Running an efficiant firewood business

Discussion in 'Firewood' started by BckYrdLmbrJk, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. BckYrdLmbrJk

    BckYrdLmbrJk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 240

    This fall I've been making moves towards getting more heavily involved in the firewood business. I enjoy the work, and it seems like a good supplemental income for my landscaping and snowplowing business. I've cut and split a good amount of firewood and have a good understanding of cutting firewood for personal use, as well as for sale. What I'm interested in is how to make a commercial firewood operation as efficient as possible.

    Its pretty well understood among a lot of people who have tried it, that there isn't a huge profit margin in the wood industry when you consider the cost of your tools, gas, oil, chains, labor, vehicle, wood, and wood lot, etc. In the landscape business, I find it is important to do stellar quality work, and also to sell your services at a premium. I don't mean to say "jack up the price", but to get good value for the work you're doing. For example, you could by the cheapest clothes, or food, or car, but in most cases people don't, because they see the value that is worth paying a higher price. This could simply be the value the customer finds in the assurance of the quality of the goods they're purchasing. I plan on providing wood that is split up more than adequately for even smaller woodstoves, and that is FULLY seasoned, and all premium hardwood species. No half seasoned wood, no poplar or crap. Good firewood for a fair price.

    The questions I'm running into as I get into more and more wood for next year is:

    1. To stack or not to stack? While it would save much time and labor to not stack the wood and just leave it in a pile, I'm afraid it wouldn't season as well even if covered, up here in NY. The method I've used in the past is free-stacking wood on top of pallets which I can come by fairly easily and covering with a trap. When I free stack cords, the piles are very tightly stacked and measure 128 cubic feet. I figure this keeps the wood up off the ground and also gives me an idea of my inventory. I'm not sure if it is helping the seasoning process as much as I think though, as when I stack cords they are pretty tight. I could imagine there being more airspace for curing in a large free thrown pile. To start I'd be loading my dump trailer by hand (most likely stacking it out again to show customers the full cordage before dumping) so picking up dirt with a load of wood wouldn't be as much of an issue as I've read it being for some who load their wood with a skidsteer bucket. Is it worth stacking the wood or should I just toss it in a pile and forget about it till next fall?

    2. How to deal with size? I've found when doing my own firewood I like to split pieces pretty small for starting and stoking fires, as well as easily maneuvering the pieces in a smaller woodstove so I usually split wood on the smaller size. So say I give a log thats 7-8 inches in diameter a split in half, in a lot of cases, I would split those halves in half rather than having a two half circle shaped pieces with a flat side that is 7" or 8" long. I recognize this is more work though, and therefore greater cost to me When doing this I'll also come up with some pretty small pieces as I figure, better to split it one time to many than not enough. Also when cutting pieces around 16" long down a log, or on funny shaped logs, I'll end up with pieces that are pretty small, less than a foot but still good wedge shaped chunks of firewood. Should I try to mix these smaller pieces of wood in with cords of 16 inch wood for variety, or should I separate them into cords of smaller cut pieces for pretty small wood stoves and wood burning cook stoves?

    3. What is the best way to avoid problems with customers? With firewood I find that a lot of people don't know what a cord looks like. Rather than sell loose cords I think its probably important to at some point show the customer a stacked cord and measure it for them. Should I A. Stack the wood in the woodlot, tell customers to check out the wood, pay me, and I will deliver it that day. B. Stack the wood in the trailer and show it to them before I dump it. or C. Throw it loosely in the trailer for a loose pile, estimate the cordage and deliver it and hope for the best, saving money and effort by not stacking?

    Also for those in the commercial wood business, if you advise stacking, what method do you find most efficient for stacking?

  2. nnusskern

    nnusskern LawnSite Member
    Messages: 214

    If you have the equipment like a skid steer or forklift palletize it. Then let palleys slide out of dump trailer.
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  3. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Why do people sell by the cord if no one knows what it is? Sell a cubic yard or a stacked pallet and name your price. Let the dummies on craigslist hack each other down on cord price
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  4. BckYrdLmbrJk

    BckYrdLmbrJk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 240

    This is true. If I had a skidsteer I would probably sell pallet boxes and do it that way. The only other issue with that is I wouldn't be able to fit as much on my dump trailer. Say I could fit a face cord or so in a pallet box, I could probably only get three of those in my dump trailer, as opposed to stacking I could probably get atleast two cords in there.
  5. ohiogreenworks

    ohiogreenworks LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 300

    we just split it and throw it in a pile with bobcat. When we get an order we load up 10 buckets and just dump it.
    Grasscutter69 likes this.
  6. BckYrdLmbrJk

    BckYrdLmbrJk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 240

    Do you season your wood?
  7. Ffrandl

    Ffrandl LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    I know this is an older post but ill put my two cents in anyway. I sell firewood in the winter to suppliment my income. I've ran into several customers that are picky bout wood and been cussed out for measurements so I researched the cord I sell to stacks of 4ft tall 8 ft long and I explain that to thwm when they buy so they dont think im cheating them with mt prices. A tru cord accoesing to the ag dept. Is 4x4x8. Unfortunatley every body and there brother sells fire wood in my area so im lucky to 140 a cord plus delivery.

    We stack all the wood and cover it and let it set for 3 to 6 months before we sell. We ran into issues with moisture content and got gripped out for it so I invested in a $20 moisture content tool to make sure the wood has 15% or less water before delivery. One customer waited last minute and wanted wood delivered next day. (Hes the one that caused me to get the moisutee checker) when ee delivered, it was raining he pulled his guage and due to the rain the woods moisture content was high and told me to take it back very annoying but anyway live and learn.

    If u really want to get into mass production of firewood check out a large fire wood proccessor. All u do is cut tree,delimb, hook a cable on, the proccessor will pull the tree in cut to ur specific length and spilt up to 8 pieces per section and up a conveuer belt into ur pickup or trailer. The one I looked at was 6 cords an hour. It takes me with a saw and splitter about two to three hours per cord huge saving.
    If only it wasnt like 20000 lol
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  8. rtsims

    rtsims LawnSite Member
    Messages: 1

    A cord is the unit in which firewood is measured, therefore professionals sell fire wood in cords not ricks, or truck loads etc. Part of providing a top notch service is educating your customers on what a cord is & people really respond to you taking a little time to teach them something.
    This is what I tell my customers: a cord is 4x4x8 of tightly stacked firewood which comes out to 128 cubic feet. I cut my wood to 16" lengths so that's 3 rows of stacked wood 4 feet high and 8 feet long.
  9. Ffrandl

    Ffrandl LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    How much do u sell a cord for?
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  10. grandview (2006)

    grandview (2006) LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,465

    Your sell full cords ,most place sell face cords.4'x4'x16" and they sell for 80-130 each.

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