What's a Cord of Wood?

What's a Cord of Wood?

Log Rack & Firewood 101

During the coldest days of winter, there's nothing quite like warming up in front of a crackling fire.

But to fuel a winter's worth of fires, you're going to need to split a lot of wood with your log splitter. And if you don't have an abundant supply of wood on your property, you've got to buy it.

Firewood is measured in cords. So what is a cord of firewood?

A Full Cord, A Face Cord, and a Rick

A cord is defined as 128 cubic feet of wood. This measures approximately 4' high x 8' long x 4' deep.

Some places that sell firewood might advertise a cord of wood while selling you only a fraction of a cord.

8-Foot Log RackThis sometimes happens when they offer you what's called a face cord. Like a full cord of firewood, a face cord measures 4' high x 8' long, but face cords can vary as to how deep they measure. Face cords often measure 4' high x 8' long x 16" deep. Yes, that's 16 inches.

This means that your typical face cord contains only one-third the amount of wood as a full cord. If you find a face cord that measures 4' high x 8' long x 24" deep, then you're getting a half-cord of wood.

One way to tell if you're looking at a full cord of wood is to count how many rows of wood are stacked together. Firewood logs are often cut 16" long, so a stack of firewood that contains three rows of 16" logs (16" x 3 = 48", or 4') is likely to be a full cord. As long as the stack still measures 4' high x 8' long, that is.

Seasoned Firewood

Additionally, you might hear some sellers refer to a rick of wood. Don't be alarmed by the extra terminology. Some people use the term to refer to a face cord of wood; others use it just to describe the amount of wood that can be loaded into a pickup.

The use of different names isn't always done maliciously. Sometimes, it's just a matter of confusion. To avoid confusion, be sure to measure before you buy (or better yet, split your own wood!).

Regardless of where you get your cord of wood, it's important to know what to do with it once you've got it.


Seasoning Your Cord of Wood

Whether you split your own firewood or buy it, you need to make sure it has been properly seasoned. Generally, this takes at least six months and sometimes up to a year. Different factors can affect how quickly your wood seasons:

  • Thickness
  • Type of wood
  • Weather 

One way to tell if your wood has seasoned long enough is to check for cracks in the ends of the logs. Seasoned wood typically cracks at the ends as it loses moisture.

Log Rack of Firewood

If you hit two logs together and they make a sharp cracking sound that has a slight ring to it, they are good to go. If, when you hit them together, the logs make a dull thud sound, they aren't ready.

Unseasoned wood, also called green wood, will not create as much energy as seasoned firewood. Also, unseasoned firewood emits much more smoke as it burns. If you procure your own wood, split it before you leave it to season to speed the curing process along.


Keeping Your Cord of Wood Organized

12-Foot Log RackA cord of wood is a whole mess of logs. Using log racks is the easiest way to keep them organized, neat, and out-of-the-way. Typically, log racks are kept outside as the wood ages. make sure the wood is well seasoned before bringing it inside to use in your fireplace.

If you do elect to bring the wood inside, only bring in the small amount that you immediately need. Hit the wood together to get rid of any unwanted pests, such as spiders and insects, from accompanying your wood indoors.

With a full cord (or face cord) of wood ready to go, you'll be set to enjoy plenty of warm toasty nights, no measuring required.


NEXT: How to Build Different Types of Fires

Dale, the Power Equipment Expert
Power Equipment Expert
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