What is a Cord of Firewood?

Cord of firewood
June 10, 2023

If you split your own firewood for personal use, then knowing exactly how to measure a cord of firewood doesn’t really matter. But, if you plan on packing up the wood you chop to sell to others, or you need to buy firewood to sustain you through the cold months, you really should know how to properly measure a quantity of firewood.

The most common form of measurement for a stack of wood is called a cord.

A Unit of Measurement

There’s really nothing tricky when it comes to understanding what a standard cord is. It’s simply a unit of measurement. Like a gallon or cubic meter, a cord is a type of measurement that represents a certain volume.

That volume is equal to about 128 cubic feet meaning 1 cord of wood is the same as a stack of wood that would fill 128 cubic feet of space. That’s why cords are often segmented into 4 foot by 4 foot by 8 foot stacks. (4 x 4 x 8 = 128).

Of course, you can stack wood in a another arrangement, but the 4x4x8 is the most common.

The problem though is that firewood is almost never sold in 4 foot long longs. That’s way to long for a log of firewood.

So, when you’re packing or buying a cord of firewood, you’re most likely going to fine a different arrangement.

Cord vs. Furnace Cord vs. Face Cord

Whether you sell firewood or buy firewood, you know a 4 foot long log is just too much wood. So, a standard cord that is comprised of a bunch of 4 foot long logs is not really useful.

Instead, cords for firewood are usually arranged in something called either a furnace cord or a face cord. They have different measurements, and therefore actually contain a less wood than a standard cord.

For example, a typical furnace cord measures about 4 feet by 8 feet by 18 inches (or 1.5 feet). So a furnace cord equals about 48 cubic feet (4 x 8 x 1.5 = 48).

And, a typical face cord measures about 4 feet by 8 feet by 16 inches (or 1.33 feet). So a face cord equals about 42.56 cubic feet (4 x 8 x 1.33 = 42.56).

cat firewood

These measurements are important because it can make a big difference in how much money changes hands when buying or selling firewood.

What’s the Value?

Determining what equals a cord is not too difficult. The hard part comes when you need to know the dollar value of a cord.

First and foremost, not all wood is equal. Like all items that are bought and sold, both quantity and quality matter.

What does that mean? It means one face cord of firewood might not be worth the same as another face cord of firewood.

They might be the same quantity, but the quality of the wood might be very different. Here are a few qualities that can affect the value of firewood:

    • the overall dryness of the wood (dryer wood is worth more as it burns better)
    • the overall cleanliness of the wood (dirty wood doesn’t burn as cleanly as clean firewood)
    • the overall thickness of the wood (thinner logs take more time to split than thicker logs)
    • the relative uniformity of the logs (were the logs split with care or just hastily prepared)

If you notice, you really need to see the wood to get an honest feel of all of these factors. That’s why you never want top buy firewood from someone for the first time without actually seeing what you are purchasing.

In Summary

A cord is just a unit of measurement. Like certain units of measurement, there are some variations. For example, you can have a dozen or a baker’s dozen.

In regard to wood, you can have a cord, a furnace cord, and a face cord. Firewood is generally measured by either a furnace cord or face cord because in a regular cord the logs are too ling for firewood.

When buying a cord of firewood, make sure to know the quality of the wood before making the deal. The quality of the wood greatly affects the value, so a face cord of low quality semi-dry firewood should sell for less than a face cord of clean, dry, well cut firewood.

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