We all like saving money. But here’s the thing: money isn’t everything. The money we save should never come at the expense of how much joy we get out of life. After all, we only get one go-round on this big blue marble, and you certainly can’t take all that money you save with you.
This is why it pains us when we hear people ask questions like “Where can I get cheap firewood near me?” or “Where can I get wood for free?” We understand where these questions are coming from, but they’re so often misguided.
Many people think all firewood’s the same. So, they obsess over everything else for their camping trip and then grab some cheap firewood at a gas station on their way up. It all burns the same, right? So, they save a few bucks only to find themselves having a miserable time trying to get the fire going when they get there.
Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. We’re sorry if you did, but the good news is you don’t have to settle for inferior wood anymore! A better, more luxurious experience awaits those who are willing to spend a little more to have a lot more fun in life!
This blog will help you to steer clear of that bad firewood and point you toward something superior.
Are you ready to discover a better firewood experience than you ever thought possible? Good. Then let’s begin.
The Five Worst Things About Cheap Firewood Near Me
We’ll start with the bad news. Most of the firewood for sale throughout Chicagoland is not worth your money.
Many factors can make wood subpar and even hazardous to your health and the environment. But there are five that stand out among the rest as particularly bad and common. They are as follows:
- High moisture content
- Invasive pests, mold and fungus
- Using bad species for burning (i.e., softwood)
- Sellers with dishonest sales tactics
- Lack of delivery
Let’s take a closer look at how to watch out for each of these firewood red flags.
1. High Moisture Content
Most people are aware you shouldn’t burn wood right after you chop it down. We call this green firewood, and it often contains at least 60% moisture. This excess amount of water in the wood prevents it from producing anything resembling a hot and pleasant flame. Instead, it’s incredibly difficult to light, and when it finally gets going, the black smoke and creosote are nasty on the eyes and lungs.
Now, we’re not saying that most of the local firewood for sale in Chicago is green. What we are saying is it’s not much better than green.
Traditional Air Drying Doesn’t Work
Many firewood suppliers and companies let their wood air dry to get all that moisture out. As you might imagine, this process, known as seasoning, takes a long time (sometimes months or years). And the punchline of this lengthy process is it doesn’t work very well.
Most of the time, seasoning gets the wood down to a moisture content of between 20-30%. This amount is obviously better than when it was green but still too moist for the best possible flames. To achieve optimal performance, the total moisture needs to be below 20%. Anything above that and you’re still choking on too much smoke as you struggle to light it.
How to Measure Firewood Moisture Content
So, how do you make sure your firewood is dry enough so it won’t be a burden to you at your next bonfire?
One solution is to purchase a moisture meter at your local hardware store. You can insert this simple tool into a piece of wood and find out how much moisture it contains in seconds.
Another indicator that your wood is moist is if it makes a dull thud when you slap two pieces together (dry wood will make a crisp clap, like a bat hitting a baseball). High-moisture firewood will also weigh more than well-dried logs.
Want to learn more about how to spot good firewood? Check out our complete firewood guide.
2. Invasive Pests, Mold and Fungus
You can take the wood out of nature, but it’s hard to take nature out of the wood. That’s why you’ll often find local firewood for sale that’s infested with either bugs, mildew, fungal growth or all three.
For this reason, you’ll often hear people warning against transporting local firewood to other places. The concern is that the wood could carry invasive species along with it that could kill trees in different parts of the country.
Of course, the concern with insects and mold isn’t just about protecting the wildlife; it’s also about keeping the creepy crawlies out of your home. If you’re buying wood for your indoor fireplace, the last thing you want to do is bring a bunch of emerald ash borers along with it!
So, how do you defend against pests coming with the firewood you purchase? Unfortunately, if you purchase seasoned firewood, you can never be 100% sure there won’t be bugs coming along with it.
Still, you can be picky about who you purchase from. Only buy from companies that store their wood off the ground, away from trees and covered in an area that gets plenty of direct sunlight. Coincidentally, that’s also how we’d recommend storing it in your home to keep the insects and mildew away.
3. Using Bad Species for Burning (i.e., Softwood)
Stop! Before you make that purchase, we have a very important question for you: Do you know what species of firewood you’re purchasing? If the answer is no, you need to find out because not all types of wood burn the same.
There are two main categories of firewood: hardwood and softwood. Some examples of hardwood species are oak, hickory, birch and cherry. Common softwood species are pine, cedar and spruce. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, hardwood will burn better than softwood. This is because hardwood species are often denser and contain less resin than their softwood counterparts.
This is not to say there aren’t some occasions where softwood might be a good choice for firewood. For example, some people love burning cedar or pine for the distinctive aroma they give off when they burn.
However, if you’re looking for hot robust flames and minimal smoke, you’ll want to steer clear of softwood and go with the hard stuff.
Unfortunately, not all local firewood providers make it clear what species of wood they sell. So, make sure you never purchase from a company that won’t tell you this.
In other words, never heat mystery wood.
4. Sellers with Dishonest Sales Tactics
There’s often a problematic reason local firewood prices are so cheap. Unfortunately, scammers are out there who will knowingly give you less than you’re paying for to increase their profit margins.
The good news is there are ways to spot these dishonest firewood sellers and keep your distance from them. Here are some common dishonest sales practices to watch out for:
- The seller doesn’t give exact measurements for its cords or face cords.
- They don’t hand stack and measure the wood before sending it out for delivery.
- Orders are measured by the size of the truck bed rather than the size of the stack.
- They insist on stacking the wood themselves when they deliver it.
- The seller uses crisscross stacking methods when stacking the wood.
All these tactics make it seem like you’re getting more wood when you’re getting less. You’ll never come across such shady behavior from a trustworthy firewood provider. Such a company will always be transparent about how they measure their stacks and will be perfectly fine with letting you stack and measure the wood for yourself.
So, always do your homework before buying from a local firewood dealer. Ask the company upfront about its order measuring practices. And ask trusted friends and neighbors who have bought from the seller about their experiences. You can also get this information from customer reviews.
5. Lack of Delivery
To this point, we’ve been ignoring the elephant in the room. The quality of the wood doesn’t matter if you have no way to get it to your home.
Some firewood companies simply don’t offer delivery. Others do but don’t have a very wide delivery radius because it’s too expensive for them to go that far. So, if you want wood from either of these types of companies, you’ll probably have to go pick it up yourself. And that extra gas money may make the cheap firewood not quite as cheap.
So, make sure getting your firewood isn’t an inconvenience by finding a seller that will it deliver to your home.
There’s a Better Local Firewood Option in Chicagoland
We don’t mean to discourage you by listing all these problems. Rather, we list them to help you understand that they’re defects rather than features of the firewood purchasing experience.
You don’t have to settle for all the bad stuff that comes with buying cheap firewood near me. Instead, you can avoid all these problems by purchasing from a company that follows a few simple best practices.
First, the seller should kiln dry its firewood. Kiln-dried firewood takes the guesswork and risks out of drying firewood by baking for two days at over 200 degrees. Not only does doing this speed up the drying process, but it guarantees the wood will be below 20% moisture for the best burns. It also kills off all insects, mold and fungus in the process.
So, that takes care of problems one and two. What about the others?
To ensure the wood will give you the hottest and longest-lasting flames, look for a dealer that only includes hardwood species like oak and hickory in its orders.
And finally, be sure the company is exact in its measurements and will deliver the wood exactly where you request it.
Such a company is worth buying from again and again because you’ll get high-quality wood and great customer service every time.
Looking for a Better Local Firewood Seller?
As you can see, a more luxurious firewood experience in Chicago is possible. It just requires raising your standards and being more discerning of who you buy from.
The better firewood company we described above may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t! At Lumberjacks, we’ve been delivering precisely measured kiln-dried hardwood throughout the Chicago region for nearly 30 years. You can visit our product page to learn more about our high-quality firewood and our easy ordering and delivery process.
Want to try our wood for yourself? Please give us a call at 815-337-1451 to place your order!