A Cord of Firewood
People ask us to buy a cord of wood and ask how big is it. We mostly sell partial cords of wood since it is kiln dried ready to burn and storage space is often at a premium. Because there are no bugs in the wood and it is really clean and dry they can store it inside. Periodic burning and not wanting to take up too much space our service fits well. This way customers can buy less than a full cord and have it delivered. The confusion comes in when talking about amounts of firewood using terms other than a cord since there are so many terms used and people do not want to get the wrong amount or be short.
Anyway, the point is sometimes explaining all the terms relating to buying firewood and what the quantity it really is. So we want to explain what each term is so that we are talking apples to apples on the amount of wood you want to get and also not be misled by looking at a pile dumped at the side of the road and not knowing how much is actually being provided.
Terms Used to Buy Firewood
There are multiple terms used when talking about the measure and amount of firewood. Because of multiple terms used and conversations with customers we do find that there is confusion in the talking about units of measure in buying firewood. Firewood is sold by volume. There are many terms used to describe how much wood the buyer can expect to receive. The buyer should have a frame of reference so they can fit what they are going to buy to the amount of firewood they expect to need.
The customer that periodically buys firewood for their fireplace for burning often knows what they want and have burned in the past. The place it can get difficult is when a person changes supplier from a company that sells a truckload of wood to other companies that sell by the cord or a fraction of a cord. Standard terms often are not used.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology on page 115 they define “fireplace and Stove Wood” in an all-inclusive way as follows “Any kindling, logs, boards, timbers, or other wood, natural or processed, split or not split, advertised, offered for sale, or sold for use as fuel.” There are no quality descriptions for this and broken wood pallets would fit the definition. So this is a starting point. We feel it is important to supply a consistently high-quality kiln dried firewood product and a fair measure. This agency is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and here is their firewood information.
They go on to define a cord of wood as “The amount of wood that is contained in a space of 128 ft3 when the wood is ranked and well stowed.” Later on, they go on to say that there it can also be sold as fractions of a cord. In the firewood industry, there are a number of different terms for smaller quantities of firewood. With the smaller quantities, the different terms can be highly variable and sometimes be confusing on purpose. So do not be confused and ask questions doing this you will get a good idea of what is going on and making sure you get a fair shake.
A Full Cord of Wood
A full cord of wood as defined above is 128 cubic feet of compactly stacked wood. The typical set of dimensions is 4 feet high 4 feet deep and 8 feet wide. Most firewood is cut to 16” lengths to fit well in most fireplaces. The other convenient part of this 16” length is it is conveniently divisible into the 4-foot depth dimension by 3. So three stacks of 16-inch-long pieces of wood stacked end to end to make up the 48” deep stack of wood.
A half cord of wood is 64 cubic feet. The stack of wood is half as wide. Here the stack of wood based on 16” pieces would be 4’ high and 4’ deep but the stacked width changes to 4’ wide.
A face cord is one-third of a cord. So the volume of the stack would be a third of the 128 cubic feet of cord so it equals 42.66 cubic feet. The stacked dimension would be changed to one row deep instead of three. The stack would be 4 feet high by 8 feet wide and then 16” deep. The way it is stacked really has no basis it just needs to be an easy dimension and fit the area you have. So naturally, the same result would be if the wood was stacked two layers deep a face cord could be 4’ high by 32” deep by 4 feet wide.
A quarter cord of wood is 4'x6'x16” For this amount, there is one row of wood in the stack and the width is reduced to produce the volume of 32 Cubic Feet Instead of 8 feet wide on the face cord the quarter cord is 6 feet wide.
Half a face cord The next size down is again not as wide as the quarter cord the width is adjusted to 4 feet wide. This dimension changes to 4'x4'x16” which provides 21.3 Cubic Feet of firewood. Talking about half a face cord you need to remember this is one row of wood not half of a whole cord of wood.
Quarter Face Cord with this term you are getting a small quantity of wood for occasional burning. There is one row of 16” pieces of wood typically stacked 4 feet wide by two feet high and 16” deep. Certainly, if you are not familiar with the benefits of burning kiln dried firewood and want to see it for yourself this is a great sample size.
Other terms people use to buy an amount of firewood
Buying firewood based on terminology that is not quantifiable opens the buyer up to variability in the amount of wood they actually get. For peace of mind, you just want to know you are being treated fairly. Some of the variation in these terms is based on a company’s equipment used for loading and delivering firewood and some of it is the mentality of the seller who may or may not be trying to confuse the customer.
Firewood dealers often talk about the following terms
- Stove cord
- Bush cords
- pickup load
- A run of wood
- Apartment cord
- Fireplace Cord
- Furnace cord
- Short cord
- A tossed cord
- Green cords
Who wouldn't get confused and frustrated if you are calling to get firewood delivered and all of a sudden you can not understand what the person is really talking about and have no idea what sized truck is going to pull up outside? So here is some of the translation.
Ricks is an example of another term for a face cord of wood. So that would make it 4 feet high by 8 feet wide and then 16” deep.
A bush cord stack of wood that is 4’ 8’ by 16” deep so this is the same as a face cord or a rick
We think an apartment cord is a face cord, but please do not bet the ranch on that.
A furnace cord is also the same as a face cord, depending on who you are talking to!
A “run” of wood is also the same as a face cord in that it is one roof of wood 16” deep. All other dimensions stay the same but not 3 rows deep you would get a full cord. It is one run.
A rack of wood is a term often used by companies that restock a customer’s firewood rack for them. Here the volume received is based on the dimensions of the rack being stocked and how much is left over from the previous order.
The term of “Stove Cord” is usually applicable when a customer is buying wood to burn in a stove. Since the stoves are often smaller than a fireplace the size of each piece is shortened up to 12” Less volume of wood make burned also. Here is the dimension of what the stacked wood should be 4 feet high by 8 feet wide with an average length of 12 inches. It is sort of like a face cord but smaller since the pieces are cut shorter.
A “tossed cord” would be wood that is loosely stacked to in three rows but the volume is increased from 190 cubic feet due to the recognition that there are a lot of voids when stacked
A green cord refers to the firewood prior to being cut or split and most wood will shrink by 9 to 7 cubic feet depending on the density of the wood and moisture content.
Terms with no specific definition we cannot find a dimension for
- Short cord
- Pile of Wood
- Fireplace cord
A Truck Load of Wood
A truckload of wood is just way too variable. Simply stated it all depends on the size of the truck body and how high the side boards are. A truckload could be as small as a face cord since the weight or body style may be too small to carry more. A truckload on a tractor-trailer depending on the state you are traveling it can vary from 12 cords to 17 cords of wood. Again this can vary by how dry the wood is. Sometimes the space on the truck is OK but weight regulations prevent more on the truck since the fine can be really large and not worth the risk.
This variation in terminology or local practice is what people from different places tend to use. Just like different areas around Boston and New Hampshire can have some very different accents. Know what the term means or ask for clarification regarding exactly what amount to expect.
We have customers that are not frequent buyers of firewood get confused by some of the firewood measurement terms confusing. We are concerned that they get what they want and know it. It is important to know the volume of the load as well as the species of the wood and how dry it is. We take care of all of this so you have a great wood burning experience. It benefits both us and the buyer to get a fair deal and consistent product.
Ask whoever you are buying from if you are at all confused the following question. What are the dimensions of the pile of wood I am going to get? Also the moisture content of the wood such as seasoned firewood vs kiln dried firewood. LISTEN carefully to the answer. this will tell you everything.