How Much Wood is in a Cord of Firewood?

June 21, 2022

It’s important to know how much wood is in a cord of firewood because it is the most consistent unit of measurement for selling firewood. A cord of firewood is a stack of firewood that has a total volume of 128 cubic feet – measuring at 8 feet long, 4 feet high, and 4 feet wide.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for cords to be underrepresented when being sold to the public, and many people don’t realize how much wood is actually in a cord of firewood. Part of this is because of the “face cord” unit of measurement.

 

What is a Face Cord?

A face cord is an 8-foot wide, 4 foot tall stack of firewood, that is usually 16 inches deep. The reason we say usually is that the average cut length of firewood is 16 inches long. This means a cord of firewood, which needs to be 4 feet (or 48 inches) deep, will consist of three rows of 16 inch long pieces of firewood.

The issue with using a face cord as a unit of measurement is that it is not an official unit. In our example, a face cord is approximately one third of a full cord. However, if someone is cutting their wood to 12 inch lengths, then they would need four rows to make one cord. Therefore, a face cord of 12 inch pieces of firewood will only have 2/3 of the wood that a face cord of 16 inch pieces of firewood would have.

 

Can I Measure my Firewood by Weight?

The short answer is, no. According to the US Forest Service, a cord of firewood can weigh up to 5000 lbs. However, the issue with using weight is that it varies immensely based on type of wood and moisture content.

Moisture is the big culprit here. Many woods have a moisture content of above 60 percent when green. This means if you had 100 lbs of firewood completely dry, that same firewood at 60% moisture content would weigh 160 lbs. Some woods can even have a moisture content above 100%. At 100% moisture content, for every pound of wood you have, you’d also have one pound of water too.

Using weight is a great way for determining how dry firewood is, assuming you weighed it before and after drying it. But one standalone measurement is very unreliable in determining how much wood you have.

 

Loose vs. Stacked Firewood

Loose, or unstacked, firewood takes up a lot more space than stacked firewood. However, there are plenty of cases where loosely piling firewood is a lot easier than stacking it. Especially if you are running a firewood processor directly into a truck bed or crates. So to make things easier, people have come up with a general approximation.

As we already established, a cord of firewood is a stack with a total volume of 128 cubic feet. A loose cord of firewood is approximately a pile with a total volume of 180 cubic feet. This means about 30% of the pile is empty space, compared to stacked wood.

However, this can be influenced by how large your pieces of firewood are. Small firewood will actually stack with more gaps in it, which means that a pile of 180 cubic feet of small splits might not be as close to a cord as larger pieces of firewood will be. In these cases, if you want to err on the side of caution, you should use 200 cubic feet of loose firewood to approximate a cord.

 

What About Bundles?

Bundles are also a common way to package firewood. Bundles, like face cords, do not have a set size. Their price depends on the market and quality of the wood. Bundles in one part of the country could be much smaller or larger than bundles in another part. They require more handling and since they are convenient they can command a premium price.

 

Conclusion

When selling or buying firewood, you need to know how much a cord is. A cord is a defined measurement that means 128 cubic feet of stacked wood and that doesn’t, or shouldn’t, change. While face cords are also popular, they aren’t as consistent. Instead of saying face cord, it is clearer to use amounts relative to a cord. Such as 1/3 of a cord of firewood.

However you buy or sell wood, make sure both parties know how much is agreed to. It saves everyone a headache.

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