For those thinking about firewood as a home heating alternative to fossil fuels this winter, be ready for sticker shock. The demand for the wood is high according to some dealers and so is the cost to get your hands on it.
“We are having a harder time buying the log-length wood with our suppliers this year,” said Lynn Gardner with Clifford Lumber in Hinesburg.
When it comes to sales, he says he’s on track for an average sales year – around 1,200 cords – but that his costs are up. “My fuel costs to deliver the wood and the fuel to have the wood trucked in,” Gardner said.
He anticipates a small jump in the price of wood – about a 5% increase – around the end of October as cold sets in. Kiln-dried cords are going for $475 delivered. About 85% of their business is repeat customers. After 50 years in the wood industry, he’s got it down to a science, knowing exactly how much he needs and what he needs to sell it for to maintain a profit. “I’m not looking to sell every stick in Chittenden County,” Gardner said.
Other firewood suppliers are figuring it out as prices fluctuate. “Either material costs or fuel costs, but this year it’s really a perfect storm of everything coming together to really drive the price up,” said Sam Desrochers with Cross Cut Firewood out of Danville. He says calls have doubled for firewood in the last week as the season ramps up. Their cords are selling for about $470, up from about $420 in the spring.
He says there is only so much you can charge per cord that keeps firewood viable and we are nearing that tipping point. “It’s not a very profitable business to be in at the moment… it definitely becomes more difficult when our margins become much thinner.”
Back in Hinesburg, Gardner says it’s all about balance. Homeowners will be balancing between home heating fuel and firewood this winter just as he will be balancing between managing costs and keeping customers happy. “I’m comfortable selling 1,000, 1,200 cords a year. I can have the wood, keep the customers, it works for us,” he said.