• How much is a cord of wood?
  • How do you get the best price on a cord?
  • How do you properly store your cords after buying them?

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Hold on a second! What the heck is a cord of wood, anyway?”

Let’s start with a definition.

What is a cord of firewood?

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A “cord” is a tightly packed stack of firewood. It is the standard measurement for firewood, and whenever you order wood, your supplier will charge you by the cord (or fraction of a cord).

The problem is, not all cords are created equal. As you’ll soon see, cords can come in different sizes, different packing styles and different types of wood.

Unless you understand exactly what is being offered, it’s hard to shop around and compare prices. This guide will teach you everything you need to consider to get the best deal.

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How to measure a cord of wood

Measuring log of wood

A standard cord (also known as a “full cord”) typically comes in a stack measuring four feet tall, four feet deep and eight feet wide. This works out to roughly 128 cubic feet, but exact measurements vary by region and seller.

You can’t expect every supplier to cut their wood pieces to the same length and stack them with the same efficiency, so it’s normal to have some variation.

That said, these variations make it tricky to price shop.

If Supplier A sells 3.75’ x 4’ x 8’ perfectly packed cords for $140, and Supplier B sells 4.25’ x 4’ x 8’ loosely packed cords for $180, which is the better deal?

Good luck figuring that out without a calculator. But it gets even more confusing.

It turns out there are three types of cords. So when you say, “I’d like to buy a cord of wood,” you should always specify which type.

Full cord: This is the standard 4’ x 4’ x 8’ size. When you order a cord, most people will assume you mean a full cord. But it’s better to be crystal clear.

Face cord: This is the smallest type of cord, measuring four feet tall, eight feet wide and 16 inches deep (the depth of one piece of wood). This ends up being roughly one-third the amount of wood as a full cord.

Sheldon cord: The size of a Sheldon cord varies by region, but it is always bigger than a full cord.

The takeaway here is: Always ask questions before buying.

Just because one supplier offers a lower price per cord doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better deal.

Average cost of a cord of wood

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The average cost of a cord of wood varies significantly by region, from as little as $100 to more than $500.

You may even see both extremes within the same state.

For example, in California, a cord will run you as little as $100 in the Central Valley but up to $480 in Southern California.

Apart from geographic location, several other factors can affect the price, such as:

  • Type of wood: Hardwoods such as ash, maple, black birch, oak and walnut are more expensive than softwoods. This is because they burn hotter and for a longer time.
  • Season: Prices increase in the winter, so it’s a good idea to stock up beforehand.
  • Delivery: Some prices include delivery, while other suppliers charge based on distance.
  • Convenience: To save time, it might be worth paying extra for pre-stacked cords cut into the exact length you need.
  • Condition: Expect wet, dirty wood to cost less than dry, clean wood.

Since cord prices vary so much, the best way to determine the going rate in your area is to call a handful of suppliers. Just don’t forget to ask about the type of wood, delivery, condition, etc.

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Firewood storage

Stacks of firewood for industrial. Piles of firewood
Krittapol ING / Shutterstock

Once you’ve settled on a supplier and ordered your first cord, what’s the best way to store it?

You’d think storing firewood would be pretty self-explanatory. But it turns out there are several nuances to keep in mind.

When your firewood arrives, your first step is to cut it into burnable pieces (if it isn’t already pre-cut). This will not only make the wood easier to store, but you’ll also save yourself the hassle of hauling out your ax every time you need wood to burn.

If you’re using a wood stove, it’s helpful to know its interior dimensions so you can cut your wood to size.

Once you have your burnable pieces, you’ll need to decide where to store your stacks. Ideally, this will be a dry area with good airflow. To help keep the wood dry, use a pallet, bricks or other logs to keep it off the ground.

At this point, you may be tempted to throw everything into a pile as fast as possible. But if you’re clever, you’ll stack strategically.

Girl fold wood in the spring garden
David Jancik / Shutterstock

That means arranging your stack so that the wettest wood is on the bottom. That way, when you need a piece of dry wood, you can simply take it off the top. And by the time you get to the bottom of the pile, the wet wood will be dry.

It’s also a good idea to stack old wood toward the top so you’ll have a chance to burn it before it rots. Lastly, if you need to stack in multiple rows, make sure to leave space between each row for air circulation.

Once you finish stacking, cover the top rows with a tarp to protect the dry wood from the rain, but leave the bottom wet rows exposed. This will allow the air to dry them faster.

And there you have it — you are now a wood-stacking expert. To make the process even easier, you can buy indoor and outdoor racks designed for storing firewood.

Speaking of which, if you decide to store some of your wood indoors, it’s best to bring inside only what you need for the day. If you stockpile firewood inside, you may run into problems with pests, dirt, pollen and moisture in your home.

As you can see, there is quite a bit to consider when buying a cord of firewood. But by taking the time to compare all the variables and find the best supplier, you’ll save a lot of money over the long run (especially if you’re using wood as your primary heating source).

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About the Author

Mitchell Glass

Mitchell Glass

Freelance Contributor

Mitchell is a freelance contributor to MoneyWise.com.

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