I’ve bought and stacked countless cords of firewood over the years, and a few times I’ve been shortchanged. That’s why it’s important to know the dimensions of a cord of wood.
A “cord” of firewood actually has different dimensions, however. You have a stacked cord, face cord, and loose thrown cord. Let’s look into the differences so you know exactly what you’re buying.
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Maine Laws Set the Bar on Firewood
I live in Maine, the most heavily forested state in the nation (about 90% forest). We have a long history of processing firewood and lumber. Evidence of that history still exists by the abandoned trains deep in the north woods.
Because of this abundance of trees, us Mainers (“Mainahs” as we all ourselves) burn a lot of wood. Maine likely has the most well-defined laws governing firewood in the nation.
The cutting, processing, and delivery of firewood is a big economic activity here, and nearly every fall you can find a story about the Attorney General’s Office prosecuting someone for shortchanging buyers of their firewood.
It’s easy to get shortchanged if you don’t know your measurements!
To make it clear for buyers and sellers, Maine has very specific laws on the measurements of firewood (see here and here). No one in Maine can sell firewood by a “truckload” or “pile” or any other subjective term.
Maine only allows the sale of firewood in three different measurements: standard cord, cubic foot, and loose thrown cord. To my knowledge, Maine is the only state that defines a “loose thrown cord” by law. Your state’s measurements may differ (or not exist at all).
The Maine Attorney General’s Office has an online firewood calculator to help protect consumers. They also require a detailed receipt on all firewood transactions over $20 in order to protect consumers.
How Big is a Cord of Wood
When most people think of a “cord” of firewood they are thinking of a cut, split, and stacked cord. As described above, that’s not the only type, however. People will also sell a face or “rick” cord and loose or “thrown” cords. Each of these cords of firewood have different total cubic feet.
Generally speaking, those dimensions break down in the following chart, but we are going to dig down into the details so you know exactly how much firewood you are buying and stacking. At the end of the season, this information will also help you know how much firewood you burned, how much you spent, and how much you might need for next season.
|Measurement||Stacked Cord||Face Cord||Loose Cord|
|Dimensions||4′ x 4′ x 8′||4′ x 8’*||varies|
This chart only goes so far, however. The length of the sticks makes a difference in how the cord of firewood measures, particularly when it isn’t stacked.
Stacked Cord of Wood Dimensions
A “stacked” cord of firewood is what most people (and Maine law) call a “standard” cord of wood. A stacked cord of wood is 128 cubic feet. To measure cubic feet, multiply the length by the depth by the height.
In most cases, that means a stack of firewood that is 4′ high by 4′ wide by 8′ long (4 x 4 x 8 = 128).
This specific measurement is built on the widely-accepted 16″ stick standard (16″ sticks stacked 3 deep = 4′). If you request sticks cut to 20″ (or whatever), the measurements will change but the cubic feet should remain the same.
Face Cord of Wood Dimensions
People that don’t need (or can’t afford) a full cord may buy what’s called a face cord. A face cord is a stack of firewood 4′ high and 8′ wide. Thus, a face cord is just what it sounds like. Look at the front facing side of the cord of wood in the first pic above. That is your “face cord.”
There is a problem here, however – and it’s why Maine forbids the sale of a “face cord.”
If you buy a face cord that is 4′ tall by 8′ wide made of 16″ sticks, and I buy a face cord that is 4′ tall by 8′ wide made of 20″ sticks – who gets more firewood? I do – obviously. My stack is deeper. A face cord does not account for depth!
Generally speaking, however, most people consider a face cord to be comprised of the standard 16″ stick. Thus, 3 face cords will equal 1 stacked cord.
Loose Thrown Cord of Wood Dimensions
A loose thrown cord is just as it sounds, firewood tossed into a pile or container. Why is this allowed to be sold this way? Because thrown like this there is a lot of air space to account for. Firewood tossed into a 4′ x 4′ x 8′ bin is not a cord, because when it’s stacked, the dimensions decrease – the air space is reduced.
Well, think about it. If I’m a firewood dealer trying to cut and delivery hundreds of cords of firewood, who has the time to stack a cord before delivery!?
A loose thrown cord should consume around 180 cubic feet of space. Once stacked, that 180 cubic feet should measure out to be around 128 cubic feet. That’s for 12-16″ sticks. Sticks sold in 2′ lengths and sold as loose thrown should consumer around 195 cubic feet, because sticks of that size are going to have more empty space between them when loosely thrown.
Other Cord of Firewood FAQs
How Much Does a Cord of Firewood Cost?
I pay around $220 a cord for firewood that is not yet seasoned but is cut, split, and delivered. Prices vary widely, however. If you’re looking for a cord of wood to be delivered inside Boston, you’ll pay a whole lot more. If you want a cord of seasoned firewood delivered in January, that’s going to cost a lot more than a cord of green wood delivered in April.
How Much Does a Cord of Wood Weigh?
The answer to this varies a lot depending on the
Will a Cord of Wood Fit in a Pickup?
I fit a full cord of firewood in my old 3/4 ton pickup that had an 8′ bed with a cap on – but I wouldn’t recommend it! I had to stack the firewood neatly inside the cap in order to get it to fit and it only fit because the cap contained it. I had a 40 minute drive home and I was sure it was going to be the most expensive cord of wood I ever bought because something was going to break on the truck. Fortunately, nothing did.
A better answer is – no, a pickup truck cannot carry a cord of firewood. A truck with an 8′ bed should not carry more than half a cord of wood. A truck with a 6′ bed should carry about 1/3 of a cord.
How Many Sticks Are in a Cord of Wood?
One cord of firewood is likely to contain anywhere between 600 to 800 pieces of split firewood. Because the size of sticks varies, you measure a cord by total volume. Besides – who would have the time to count the sticks!?
How Long Does a Cord of Wood Last?
The answer depends on how much you burn. If you are running one woodstove in a relatively well-insulated house of average size, expect a cord to last around 6 weeks. That assumes you are burning every day. Burn less than that and – well, you’re burning less than that.
How Many Trees Make a Cord of Wood?
This is a good question if you a fortunate enough to own a wood lot or live somewhere with plenty of trees on your property. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
Well, that depends, of course, on the size of the trees. Here are some examples: It would take 50 trees 4 inches in diameter, 10 trees 8 inches in diameter, or 3 trees 14 inches in diameter to make a cord of wood.https://www.almanac.com/fact/how-many-trees-does-it-take-to
What is a Rick of Wood?
A rick of firewood is the same as a face cord, 42.66 cubic feet if they are 16″ sticks.
What is a Bush Cord?
A bush cord is the same as a stacked cord – 128 cubic feet.
If you are burning with firewood and want to learn more about the ins and outs of it, consider these two well-reviewed books on the subject:
Firewood is a great fuel source. You can use it for heating and cooking, and for many people, it’s a local, renewable fuel. If you have a bit of land and you’re not afraid of a little physical labor, all you need is a chainsaw (or axe if need be), splitting maul, and a wedge.
It’s the physical labor that scares many people off. Even if you have it cut, split and delivered, as I do, you have to stack, move, load it. This is why they say “firewood warms you twice.”