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How Much is a Cord?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Firewood is sold in a variety of ways these days, from a small bundle at the local gas station to a truckload dumped on the driveway waiting to be stacked by you later. Measurements for firewood go back to sometime between 1630 to 1640. Back then, as today, you can still buy firewood by the "cord". The story goes that the name originated from the materials used to measure the firewood, namely a line, string, rope or "cord". The size of a cord of firewood has remained the same, being a pile of tightly stacked wood 4 feet high, 4 feet deep and 8 feet long or 128 cubic feet. That is quite a bit of firewood to have delivered at one time. Other ways to look at a cord of firewood equals 7,500,000 toothpicks or that a cord weighs 2 tons and has the heating value of 200 gallons of fuel oil or a ton of coal. A full-sized pickup with an 8-foot bed will hold approximately one-third to one-half cord of wood, depending on how it is loaded. A pickup bed will hold more when wood is stacked, rather than thrown. Stacked neatly to the top of bed should be slightly more than a ½ cord.

There are many other terms to describe smaller amounts of firewood. Pretty straight forward is a half-cord. Less clear is what is called a face cord. Face cords have the same height and length of a full cord, but the depth can vary from 12 to 18 inches. When getting prices for a face cord, it is best to ask for that third dimension so you are comparing equal amounts of firewood against the asking price.

Other terms are a rick or half rick. A rick of firewood is 1/3 of a full cord based on pieces being 16 inches in length. Other terms include, stack -this references how many stacks make up a cord; three stacks 4 feet high and 8 feet long.


Another way to look at firewood is to consider the heat value produced by burning the logs. Some woods are clearly better than others. Given the percentage of moisture in the firewood is the same, the heavier the wood, the higher the heat value. The firewood should contain 20% or less to burn well and not smoke. Some of the favorite woods to buy include black locust, sugar maple, oak and pear. Sometimes the offer of free firewood is alluring. If that firewood is rotten, insect riddled or otherwise of poor quality, even free is not a good deal.

Once that firewood is home it should be stacked so air can circulate and off the ground. Covering the firewood pile so it stays dry is another way to ensure your get the most heat and value from the wood. Firewood should be seasoned for at least 6-9 months and larger logs need to be split in order to dry within that time. Logs over 10 inches in diameter will need to be halved or quartered to dry properly. The size of your fireplace may influence the size of firewood you can accommodate. For many fireplaces pieces 8-10 inches in size may still be too large and need to be split



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