conditions. Some communities take down these trees and process them into firewood, which they may make available to the community. Arborists also accumulate trees that they in turn process and sell as firewood.
Hardwood pallets are another source of firewood. Once cut up, they make a great source of kindling. Pallet manufacturing is the largest consumer of hardwood lumber in the United States--everything moves on a pallet. Recycling pallets and pallet parts has become big business. Unfortunately, not all pallets are recycled.
It's important to examine the pallet or any other "scrap" wood to make sure it's not contaminated from pressure-treating, paint, or unknown spilled liquids. Nails and other hardware should be removed before burning recycled wood, but if they haven't been, make sure to sift the metal from the ashes before spreading them on lawns or gardens.
There's no central firewood dealers' directory in New Hampshire
The best source of firewood information is in the local community. Check with neighbors and friends who burn wood for suggestions. Scan local newspapers and bulletin boards for firewood listings.
The best supply and pricing can be found in early spring.
Caution: Many states, including New Hampshire, discourage campers and others from transporting firewood across state or national borders. Forest pests such as the emerald ash borer have hitched rides on wood, thereby spreading the insects to uninfested areas. These pests can be fatal to trees.
Become a smart consumer
After receiving complaints from people about firewood deals gone bad, the N.H Bureau of Weights & Measures advises firewood buyers to consider the following:
Never pay in advance for future deliveries of firewood. Too many things can go wrong and you may be left without money or wood.
Always ask for and expect a sales invoice or delivery ticket. This protects both you and the dealer. The receipt should include:
The name and address of the dealer.
Your name and address.
The date delivered.
The quantity delivered and the quantity upon which the price is based (e.g., 2-cords at $200 a cord).
The price of the amount delivered.
The identity in the most descriptive terms commercially practicable, including quality representations (e.g., seasoned hardwood).
Do build a business relationship with a reputable firewood dealer. If you don't know one, ask your wood-burning neighbors.
If a dealer asks you to pay in advance, politely decline, keep your money, and find someone else.
All wood burns, but wood that's cut green (between 50 and more than 100 percent moisture content) burns with more difficulty, because the water in the wood must be boiled off before the actual wood fiber can burn. Air-dried ("seasoned") wood is generally around 30 percent. Kiln-dried firewood generally contains less than 20 percent moisture.
Green wood can produce more creosote--a black sooty liquid which deposits and hardens on the inside of your chimney and can ignite, causing a chimney fire.
Newer wood stoves, especially those with catalytic combustors, require dry wood. Using green wood in a catalytic-combustor stove may damage the stove. Follow the stove manufacturer's recommendations about the size and moisture content of the fuel.
The best fuel option for any woodstove is split, seasoned wood with a moisture content between 20 and 30 percent. If you buy unsplit wood, splitting the wood into smaller pieces is critical to speeding the drying process.
The best method for drying wood is to build a rack that gets the firewood off of the ground and allows air to circulate around the stack. An open, sunny location with good airflow on all sides of the stack or pile is best. Keeping the wood off the ground and trimming back any vegetation will also discourage insects from finding a home in your woodpile.
Woodpiles can be left uncovered for maximum air flow or covered--but cover the top of the pile only. Covering the top prevents rain from penetrating the stacked wood, yet allows for air to circulate. Drying time varies with weather conditions and wood species. Generally, the heavier the wood, the longer it takes to dry.
How do you know when the wood is dry?
Scientific methods for determining the moisture content of a piece of wood aren't practical for the firewood dealer or the homeowner. Firewood dealers and those who have burned wood for many years tend to use their experience. As the wood dries it cracks open and becomes lighter.
Again, green or partially seasoned wood can be burned in many stoves; it just takes a hotter fire to drive the excess water out of the wood. Remember, burning green wood can damage stoves, particularly those with catalytic combustors.
Wood pellet stoves have become a popular alternative to the traditional woodstove. Pellets are cleaner, require less handling and storage, do not require drying, and burn more efficiently. Pellets are made from compressed dry sawdust or other ground-up wood.The pellets are burned in a pellet stove specially designed for the purpose. Although a traditional woodstove will burn pellets, it won't do it very efficiently. A pellet stove is designed to feed the pellets from a hopper into the firebox gradually.
Wood pellets are sold where pellet stoves are sold. Pellets come in 40-pound bags and are often sold by the one-ton pallet. A ton of pellets currently sells for around $250. This season, due to the rapid increase in the price of heating oil, pellets and pellet stoves are in short supply. Many dealers are reporting waiting lists for back orders.
As with a woodstove, it's critical to install a pellet stove properly to avoid a fire or buildup of carbon monoxide. Check with your stove vendor for experienced installers, and ask the local fire department to review the installation.