The 7 things you need to know
Good quality wood not only makes the fire easier to light and maintain—it makes your fireplace safer. Finding your wood supplier can take some asking around but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Check the listing in your local paper, and ads in your local shops (sometimes they take the form of scruffy handwritten notices posted near the door) and online classified ad sites.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Proximity: Because of the difficulty and cost in transporting wood distance is an important criteria to your supplier. If he refuses it’s not that he doesn’t like you, it’s just that it would cost him too much time and fuel to deliver.
References: ask your neighbours. The best suppliers don’t need to advertise. They have plenty of demand just from word of mouth.
Measurements: a log is a bûche. Usually wood is sold in stères (roughly one cubic meter if the bûches are one meter long), or cordes (equivalent to three or four stères depending on the area).
Drying: Driving around the countryside you’ll see endless stockpiles of logs waiting their turn by the side of the road. The rule of thumb is to let wood season for at least two years to reduce moisture content and increase burning efficiency. Make sure to confirm with your supplier that the logs are ready to burn this season.
How much to buy? This depends on whether wood is your main source of heating or you just light a fire occasionally. For a fire in the evening for four months get around ten stères.
How much to pay? Price can vary from 30€ in forested rural areas to upwards of €60. If you buy it in one meter lengths it is slightly cheaper than in 33 or 55 cm sections but don’t underestimate the effort involved in cutting and stacking it yourself.
Storage: think about where to store your wood and keep it dry. Provide access for the tractor or truck and sufficient space for the quantity ordered.
Local wood suppliers work on a rhythm with nature. They are restricted by local regulations as far as the dates when they are allowed to cut, stack and remove their wood from the forest. They work very hard and are constrained by weather, equipment and manpower so sometimes they are unable to respond to your request right away. Start your search early. Upon delivery of this year’s load make sure to reserve your share for next season.
Finally, there is the possibility of becoming your own supplier and fulfill the Zen maxim: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” If this is your preference but your land doesn’t include a forest, ask at your Mairie if your village has a right of “affouage” by which an inhabitant has access to taking an allocated amount of wood from the forest. There are dates and strict regulations to follow and you’ll need adequate equipment and fortitude.