As the weather gets colder and the days grow shorter, there's nothing cozier than curling up in front of the fireplace. And while the Netflix holiday screensaver is great for the aesthetic (and those of us who aren't lucky enough to have a real fireplace), there's something about the crackle of burning wood that rights all winter wrongs. But you shouldn't be burning just any old wood. Hardware stores and groceries sell small bundles of firewood, but if you're using your fireplace weekly or even daily throughout the winter season, you may want to invest in a cord of wood. But what is a cord of wood, and how much is a cord of wood? Read on for answers to all your burning firewood questions.
What Is a Cord of Wood?
A cord is the traditional unit of measurement for the volume of chopped wood. According to Encyclopedia Britannia, "a cord is the amount of wood that, when 'racked and well stowed' (arranged so pieces are aligned, parallel, touching, and compact), occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet." (It won't necessarily be bundled this way, but it might be helpful to picture a four-by-eight-foot stack that's four feet high.) Wood is measured in cords because historically the literal cord or string used to tie up the firewood was a standard length, per Brittanica.
Firewood Cost by Volume
A full cord is 128 cubic feet and costs around $120 to $900, depending on the type of wood, where you live, and what time of year you buy it. If you burn wood frequently or use a woodstove to heat your home, you may want to consider buying wood by the cord.
A half cord takes up 64 cubic feet (picture a four-by-four-by-four-foot stack) and typically costs $100 to $300. Pro woodcutters sell half cords in most parts of the country.
A face cord, also called a third-cord or rick cord, is about 42 cubic feet and costs $75 to $200.
A quarter cord is about 32 cubic feet and costs $50 to $125. These cost more per cubic foot than any other size.
What many people traditionally think of when picturing firewood, a bundle of wood costs $5 to $15. There's no standard measurement for a bundle, but it usually consists of no more than a few pieces of firewood and kindling. Bundles can be purchased from various retail stores and work well for weekend fires or campfires.
Factors That Affect Firewood Prices
Hardwood vs. Softwood
Wood breaks down into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Maple, cherry, and birch are hardwoods. Popular softwoods include pine, spruce, willow, and cedar. Hardwoods tend to make better firewood, but they come at a higher price point. There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, oak is one of the most common hardwood species, and it can cost as little as $180 per cord in some places thanks to its high availability. On the other hand, high-quality cherry wood can cost as much as $900 per cord.
Green Wood vs. Seasoned Wood
Seasoned firewood is another way to refer to dry firewood. Seasoning firewood means letting it dry out, typically for six months up to two years. Unseasoned wood is considered "green." Green wood is heavier due to its higher moisture content, making it harder to light; it also produces more smoke as it burns. For those reasons, green wood often costs a bit less. If you have the space and time to let your firewood dry, buying green wood can save you money.
Delivery and Stacking Fees
For delivery and stacking, you're primarily paying for labor. Between labor and fuel, these services typically costs $25 to $75, or around $2 per mile. You’ll pay an additional $25 to $80 per load to have someone stack the wood after delivery. You can avoid delivery costs if you pick up the wood with your own long-bed truck or trailer.
Because of supply and demand, the cost of wood varies depending on the time of year you buy it. For example, a cord that costs $250 in the summer months can jump to $400 later in the year when the demand for wood grows and the wood becomes more scarce. Purchase wood in the spring or summer to keep your costs down.
Cord of Wood FAQs
Can a Cord of Wood Fit in a Car?
A cord of wood won't fit in a standard sedan, SUV, or pickup truck. However, it will fit in the back of a long-bed truck or in a flatbed trailer. A pickup truck with an eight-foot bed can hold a half cord of wood.
How Much Wood Is in a Cord of Wood?
There are 128 cubic feet of wood in a full cord.
How Long Does One Cord of Wood Last?
How long a cord of wood lasts ultimately depends on the climate where you live, the temperature you want to maintain inside your home, your home's insulation, your home's size, any other heat sources you use, the type of wood you burn, and how many fires you set a day. Generally speaking, if you burn wood twice daily, a cord should last about six to 12 weeks, with hardwood lasting longer than softwood. Buying wood by the cord is ideal for homeowners who use a woodstove or fireplace as their primary heat source in the winter.
How Many Cords of Wood Will Get You Through Winter?
Two cords are generally enough for a season for a standard household burning wood twice daily. If you use your fireplace only recreationally (once a week or so), a face cord should get you through the winter.
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