Firewood

Compare prices for pine, macrocarpa, and hot mix across the country and find out what to consider when choosing and storing firewood.

Firewood stacked against wall

Need buying tips on firewood or suggestions if you think you’ve been sold short? You can also use our firewood calculator to compare the cost of heat for different types of firewood.

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Firewood cost of heat calculator

Use our calculator to find the cost of heat for the firewood and prices available to you. Which is the best value for money? For comparison, the average costs of a heat pump or plug-in electric heater are also shown.

Cost of heat is indicative only, and takes the minimum efficiency of an authorised wood burner (65%) into account. Many newer log burners are more efficient than this, while many older log burners and pot belly stoves, and all open fires, will be less efficient. The indicative estimates for heat pumps and plug-in heaters are nationwide medians, and will vary by region.

Price survey

Each year we obtain prices from firewood suppliers around New Zealand.

We’ve learned that regardless of the wood you prefer, you should call around to find the best price. A cubic metre of pine in Wellington can cost anywhere from $80 to $153, while a cubic metre of hot mix in Auckland ranges from $85 to $155.

GUIDE TO THE TABLES Prices are per cubic metre of thrown firewood, from a survey conducted in February and March 2019. Prices may not include delivery fees. Average price is the median of all values obtained.

Pine

The median price of a thrown (rather than neatly stacked) cubic metre of pine has risen to $97, from $90 in 2018. It was the most common firewood with 91 suppliers stocking it.

Region Minimum[width=medium] Maximum[width=medium] Average[width=auto]
Auckland $70 $115 $100
NI Provincial $50 $120 $85
Wellington $80 $153 $119
Christchurch $70 $150 $90
SI Provincial $55 $120 $90

Macrocarpa

Macrocarpa is pricier than pine with an average of $137 per thrown cubic metre. It’s a medium-density wood but it’s still suitable for starting your fire (as long as it’s cut small). We surveyed 55 suppliers that provide macrocarpa firewood.

Region Minimum[width=medium] Maximum[width=medium] Average[width=auto]
Auckland $120 $170 $163
NI Provincial $100 $155 $120
Wellington $119 $210 $163
Christchurch $110 $140 $118
SI Provincial $70 $135 $120

Hot mix

Hot mixes vary in price depending on the wood varieties included, but cost $113/m³ on average. South Islanders might have to search hard for a supplier – we found 63 companies supplying hot mix, but only 17 of these were on the Mainland.

Region Minimum[width=medium] Maximum[width=medium] Average[width=auto]
Auckland $85 $155 $118
NI Provincial $65 $160 $106
Wellington $100 $188 $135
Christchurch $65 $128 $105
SI Provincial $90 $125 $100

Buying wood

When to buy

Spring and summer are the best times to buy firewood. Why buy so early? For wood to burn well and cleanly it needs time to dry. You can buy “unseasoned” wood and store it (in an area where air can circulate) ready for use when the cold weather arrives. If you leave it until later you may have to buy dry firewood – and pay more.

How much to buy

To keep a woodburner going most evenings and weekends through winter you’ll need at least 10 cubic metres of wood. It’s best to buy in larger quantities – many suppliers will provide free delivery to a local address but only for orders of at least 2 cubic metres.

Tip: Get a dated receipt with the supplier’s name and address, the type of wood, quantity delivered and price.

Type of wood

Softwoods like pine dry in around 6 to 12 months but burn rapidly. This means regularly adding wood to keep a cosy blaze going. “Old man pine” is from trees aged 30 years or more. It’s denser than ordinary pine and contains more resin, so it burns for longer and puts out more heat.

Medium-density woods like macrocarpa burn a bit slower and contain more energy. If you have an open fire, avoid macrocarpa as it’s prone to sparking.

Hardwoods such as gum and manuka make a better fire as they have greater heat content and burn slowly. But freshly felled hardwoods can take up to 18 months to dry.

Many suppliers also offer a blend of softwood and hardwood called “hot mix”. The idea is to use softwood (usually pine) to get the fire started, then to add slow-burning hardwood once the room is warm. There is no standard ratio to hot mix so you should ask your supplier about proportions to make sure you’re getting a good deal. In general, the more hardwood in the mixture, the better.

Burning and storing wood

Dryness

Only burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Green wood cools the fire, creating smoke that adds to air pollution.

Not sure if your wood is ready to burn? Firewood should have less than 25% moisture. You can test it by throwing a small piece onto hot glowing coals. If it catches fire on the top and sides within 1 minute, it’s dry enough to burn well.

If you’re buying wood to burn straight away, ask if it’s dry. Green, wet firewood will not be “fit for the purpose” under the Consumer Guarantees Act – it won’t burn properly and will clog up the flue.

You can buy inexpensive moisture meters which let you check the moisture content of firewood you are about to buy or burn.

Woodburner vs. open fire

Modern woodburners are cleaner-burning and more efficient than open fires. An average woodburner is about 70% efficient, which means it transfers around 70% of the heat to the surroundings. With an open fire you’ll be lucky to get 20%.

If a woodburner is permitted in your area, it’s a pleasant way to reduce your electricity bill. Some models can be fitted with a wetback, to preheat water for the hot water cylinder, giving further savings.

Burning efficiently

Woodburners are almost twice as expensive to run as heat pumps, but you can reduce costs by making sure you’re burning dry firewood of the right size (less than 110mm in diameter) and burning cleanly by managing the amount of wood burning rather than turning down the air supply.

Firewood storage

Stack the firewood under cover or against a sheltering wall, and leave enough gaps for drying air to pass through.

Standard measurements

Comparing firewood prices from different suppliers can be a problem. While it’s not illegal to sell landscaping products or firewood by description, how much is in a sackful of this, a trailer-load of that, the back of a ute of the other?

Known volume

We recommend buying bulk materials by a known volume – that is by the cubic metre for firewood, mulch, top soil and other materials.

A cord (equivalent to 3.6 cubic metres) is not a legal measure, although some suppliers we contacted for our survey still use it.

Firewood is sold as a “thrown measure” unless specifically stated otherwise. This means that the quantity of wood is measured as if it was thrown into a container, and not as if it was stacked. Stacking it will reduce the volume by about 1/3 (3 cubic metres of thrown wood is roughly equivalent to 2 cubic metres stacked).

Volume certification

Known volume is more exact, but accuracy is not guaranteed. How do you know that the scoop of firewood dumped on your trailer is the volume you are charged for?

It is illegal for a supplier to say a scoop equals a specified volume unless the scoop’s volume has been certified. Trading Standards will approve and certify that a firewood trader’s vehicle holds a stated cubic metre volume. We recommend you buy firewood from such a trader.

There is also a certified 1 cubic metre measure. It was jointly developed by Trading Standards and a Christchurch landscaping and garden supply business. The container is also certified to accurately measure smaller volumes of 1/3 and 2/3 of a cubic metre.

If you believe you have been sold short, complain. If you get nowhere, contact Trading Standards. They have offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It has powers of prosecution.

Buying tips

If you’re calling to check firewood prices, there are some questions you should ask:

  • Does the supplier have a certificate of approval for their measure? Traders that sell firewood by the cubic metre must use a measure – a truck, trailer or bin – that has been certified by the Measurement and Product Safety Service.
  • Does the quote include GST?
  • What are the delivery costs?
  • What is the condition of the wood? If you’re buying it to burn straight away, green or unseasoned firewood will not be “fit for purpose” under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

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Member comments

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Geoffrey O.
08 Jun 2019
Overseas options

When working in the UK we were exposed to central heating off a wetback (backboiler in UK) in some very old cold houses.
They usually ran radiators but some had efficiencies of over 75% even with the wetback running.

When we built a house on our farm 7 years ago on our farm we imported a 21W Italian made inset fireplace with a 15 KW wetback on it and a 500L solar capable insulated hot water cylinder for about $8000 NZD.

We hooked this up to underfloor and it works extremely well with 78% efficiency.

It surprises me that the technology in NZ doesn't seem to have changed much in the last 50 years with new freestanding logburners pretty much looking the same.

Doreen H.
08 Jun 2019
Wet-back bonus

We also live in central Otago, have a wetback attached to the HWC and turn off the electrics for the winter when the log-burner heats the water instead of electricity, a marvellous saving using the same wood for double benefit. The electricity is turned on again in the Spring :)

Phil T.
27 Apr 2019
Old Man Pine

We've just had delivered 6 cubic metres of 'Old Man Pine'. I'm surprised by how dense this firewood seems and how long-burning it is in our woodfire. Denser and more long burning than Oregon. Do you have calorific figures for this medium hence calculated heating costs? Does anyone know what type of pine this is?

Laraine B.
27 Apr 2019
"Old Man Pine"

I think this might be what our supplier calls Granddaddy Pine, which I understood was from very old trees. But I could be wrong.

Consumer staff
29 Apr 2019
Re: Old Man Pine

Hi Phil,

Old man pine is the same as normal pine, the difference is that the trees are much older, usually more than 50 years. The older trees are more dense and build up more resin in the trunk that helps it to burn much hotter than the younger wood. You do need to make sure your chimney is swept and that the wood is well seasoned if you’ll be burning old man pine. It can still burn when the moisture content is high, due to the resin, so it can put out a lot of smoke and quickly block up the chimney.

We don’t have the specific figures for old man pine but it’d probably be more accurate to enter it as “Average (hardwood)” while using our calculator.

Kind regards,

James - Consumer NZ writer

Laraine B.
27 Apr 2019
We would never buy a wood burner that doesn't have an ash container

That was one of the things we didn't like about our old Kent Tilefire. So when we had to replace it we made sure to get one with an ash container. I still don't like using a wood burner. Putting logs on the fire is bad enough (I need to use two hands) but lugging firewood around is even worse.

Phil T.
27 Apr 2019
Jayline 300 ash container

We have a 2yo Jayline 300 wood burner which has a very convenient sliding drawer beneath the burner base with a flip-top ash container. The base has a pull out 'plughole' to sweep cooled ash into for disposal or recycling. Great design. Small design tweak to the ash box for a better fit to the drawer would be an improvement however.

Jon B.
27 Apr 2019
pollution

why no mention of the terrible pollution these stoves cause?

https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/107914074/woodburners-key-pollutant-new-air-pollution-report-finds

Cyril A.
25 Aug 2018
Electriity v Wood

We live in one of the colder winter areas (Central Otago) and have changed to electricity because we have found it is cheaper, more efficient and environmentally friendly. We evaluated our decision over a two year winter period using between 12-15 cubic meters at an average cost of $80. (conservative) Our winter is coldest, June, July August but either side can be very cold. Average monthly bill

Brenda O.
02 Jun 2018
Diameter of wood

Really useful - but I am surprised that you advise logs of 110mm. I would have thought I would be better off using bigger logs to burn longer. Why this figure?

Consumer staff
06 Jun 2018
Re: Diameter of wood

Hi Brenda, the log advice comes from the lab who test woodburners for NZ emissions and efficiency standards. The key is to keep the fire hot. If you burn logs that are too big, the fire cools down, making it less efficient and more polluting. If logs are too small, you have to refuel it too often. This size is about as big as you can get without reducing the heat in a typically sized burner. Cheers, Paul - Consumer NZ Head of Testing

Marion H.
26 Mar 2018
Stack your firewood off the ground on wooden pallets

Thanks for this excellent article. You can protect the bottom layers of your firewood (from soaking up ground moisture) by stacking wood on wooden pallets. Hardware and building supply stores often have free, wooden pallets. Wooden pallets and a cheap tarpaulin (to cover the top of the wood) makes a cheap, convenient woodshed.

Laraine B.
27 Apr 2019
We use these for our firewood too

We did investigate putting in heat pumps but we'd need two and the cost was horrendous; absolutely unacceptable unless the product was guaranteed to last 100 years.
Okay; my tongue was in my cheek there, but I'm right miffed that expensive appliances are manufactured with built-in obsolescence. "Guaranteed to break down at 10 years old" seems to be the motto of manufacturers these days.

Bicky MacIntyre
06 Mar 2018
Calorific Value

Where was the data for the energy density or calorific values for the firewood sourced?

Using Radiata pine, thrown, and air dried in the calculator, and including the 65% efficiency I calculate the energy density used by the calculator to be 1114.8kwh/m3. This is the same as 4013MJ/m3 or 13.7million btu/cord approx.

Looking online at numerous websites I find the btus for pine to be around 14-15million btu/cord, but these figures are for stacked firewood, not thrown. Using 15mbtu/cord stacked would be equivalent to 9.6mbtu/cord for thrown.

So I'm interested to see where the figures have come from?

Previous member
08 Mar 2018
Re: Calorific Value

Hi Bicky,

We sourced the data from Scion, the Crown research institute specialising in forestry and wood products. We used Scion values of 15.47 GJ/m³ for solid pine and a 45% factor for a thrown cubic metre, which gives 2.92GJ/m³ for thrown pine, or 812 kWh/m³.

Cheers,
Paul Smith - Consumer NZ Head of Testing

Kubi W.
03 Jun 2017
Required Quantity

I'd question the need for 10 cubic metres. A well run wood burner shouldn't get through that much. I get through 4 - 7 (7 in a long cold winter).

Ron B.
29 Jul 2015
Why are Wellington prices so much higher

The price survey guide shows that Wellingtonians can expect to pay a significant amount more on fire wood then the rest of the country. Consumer should have commented on this; whether it sees this is a fair reflection of factors that drive up costs for Wellington, or whether consumers here are being burned by unfair higher price setting by wood suppliers?

Previous member
29 Jul 2015
re: Why are Wellington prices so much higher

Thanks for your inquiry Ron, you’ve raised a good point. We don’t think a lack of competition or price gouging is a significant factor in the price of firewood in Wellington.

A key factor in the price for Wellington is that the wood source is commonly from the Wairarapa, which means trucking it over the Rimutaka hill. If they go to the Manawatu for wood, it's quite a long haul, which again adds to the cost.

Christchurch, for example, can get firewood from forests around the Canterbury plains, so the trucks don't have to climb slowly over what would be called a mountain pass anywhere else in the world. Christchurch freight costs are lower, and firewood is cheaper than in Wellington.

In addition, the cost of storing firewood in Wellington is higher, as the land rentals are quite high anywhere near the city.

In Masterton, it's close to the quoted provincial prices for firewood as there are lots of forests and farm plantations within 30 or so km of town, and land rental for storage is cheap.

You could try heading over to Masterton and picking up a couple of cubic meters for $80 or so, but it would be another $50-80 depending on your vehicle, so you’d probably be little better off.

Regards,
Hamish Wilson – Consumer NZ

Erica & John T.
23 Jul 2015
Are the pine prices dry, seasoned, or green?

The table in this article summarizes prices for pine around the country but doesn't say, as far as I can see, what sort of dryness it refers to. Is it dry, seasoned, green?

Previous member
23 Jul 2015
re: Are the pine prices dry, seasoned, or green?

Hi Erica & John,

Thanks for your inquiry. The prices are for a thrown cubic meter of seasoned pine.

Regards,
George - Consumer NZ staff