Chopping wood is a useful skill, especially if you live in a colder climate, because you can use that wood to heat up your house or even run your stove, while saving on your energy bill.
However, newbies to the lumberjack tradition might be a little lost when it comes to finding the best wood and getting it for a good price.
You might be asking “just what exactly is a Cord of Firewood and what does one do with it?”
I thought you’d never ask.
If you’re really serious about perfecting your wood chopping techniques, you’ll definitely need to know everything about a cord—especially if you don’t live near a forest or aren’t too keen about chopping down a tree every time you need firewood.
Want to know the big secret to finding great wood? Let’s dive right in.
What is A Cord of Firewood?
If you’re new to cutting wood, you might be wondering “what is a cord of wood?”
I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good first.
The good news is that there’s a simple answer to this question: in general a cord of firewood is simply a large bundle of wood, usually stacked together. People in the wood handling profession refer to a cord as a term of measurement, just the same as we refer to an inch or a foot.
Here’s the bad news: there’s a much more complex explanation that you need to know if you’re serious about chopping wood.
The rundown goes something like this: a cord isn't typically just any amount and any kind of wood stacked together. If it was, someone could get away with selling you a smaller amount of wood for much less.
Instead, a cord is defined as a batch of wood that's been properly stored and maintained.
Hardwood VS Softwood for Firewood
Another thing you may be uncertain about is the best kind of wood for firewood: hardwood or softwood.
Newbies to wood chopping might be especially shocked to find that this can spark some debate among veteran self-proclaimed lumberjacks.
You might be wondering: Is either type easier to handle? Does one burn better than the other? Does a particular kind last longer than the rest?
Never fear. It’s time to put your concerns to rest.
When you’re selecting a type of firewood, you really want to keep the species of tree in mind. Here’s why: different strains of wood provide varying levels of heat.
So while certain types of softwood, like pine or redwood, might create a lovely ambiance at a campfire on a summer’s evening, they won’t keep you warm for long.
On the other hand, hardwood is great for longer burning periods. This makes it ideal for furnace wood, fuel for clay ovens, or even cooking over a campsite.
Not only does hardwood reach higher temperatures than softwood—which is perfect for a cold evening—but it also comes from trees that take a longer time to grow, which makes them denser. This means that there’s more surface area to burn, so your wood burns longer.
Is It Safe To Store A Cord of FireWood in My Basement/Garage?
Here’s the problem with storing your wood inside your home: bugs.
If any of the wood you purchase is also home to an infestation of bugs—especially potentially havoc-wrecking species like termites—you might have a bigger problem on your hands than where to store your wood.
Another issue with storing with wood inside your home is that, ideally, wood needs to be outside to become properly seasoned (dry).
If you store it in your garage, it’s not getting the proper sunlight and wind exposure required to become dry.
Ideally, you want the wood to get dryer so it’s in optimal condition for lighting a fire.
On the other hand, if you leave the wood out in the rain or snow, it will soak up all that moisture.
I know, it seems like a lose-lose scenario.
However, there’s good news.
If you want to dry out your wood properly, but also don’t want to deal with a bug infestation, you can invest in a shed.
A shed is a perfect option for storing a whole cord because it has enough air circulation (and exposure to the sun via a large opening) that the wood will dry out, but it's also closed off from the elements.
How Much Does a Cord of Firewood Weigh?
After you purchase a cord of wood, you’ll probably need a lot of help and some mechanical power behind you to move it.
The average cord weighs about 2 tons.
In general, you’ll probably need a couple of pick up trucks to move it or a small semi.
What is a cord of wood dimensions?
So how big is a cord of wood?
An entire cord stands about 4 feet high, 8 feet across, and 4 feet in depth.
Overall, the volume should equal 128 cubic feet.
Now, that seems like a lot of wood, and in general, it is. However, that space is not entirely made up of firewood.
Out of the 128 cubic feet, you’re actually only getting about 85 cubic feet of actual wood. The rest is just airspace.
How to Measure A Cord of Firewood
This is an important thing to get down fast if you want to purchase your first cord of firewood.
Of course, you want to know how to measure a cord of wood if you plan on purchasing them often.
You could take the seller’s word on it, but you might end up getting duped out of firewood. Since the average cord runs for about $220-$300 you really want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Measuring the height, length, and depth of a cord is simple. As long as you have a tape measure and know the dimensions of a full cord (now you do!) you can size it up. If you're not sure, a good cord of wood calculator is to multiply the width by the height and the length and then divide by 128, which will give you a solid estimate of how much wood you have.
You can also try to eyeball it using these simple principles:
1. Compare the size of the cord with a face cord. Essentially a face cord is about one-third the size of a full cord, give or take. It’s 4 feet tall, 8 feet long, and less than 4 feet in depth.
2. Don’t buy wood not sold in cord measurements. Sometimes sellers will try to pull your leg by selling wood in “piles” or “truckloads.” These aren’t precise measurements and they don’t hold the numerical value that a cord does, so you can’t really know if you’re being charged a fair price (probably not).
3. Understand shrinkage in size. It’s one thing to say that something is a full cord and something else for it to be a full cord. While it would be convenient if all wood was neatly stacked so you could just eyeball it, unfortunately, that's not how things work sometimes. Remember, a full cord measures to 128 cubic feet in volume. Spread out in a thrown cord, a truckload of wood, that equals about 180 cubic feet. Similarly, a green cord, the cubic volume before the wood was dried, is also equal to 180 cubic feet.
How Long Does It Take To Cut A Cord of Wood?
When it comes to splitting a cord, this is really going to depend on the kind of splitter you’re using.
If you’re using something like a highly efficient gas or electric splitter, it can take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour.
Using a manual hydraulic machine might take you a bit longer, and manually can take anywhere from 4-5 hours to several days depending on your strength. If that’s the case, you really want to use the best splitting axe you can find to ensure that the process is as efficient as possible.
It also depends on the kind of wood you’re cutting.
Remember, the species of the wood and the water content determine the splitting difficulty.
Typically, hardwood will be a little easier to manipulate since it’s naturally a drier kind of wood.
Also, remember, the soggier the wood, the more the tissues will stick together and the harder it will be to cut through.
Ideally, if you’re going to be cutting wood by hand, you probably want to pace yourself through it. Make a habit of completing the whole cord over a course of a couple days until you get really used to the wood chopping process.
When you become a pro, it can take you as little as three hours if you’re super efficient and have an awesome axe.
How Many Pieces of Firewood In A Cord?
For wood experts, this is akin to asking “how many jelly beans in a jar?”
You can’t really be certain how many pieces of firewood is in a cord, because it can vary upon the size, shape, and condition of the wood.
For example, if you buy an entire cord that’s made up of split wood, you’re going to have far more pieces than if you bought full on logs.
Secondly, it has more to do with the cord of wood weight and volume than actual pieces. All that really matters is that you get about 85 cubic feet of wood.
However, if you’re really hung up on figure out an approximate value, here’s one way to look at it:
A face cord comes with about 240 pieces in it. Since a cord is about 3 times the size, multiply that number by three. However, don’t forget this is a very approximate estimation. You end up over or under that number depending on how the cord is cut.
If you really want to known you’re getting your money’s worth, measure the cord to see if its adds up to 128 cubic feet in volume.
You might also be concerned about the number of pieces in a cord in relation to how long it will last.
So how long does a cord of wood last? It really depends on how often you burn, but if you burn on a weekly basis, it can probably last you all winter.
How Many Cords Can A Logging Truck Carry?
Logging trucks are awesome because they can help you transport a lot of wood from one area to another with as little hassle as possible, whereas your regular truck might only be able to handle a 1/2 cord of wood.
Of course, if you’ve managed to rent, borrow, or perhaps even own a logging truck, you want to make sure that investment is put to good use by carrying off as much wood as possible.
In fact, if you have access to a logging truck, you probably need a lot of wood, so you’ll want to carry off as many cords as possible in as little time as possible.
So how effectively can you do that?
Of course, the answer will depend on the kind of logging truck, however, in general, it can accommodate around 7-8 cords.
For bigger trucks, you might manage to get something like 10-15 cords loaded.
What is a rick of firewood?
A rick cord is the same as a face cord. It measures 4 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 16 inches long, or 1/3 of a full cord.
What is a face cord of wood?
Don’t forget, a face cord of wood measures about 4 feet in height, 8 feet across, and less than 4 feet in depth (typically about a third of a regular cord).
Since it’s rare to find a full cord for sale, you probably want to get very familiar with this measurement as well.
Now that you understand what a cord is and the specifics surrounding its quality, you have a better advantage to find a great deal on your wood.
That way, you don’t end up replacing your electricity bill with another needlessly expensive resource.
Wood doesn’t have to be expensive and, if you’re patient and wait for a great deal, it can be a huge penny saver.
But the best part is that it’s also a fun skill to learn, and it allows you to regularly enjoy the heat of your fireplace instead of having to buy those small, pricey logs you find at the store.
So give a go, head out, and purchase your very first cord of firewood.