To put it simply, a cord of wood is a measurement of firewood. This measurement is different depending on which country or state you live in. Also, there are a few kinds of cords which makes it even more confusion; a full cord, face cord, sheldon cord, kitchen cord, and stove cord to name a few. But fear not, that’s precisely what this article is about. I’ll cover the basics and give you as much helpful information as possible.
Cord Measurements & Terminology
Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, the size of a cord largely depends on the country you live in but I’ll do my best to be helpful to as many people as possible.
Before I get into the measurements, I want to be clear about the terminology. Firewood sellers may use different non-legal terms to describe the amount of wood they’re selling; you should always understand how much wood you’re buying in terms of a “full cord”. If a seller offers you a “running cord” or a “truckload”, be sure to first understand how much wood you’re purchasing in comparison to a full cord.
In the United States and Canada, a full cord is 128 cubic feet. To put that measurement into perspective, that’s a stack of wood 8 feet (width) x 4 feet (depth) x 4 feet (height). In the US and Canada, the term “full cord” is a legal term, one you should be familiar with if you’re looking to purchase some firewood.
It’s also worth mentioning that the length of the firewood varies but typically they’re around 16-inches. This means there are three rows of firewood per cord. That’s not always the case, though. The length of each piece of firewood isn’t set in stone. Some retailers choose to cut each piece around 12-inches in length; that means a full cord would be four rows deep. But you get the point; a full cord of wood is 8ft x 4ft x 4ft.
A face cord is approximately 1/3 of a full cord. This is a common term used to define a row of firewood 8 feet in width by 4 feet in height, having each piece of firewood cut to 16-inches in length. If the logs are 12-inches in length that means this “face cord” is not actually 1/3 of a full cord; it’s 1/4 of a full cord. The price should reflect the smaller amount of wood.
Sometimes a face cord is called a “Rick of Wood”. A “Rick” is actually a description of the way materials are stacked, whether its wood, hay, etc. Using the term “rick of wood” to describe a quantity is improper usage in my opinion but I certainly don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I only mention this because it’s common terminology when describing a face cord or 1/3 of a full cord. Either way, be sure you know what you’re buying in terms of a full cord – not a “rick”.
Sheldon Cord, Stove Cord, etc
A sheldon cord is another popular term. It’s most often described as “more than a full cord”. It varies depending on your region of the world. A stove cord is common as well but it’s usually meant to describe the length of the logs. Pieces of firewood cut to 12-inches in length will fall into this category more often than not. Someone might say a “stove cord” is 1/4th of a full cord because it is stacked 8 feet long by 4 feet tall and the logs are 12-inches in length. Be sure to clarify before buying.
These are just a few examples of what you might hear when you go to purchase wood. Others include running cord, truckload, country cord, and more. What really matters is that you know the measurements of a full cord. Most other terms are based on length of the firewood or percentages of wood in comparison to a full cord.
The measurements for a full cord differ depending on where in the world you live. The vast majority of people reading this will be from English speaking countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whether you live in one of the countries or not, I’m going to do my best to give you the information you’re looking for. Since I live in the US, I can’t say with absolute certainty that the measurements below are 100% accurate. This is information I’ve found on the internet.
- United States & Canada: 128 cubic feet or 8-ft x 4-ft x 4-ft
- France: 2 – 3 steres (corde) vastly different depending on location
- Germany: 2 variants of 1.4 or 1.0 cubic meters – 14 ft wide x 3 feet deep x 3 feet high
It’s a short list for now but this is all I could find. I expect to do more research in the future to add to this list. If you’re from another region of the world and you happen to know the measurements, please educate us in the comment section below.
The Price of a Full Cord
Just like the measurements and terminology, the price of a cord will vary from region to region. Also, the time of year affects the overall price as well. You’re likely to pay more for firewood during the winter months than you are during the summer months.
According to bankrate.com, the average cost of a cord of wood is between $120 – $180 (at the time of writing this page). That sounds right for some regions but it’s actually on the low side. I imagine you’ll pay a little more, anywhere up to $250 per cord. In my area, I can get a face cord for $70 and it’s early fall. That’s $210 per full cord, assuming the logs are cut to a standard 16-inches. So, depending on the time of year and your region, you’ll likely pay between $200 – $250 for a full cord.
How to Store and Season a Cord
Once you’ve obtained a cord of wood, it’s important to stack and season the wood properly. Stacking wood is easy enough to understand but what is “seasoned wood”? Well, when firewood is seasoned, it’s ready to burn. Unseasoned wood is freshly cut and sometimes still green. It has a higher moisture content than seasoned wood. Unseasoned wood is hard to light, it doesn’t burn efficiently, it produces more smoke, and leaves more creosote in your flue pipe. If the wood is seasoned, you can burn it now. If not, you’ll need to wait several months.
So, how do you season firewood? The process is fairly simple. If possible, stack the firewood in a row with both ends exposed to air circulation. Stacking the wood against a wall will block the flow of air and cause it to dry slower. It can take 6 – 9 months for wood to season properly; even longer for some hardwoods. Once the moisture content is at or below 20%, the wood is seasoned and you’re ready to burn it. If you want to learn more about the time and moisture content, read my post about how long to dry firewood.
Well, I hope this page helped you to understand how much wood is in a cord. Chances are, you’re here reading this because you’re about to go out and make a purchase for yourself. If that’s the case, I’ll leave you with some advice. Stay away from companies that don’t sell wood by a “full cord”, especially if you live in the US or Canada. A full cord is a standard and legal measurement, one that anyone selling firewood should be well aware of. Also, do some price shopping to determine how much a cord of wood sells for in your area; check craigslist, facebook market, and local stores. Good luck out there!