How Much is a Cord of Firewood?
If you can’t chop your own wood you can still save money by purchasing firewood in bulk and searching for cord deals in your area. The best cord deals can be found on classified ad websites and local firewood dealers. Purchasing firewood can be daunting task for a beginner because you not only have to account for the differences in firewood types but moisture levels can make a day and night difference in the efficiency of your wood.
It's not uncommon for firewood dealers to claim they're selling seasoned/dry firewood only to end up delivering moist, unseasoned wood. You need wood that makes it easy on you to make it through the winter and learning how to navigate the timber industry's complex jargon is the best way to get started. This is what we’re going to cover on this page.
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Indoor Log Rack
How Much is a Cord of Firewood?
Professional firewood dealers commonly use the word "cord". Cord is a basic measurement unit used in the timber industry to indicate firewood quantity and a single cord is a stack of wood that amounts to 4 ft. in height, 4 ft. in width and 8 ft. in length. One cord equals 128 cubic ft. and it's the most common order size in the industry. If you reach out to dealers they will offer you a cord and they can deliver the cord to your property.
- Full Cord - 4' high x 4' wide x 8' long - 128 cubic feet
- Half Cord - 4' high x 4' wide x 4' long - 64 cubic feet
- One Third or "Rick" or "Face" Cord - 4' high x 16" wide x 4' long - 64 cubic feet
Most states have regulation that forces dealers to use cord as the official measurement and anything less than a cord is treated as a fraction of a cord. If you're not buying a full cord, there are alternative options such as a "rick" or a "face cord". Face cords or ricks represent a third of a full cord and they make great alternatives if you need to make a modest order and full cord is too much for you.
Note: Be sure to bring a tape measure when purchasing firewood! A cord is the only legally defined measurement. Face and rick cords are generally accepted at the above measurements, however, you might be getting a half face cord. To be safe, it is best that you measure what you are purchasing yourself!
Best Time Of Year To Buy
Efficiency in firewood is measured by the lifespan of a fire and the quantity of smoke it releases. If it burns for a long time and produces minimal smoke this means the firewood is efficient and this is usually the case with higher quality dry/seasoned firewood. If the wood is green (recently cut) and moistened it's going to take longer to burn and the fire will naturally go out faster. The smoke output is also very high with unseasoned woods.
This is why unseasoned wood is undesirable with the only exception being during the early spring season. It's best to purchase green wood in early spring when demand for firewood is low and stack it to dry until it's usable for the winter months. The biggest mistake you can make it to purchase firewood in the summer or wait until the winter when the demand reaches peak levels and it becomes a seller’s market. You can negotiate the best prices when the demand is low. This is always in the late winter and/or early spring.
The biggest reason not to postpone your purchase until summer or fall is because you're at the mercy of the firewood dealer. If you depend on their guarantees that the wood is going to be dry, you might be in for a surprise. More often than not this is not the case and it’s ultimately a shot in the dark. If you don't get it right from the start you're going to have to burn green wood for the entire winter season. This means that heating in your household will be sub-par when you need it the most.
It takes an average of 4-6 months for wood to naturally dry out below the recommended 20% moisture level. If you buy it in early spring you're going to have the entire spring and summer left to allow it to dry. This way you can buy the cheapest green wood in the off-season and let it dry for when you need it.
How To Examine Dryness
If you can verify that the cord you're buying sat through a 6 month drying period, this is a good indicator that it's dry. You can also take 2 pieces from different parts of the stack and knock them together. If they’re dry they’re going to make a high-pitched sound similar to a clapping sound. If you hear a dull soft sound this means the moisture is high. This is a good way to tell if you're being tricked. You could also purchase affordable moisture measurement devices that tell you if the moisture is at an ideal 20% or below.
Price Fluctuations In The U.S.
Cords sell at fixed prices but the rates vary in every state. Contrary to popular belief, the northern states don't get more expensive firewood as a result of higher demand and the same wood can be just as expensive in the warmer states. For instance, prices for a full cord in Michigan might go up to $250 while in California the average is $400.
Most people buy seasoned wood in the early winter and this is when prices hit peak levels because it’s a seller’s market. The average in Arizona is $300 while New England and the Pacific Northwest fluctuate between $300 and $400. Colorado commands the highest prices where a cord might rise up to $600. The average price for a cord on a national level is between $200 and $300. You can sometimes find cords for as low as $150 but this is usually during the off-season.
There are additional costs to account for that you won’t see advertised by firewood dealers. Delivery costs range from zero to over $100 and stacking services for firewood usually cost $70-80.
The bottom line is that firewood prices fluctuate but you're not going to need more than a couple of hundred dollars to make it through the winter. Firewood prices are reasonable even during the high season and dealers help with easy organization/delivery.
This way even if you only need a smaller quantity to accompany the firewood you chopped on your own, your needs will be accommodated. If you rely on firewood for your heating and cooking, saving money on different purchases can add up fast. This is why you should shop during the off-season and learn how to measure moisture percentages. Lower moisture translates to increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness.