When is a cord not a cord?

For a simple measure of volume, the cord creates a lot of confusion in the firewood world. This guide should help clarify the terms often used in marketing firewood. The industry and consumers alike would benefit greatly from a better understanding of — and agreement on — the terms used.

 

CORDS

A cord is the amount of wood that occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet.

Typically it is represented as a 4’x4’x8’ measure, but any combination of dimensions can be used to equal 128 cubic feet.

With logs there aren’t many options for stacking. A stack of 100” bolts 4’ tall and 4’ wide is a cord. But when cut and split into firewood, which can be stacked/packed more tightly into the same 128 cubic foot volume, the measured volume of the logs decreases.

A cord of logs generally yields 85 cubic feet of firewood.

A cord of firewood is measured in a tight stack.

A cord of firewood thrown loosely into a dump box will occupy about 180 cubic feet.

 

FACE CORDS

A face cord is one-third of a cord, 42.7 cubic feet. In some areas it’s not unusual to hear loggers refer to a face cord as “a cord of firewood” in contrast to a “logger’s cord” (a full 128 cu ft).

 

RICKS, RACKS AND FIREPLACE CORDS

Different parts of the country use different terms to describe smaller quantities. Rick (or rack) is most commonly used interchangeably with face cord. A fireplace cord, in many areas, can be ½ of a face cord, or 1/6th of a cord (24 cubic feet).

The National Firewood Association urges that firewood sold be measured/advertised in fractions of a cord. Any additional term familiar to the market (rick, rack, etc.) may be used, as long as it is accompanied by the cord fraction measure or cubic feet, whichever makes sense. (We’re not asking anyone to advertise .75 cu ft bundles as 1/170th of a cord).

 

PICKUP TRUCKS

A full-size pickup with an 8’ bed holds 1/3rd of a cord of firewood, loosely thrown.

A full-size pickup with a 6-½’ bed holds about ¼ of a cord.

Larger loads may be possible, but safety issues begin to arise quickly. A single piece of firewood can kill at highway speeds. Tarp your load.

 

LOOSE STACKS AND ESTIMATES

A note about these numbers. Our estimates of the volume of a loose stack or the amount of firewood in a cord of logs are very generous. We encourage the entire industry err on the side of the consumer. That way, if an error being made, whoever is making it is responsible.

If you are absolutely sure your 160 cu ft trailer holds a full 128 ft cord of firewood every time and a random test of any load would bear that out, fine. Encourage your customers to check your math with a tape when they’re done stacking.