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What is a Cord of Firewood & How Should It Be Stored?


Ordering firewood, whether a full cord or a fraction of a cord, won’t be confusing once you know what a cord of firewood is. Storing your firewood properly will keep it dry and ready for your fireplace or firepit.

It seems that autumn used to be the time of year when people began to think about ordering their firewood for the coming cooler months. Nowadays, with the popularity of outdoor fireplaces, chimineas, and fire pits, people are enjoying the presence of a fire all year long. So keeping a well stocked supply of firewood may have become a year round thing!

What Actually is a Cord?

Believe it or not, firewood is actually sold in a unit of measurement. This unit is called a ‘cord’. A full cord of firewood is 4 feet deep x 4 feet high x 8 feet long. It is 128 cubic feet in volume. This is an official and legal unit of measure that is regulated by state law to protect the buyer.

 

Dimensions of full cord of firewood

 

The 4 feet depth of the cord, refers to a log that would be 48 inches long. It’s not likely that most people would need or even be able to use a piece of firewood that is 48 inches in length. So many people buy firewood that is precut to a length (such as 12″, 16″, or 24″ lengths) that their fireplace, wood stove, or fire pit can accommodate.  For example, to get a full cord of precut firewood in 16 inch lengths, the dimensions would be 16 inches deep x 4 feet high x 24 feet long (which equals the 128 cu. ft full cord volume).

Various fractions (and volumes) of a cord in 16″ lengths would be as follows: 1/3 cord would be: 16 inches deep x 4 feet high x 8 feet long = 42.66 cu. ft.; 1/2 cord would be: 16 inches deep x 4 feet high x 12 feet long = 64 cu. ft.; 1/4 cord would be: 16 inches deep x 4 feet high x 6 feet long = 32 cu. ft.

Whatever dimensions the seller uses, a full cord should always have a volume of 128 cubic feet, determined by depth x height x length. And fractions of a cord should be based on the volume of a full cord.

Some sellers of firewood might use vague terms, such as ‘face cord’, ‘stove cord’, or even ‘a truck load’. These terms reference some fraction of a full cord and it may be unclear as to what amount of firewood you are actually buying. You may want to find a seller that labels his firewood units in clear fractions. As a check, you can do the math to make sure that the amount of firewood you are buying yields the correct volume (cu.ft.) for a full cord or a fraction of a cord.

The cost of the firewood most likely will be dictated by the location, availability, and type (species) of the wood. Delivery is usually a separate charge from that of the firewood itself. If you want your firewood supplier to stack the firewood when they deliver it, this is typically a separate charge, too.

 

What Woods Make the Best Firewood?

The firewood you purchase should be split hardwoods, such as ash, oak, maple, and so on, (with a maximum thickness of 6 inches) and be seasoned (meaning it has been allowed to dry by proper air circulation for at least a year). This means that the firewood you order would have to have been cut and split a year ago, if you plan on using it now.

Greenwood, or wood that has not been seasoned (allowed to dry) has too much water content and obviously would not make good or efficient firewood. It can create a lot of smoke, too. Burning greenwood, also, will contribute to a build up of creosote in the chimney, and this creates a safety hazard.

Softwoods, like pine wood, are good kindling for getting the fire started. They are not dense like hardwoods, so they do not provide a high quality, long lasting fire.

 

Storing Your Firewood

After you get all that firewood delivered, you may want to stack it just any-which-way. But there is a proper way to store it. It will continue to need to be provided with good air circulation to stay dry and to prevent it from rotting.

 

This photo shows a 46.6″ H x 96″ W x 15.5″ D firewood rack with protective cover

 

First, it needs to be kept up off of the ground. Firewood storage racks are good for this, and there are many styles and types from which to chose. Secondly, if you cannot provide a shed or some other protected storage area, at least cover it with a tarp during periods of rain or snow. Remove the cover during dry weather to continue providing your stack of firewood with good air circulation.

Be sure to stack the firewood safely. Don’t stack it in such a manner that it may topple over.

Always maintain all wood burning appliances and all chimneys for safety. Call a certified chimney sweep to consult with them for scheduling inspections, and safety information.

Bottom photo credit:  ShelterLogic

 

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