Sunday, January 11, 2009

Keep The Home Fires Burning

This post may not be of interest to all but I know there are a number of my readers that heat their homes, at least partially, with wood so I thought I would present this idea. Now, I don't know if this would work in all areas because it depends greatly on the 'neighborliness' of work places around you but we do it here.
What you see in the photo above is what we construction workers refer to as 'dunnage'. Dunnage is 4x4 posts about 6-8 feet long that is used to elevate shipments of steel and equipment off the beds of flat-bed trucks in order for the forklifts or lifting straps to get under the load and it be removed. We also use dunnage to keep bundles of rebar or lumber up out of the mud and to be able to move it around easily. Dunnage is usually cut from cast off hickory, oak, pine and poplar so it is good wood. Now, sometimes it is roughed up to the point that you have to cut it to be able to tell what kind of wood it is but it is easily sawn with a circular saw, chainsaw or whatever. As far as I know it is not treated in any way, although some of it might get a little paint on it. It normally never has nails in it either.
Now, the reason I'm telling you is this: they throw this stuff away by the tons. Every day. We have stacks and stacks of it on the job I'm on now. Some truck drivers will take their dunnage with them and some jobs save all they get to use throughout the job but there is a lot still out there thrown away. It occurred to me that if you live in an area where hardwoods do not grow, this may be a way to procure some because often times structural steel and equipment is shipped across country. If they get a shipment from an area ripe with hardwoods, the dunnage is most likely going to be hickory or so.
If you don't have a connection to someone that works on construction sites then there are several rules you must follow so you don't piss these guys off. We have to be very aware of liability issues nowadays so please, do as you're told. Not so much by me, I mean the workers. First, go directly to the job trailer where the superintendent is. DO NOT enter the job site where work is actually going on and approach the guys there. Be very nice to the super and just explain what you are looking for. Use the correct terminology; they will respect you more. Do not say you are just looking for their scrap wood because he'll just say, we don't have time for that, go away. If they are willing to let you take the dunnage you will probably be required to come back before or after work when nothing is going on. However, if they tell you to wear a hard hat or boots or whatever, DO IT. Be quick, do what they say and don't start looking around for more to take. You will not be allowed to cut it there either so just load your truck and get out. Oh, be sure to thank them.
Now, like I said, I don't know what companies do in other parts of the country but here we try to give away what we can to keep it out of the landfills. Many companies now are requiring the sites to recycle more and more, so be aware also that they may not be allowed to give you stuff. That doesn't make sense either but you know how bureaucrats are.
So, maybe that is of some help to somebody. I know I burn dunnage when I can get it. Right now I am mostly using the trees that I am trying to get cleaned up from clearing etc. but do bring home a few sticks. Well, if the super doesn't beat me to it!

*John McCormack / written during WWI


Floridacracker said...

I bet wood carvers might like that info too!
Thanks Annie.

countrypeapie said...

Keep the good ideas coming! This is great to know. We're always on the lookout for free firewood. My husband is a roadside and Craig's list scavenger. He doesn't do commercial jobs, so I had never heard of this particular source. Thank you!

edifice rex said...

Hey FC! Yeah, it wouldb egood for say, carving walking sticks! Several of the guys at work have taken some decent pieces of red oak dunnage and made soem nice stuff of it. I hate to see it thrown away.

Hey Peapie! Sure thing. If I get some off this job I let you know and ya'll can have it. The super has been getting me to cut up a bunch for him but maybe he has enough by now.

Anonymous said...


Haven't blogged lately but I've been keeping up with your post. My brother said he got 8 inches or rain from the past flood, hard to believe after the long dry spell we've had up there.

I rigged up a test rain collector to fill up some 50 gal. barrels. It worked very well, need to make permanent changes so that my wife will let me keep it up. We plan to use that water for washing clothes. When you have to haul drinking water you become alot more water conscious. Makes you appreciate how harsh life used to be and still is for parts of the world.

I came up over New Years and brought my wife's folks and her aunt. I acted as a tour guide and took them to High Falls, Bucks Pocket and Guntersville. I used my wood heater while there and it really puts out the heat. I agree that there is way too much wood wasted but nobody takes the time to salvage it. We are a spoiled country.

Take care and God bless.


Ed Abbey said...

Most of our dunnage up here is pine and not worth the effort to cut up since it burns so quickly. Also, since we are an international company, quite a bit of our dunnage is treated as any wood that goes or comes from over seas. I mostly save some of the pine dunnage now and then when I have a project going on and need some "scrap" wood here or there. I built my work benches out of a crate that a turret press came in. If I had been homeless at the time, I could have used it as a decent home!

edifice rex said...

Hey Barry! Great to hear from you! Yeah, I'm not sure how much rain we got but it was more than I've ever seen here.
I know a lot of people just don't have time to salvage stuff or even look for it but there is so much out there. We all need to make more effort to not waste so much. Ya'll drop by the next time you're up!

Hey Ed! Yeah, we get a good bit of pine too but I'm amazed at how much of it is oak or hickory. Some of the crates and palets have some really decent wood in them if you take the time to wreck them.

The Scavenger said...

WOW, great advice. I would love to have a big truck load of dunnage. Would be great for the barn I am trying to build from scrap lumber. Happy you are taking advantage of all that free wood. Stay warm.


The Country Experience said...

I had no idea! Thanks for sharing that. "Reduce, reuse, and recycle" is near and dear to my heart.

edifice rex said...

Hey Chris! Yeah, it can be some good wood. We sometimes get 2x4 dunnage too and it's always good hard wood. Sometimes it has a slight groove down the middle for the metal banding but that doesn't hurt anything.

Hey CE! there is some good stuff out there if you know where to look!