Different Strokes: How to Start a Firewood Business

So you want to start a firewood business? Great! There are just a few things that any fledgling lumberjack should know first though. While starting a firewood business is not going to be easy, if you have the know how and the materials, you’re overhead costs will be low. Here are a few ways to get your firewood business up and running and advertise so you can make some money doing something you love doing!

First thing’s first. If you’re going to start a company, you’ll need enough product to satisfy people’s needs. They want to be able to come to you for any amount of firewood and be able to purchase it in a no hassle, convenient way. They’re not going to come back if your stock is unreliable or shaky. Here are a few ideas to get a steady stream of firewood coming in. This way you’ll never disappoint your customers!

1. Contact Sawmills

Saw or lumber mills can be an excellent resource for a lumber jacking business. Think about it. Their main goal is to manufacture and sell boards and other wood products for use by carpenters and in the commercial and residential construction business. They have no need for wood that is full of knots, too stubborn to make a clean cut, etc. These are all the things you want (knots burn for a long time due to their density). Contact these mills and ask for two things:

a. Lumber Rejects

Lumber Rejects are a great base to start your firewood business on. Often, these are whole logs that have been transported to the mill, only for them to find out that they can’t be used to make boards out of. These are choice for your business. The sawmills want them gone, so often they’ll sell them to you at a very low price or even give them away for free once the mill is overflowing with them. You must be quick. There are a lot of people that want these so you have to get there first. When talking with them, try to strike up a deal in which they call you first in return for your business. They’re more likely to sell them to your business than general consumers because they know you’ll be more reliable.

b. Mill Ends

Mill Ends are the leftovers from a tree that has been made into boards. These can come at a very cheap price (even cheaper than the rejects). Often they’re going to be the stumps of very large trees, and the very thin tops. Boards need to be of a uniform size. Since the stump and top of a tree vary in size so much, the mills have no choice but to cut them off. You can get Mill Ends from a mill (depending on where you live) from between 20-30 bucks for a truckload.

2. Contact Land Owners

Land owners may or may not be receptive to your business on their land. A lot of people are wary of businesses using their land, especially with a piece of dangerous equipment. Take the time to talk to these people and develop a relationship with them. You need to build their trust and let them know you’re going to respect their land and that you won’t do anything against their terms. Often, you’ll be asked to sign an agreement stating that if you should injure yourself, that you won’t sue the land owner. This is normal and necessary for them. After all, they’re letting you use their land out of good will – they don’t have to. When contacting land owners ask for these two things:

a. Brush.

Depending on how much land these people have, they more than likely have brush hanging around in the deep parts of their wooded areas. Before you say that brush is useless you must remember that this isn’t a residential area. They’re going to have a lot more brush (and it’ll be bigger) than a small acre plot in a suburban area. A lot of times this can be salvaged and there really will be a lot of good wood in there, but you’ll have to go searching!

b. Dead Trees.

A lot of firewood splitters and young businesses believe that live wood is the best way to go when harvesting trees for firewood. This is simply not the case. In fact, it’s the other way around. In order for your wood to produce optimal heat, you’ll need to season it (more on that later). For right now, all you need to know is that dead wood is good wood for firewood. There is only one stipulation. Make sure it’s not rotting. Often times the structural integrity of this wood has been sacrificed to mold and insects, so it’s not worth your time.

3. Preparing Your Firewood

There is a big difference between wood and firewood. In order to execute your business plan perfectly, you’ll need to know every specific about the different types of wood, the strengths, the weaknesses, what situation they’re best for, etc. In order to do so, you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time studying all of these things (more than is covered in this guide). I’ll go over all of these briefly just to provide a base for your firewood business to start flourishing from.

a. Know your measurements.

Just like anything, wood is measured in specific categories. These go by cubic feet, or volume. These are the standard “sizes” of wood and their measurements. NOTE: Truckload, face-cord, and rank are not industry standard measurements and in some states, using them can get you a hefty fine.)

  • Cord: 128 Cubic Feet. Often measured 8x4x4 feet. For residential deliveries this is the largest unit you can expect on average.
  • Half Cord: 64 Cubic Feet. measured 4x4x4. This is optimal for homes and even some small apartments.
  • Apartment Stack: 32 Cubic Feet. Measured 4x4x2. This is what you’ll be selling to, well, apartments.

b. Making wood into “firewood” takes a long time.

Wood is not ready to burn until it’s been “seasoned”. For all intents and purposed, to season wood is to dry out wood. This will ensure that your client gets the most bang for their buck. Burning “live” or unseasoned wood will result in lower heat output, difficulty to light, and creosote (a nasty sticky substance that clogs chimneys and causes chimney fires). Anybody who knows what they’re buying will never buy anything but seasoned wood. To season wood, simply let it sit outside for 6 months to a year, then it’ll be ready to sell. Make sure you don’t let any rain or snow contact the wood, or this will have all been for nothing as the wood will soak up that moisture. I’d recommend covering your stack with a tarp. These can be found at any local hardware or outdoor supply store. For reference, live or “green” wood starts at about an 80% moisture content. Properly seasoned wood will have around a 20 to 25% moisture content.

4. Selling Your Firewood

So you’ve cut down some trees, contacting sawmills and bought up their leftovers, you’ve split all the logs, divided the wood into units and seasoned them. Now what? Take a deep breath, you’re almost done and this is where you start making some money. Here are some ways to advertise your business and get people calling you. Your hard work is about to pay off!

Yellow pages. Your local yellow pages are a great place to advertise your firewood business because it essentially reaches everybody. Everybody has these books, so you have a very wide audience.

The Internet. The Internet can be a good place to advertise or not. It all depends on how you do it. If you decide to get a website up and running for firewood – do just that. Don’t forget though, you’re going to have to put in significant time to “rank” your website so people will find you. I’m an Internet Marketer as well as a lumberjack so I have some experience with this, but to go into the whole deal with the Internet would be horribly off subject. Basically, if you live in Houston, Texas, you’re going to want to come up as the first search result when somebody types in “Houston Firewood” in Google. If you have some money to invest, contact an Internet Marketing Firm near you and get a quote from them. If you don’t have money to invest into Internet Marketing, don’t even bother with the website. You’re time will be better spent elsewhere.

Newspaper and On line Ads. Newspaper classifieds and on line classifieds (Craigslist, Kijiji, Backpage) can do wonders for your business. The best part of all, these Internet classifieds are free. Spend some time writing a good sales pitch and place them all over the place, even if you have to pay a small fee for your local newspaper. It’s worth it.

That’s a general overview of how to start and exercise good practice in your firewood business. No matter how much marketing experience you have, how slick of a salesman you are, how educated you are about the subject always remember: There is no substitute for hard work. What you put into your firewood business is what you’ll get out of it, so make sure to put in your all!