How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Cord of Wood?

split cord of wood

Some people rely on burning wood in their fireplace or wood stove for heat. The firewood is sold in a measure called a “cord.” Although the legal definition in the United States and Canada is a full or bush cord. The regulations for the sale of firewood cords varies by the state.

Let’s define these terms and then look at the average cost you should be paying.

Defining Cord of Firewood

For those looking to split firewood for personal reasons, it’s okay to avoid measuring a cord of firewood down to the last inch. However, if you plan to purchase your firewood, it’s important to know what terminology like “cord” means. Terms like “cord,” refer to a measurement used for stacks of firewood.

Measurements

By definition 1 cord of wood = 4ft x 4ft x 8ft. You can also think of this as a volume. Based on these measurements, a cord fills up 128 cubic feet of space. Although, in actuality the wood volume is closer to 90 cubic feet due to the air pockets between the stack. It’s assumed that the wood is stacked parallel, touching, and compact in order to minimize these air pockets.

Cords of firewood are also quite cumbersome. If hardwood is used, a cord can weigh up to 5,000 lbs. If softwood is used, it may only weigh 2,500 lbs.

cord of firewood dimensions

There are also other ways of stacking firewood, but a full cord is the most common arrangement. This is why most people end up seeing different numbers and measures when it comes to firewood and its overall arrangement.

This is where laws of your state come into play. For instance in unregulated states firewood can be sold by the cord or fractions of a cord called a “face.” Some states also allow firewood to be sold by fractions as well. A face cord is simply one row of wood measured as 4′ x 8′ x length of the pieces.

Face Cord vs Full Cord

People that use firewood to heat their homes know that a 48″ or 4 ft log won’t fit very well in their wood stove or fireplace. For these situations, the firewood is cut into what is known as a furnace cord or a face cord.

A standard full cord of firewood measures 4′ (H) x 8′ (L) x W’. In this case W = 48″

cord width

However with fractions of a cord, you can get 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 face cords.

  • A face cord of 12″ lengths is a 1/4 cord or 32 cubic feet.
  • A face cord of 16″ lengths is a 1/3 cord or 42.7 cubic feet.
  • A face cord of 24″ lengths is a 1/2 cord or 64 cubic feet.
You should avoid terms like “rick” as it isn’t a legal term for firewood sales. Webster’s dictionary defines a “rick” as a pile. We’ve seen this term be used for a face cord, but some wood sellers like to use it to mean a pickup’s worth. Since the length of a trucks bed and the way the wood is stacked affects the overall volume, it’s unknown how much wood you’re actually getting.

Valuing a Cord of Firewood

Now that you know how to measure a cord of firewood, it’s time to learn more about the valuation process while buying/selling firewood.

Before looking at the numbers, it’s important to understand each type of firewood is unique. It’s the same with almost any other resource because the quality and/or quantity can differ. For instance you need to take into account:

  • How dry the firewood is (dry is better for burning purposes)
  • How clean the firewood is (cleaner wood is easier to burn)
  • How thick the firewood is (thinner logs are not as easy to manage)
  • How uniform the logs are (properly split logs are better)

All of these play a vital role in the cost of the cord. You also need to take into account the season as you’ll pay more in the winter months. On average you can expect to pay $150-$200 for a cord of wood. During winter months you may pay an upwards of $400-$500 a cord.

When looking for a cord of wood, it’s best practice to shop around and see what wood sellers are charging. Compare their pricing and determine an average.

Conclusion

When it comes to unites of measurement, a cord is a way to measure stacks of wood.

Depending on your location you have the option to buy firewood as a full cord or fractions of a cord. Most people tend to measure firewood with a face cord or furnace cord because it’s more in line with how the logs are used.

Always take the opportunity to see the firewood in person and make sure its quality is assessed properly. This is the only way to come out on the right side of a deal without overpaying or underselling. For example, a face cord of poorly prepared semi-dry firewood shouldn’t cost the same as a clean face cord of firewood.

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