There are several different firewood measurements common used in North America. There are full cords, face cords, ricks and now fireplace cords are becoming more common. These different terms and measurements can be confusing to consumers and often leaves them with less wood than they thought they were buying.
Unlike the other measurements, a cord is an actual legally defined volume of wood. In some states firewood is required to be sold by the cord or fraction of a cord. If you want to know how much actual wood you are getting, it should be bought by the cord or fraction of a cord.
Difference Between a Full Cord, Face Cord, Fireplace Cord, Rick
A cord is the only one of these firewood measurements that is an actual amount of wood. A cord of wood is the amount of wood that can be tightly stacked in 128 cubic feet. The most common dimension for this is a stack 4′x4′x8′. This is about 2 full size pickup loads with the wood stacked to the top of the sides. If someone is bringing wood in the back of a full standard size pickup and they are telling you it is a full cord, it better be stacked up close to the height of the top of the cab. If not, it’s probably not a full cord.
Face cords, ricks and fireplace cords don’t necessarily tell you how much wood you are getting. These different measurements can mean different things to different people. They are really ambiguous measurements. To some, these are equivalent to 1/3 cord, but not always. Depending on who you talk to, these measurements are the equivalent to a stack of wood 4 feet high and 8 feet long. The problem is, without knowing the length of the pieces and the depth of the stack, you don’t know how much wood you are getting.
So if you buy a face cord. or rick, the dealer can decide how how much wood you get by the length of the pieces. A rick or face cord of shorter pieces will be much less wood than the same stack of long pieces. If the pieces are 16″ long. it would be 1/3 cord. If they were 12″ long it would be 1/4 cord. If the pieces are 24″ long, it would be 1/2 cord.
Or of the pieces are somewhat random, which is probably more common, you really don’t know how much wood you are getting. If you really want to know how much wood you are getting, buy from someone who sells by the cord or fraction of a cord. And make sure when they say cord they are talking about real cords (128 cubic feet) and not face cords or fireplace cords. If they insist on selling by one of these other ambiguous firewood measurements, that is probably a good reason to find someone else.
How much firewood is in a cord?
In any stack of wood there will be air space between the pieces. As a result a cord of wood may only have 70-90 cubic feet of actual solid wood. This varies with the size and shape of the wood and how tightly it is stacked. Wood that is randomly thrown into a pile will have more air space between the pieces and less solid wood per cubic foot than a neatly stacked pile.
To get a full cord of loosely piled wood you will need around 180 cubic feet to make up for the increased space between the pieces. This figure can vary some depending on how loose the pile is so it’s not an exact figure.
Cord vs Chord
Some people spell a cord of firewood chord. A chord is actually a word that refers to a group or musical notes or harmony. Cord is the actual spelling of the firewood measurement.