How to measure firewood

A cord, cubic foot, cubic yard, stacked cubic metre are the only volume measurements for firewood legally defined under Industry Canada’s Weights and Measures. It’s not illegal to buy or sell firewood using other measures, but they are often open to interpretation.

Firewood is typically sold by the cord, which is neatly stacked split firewood measuring 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long (or 1.2m x 1.2m x 2.4m in metric measurements). In volume, a cord is about 128 cubic feet or 3.6 cubic metres of stacked wood. One cubic metre is about 35.3 cubic feet.

A cord is defined as: 128 cubic feet of stacked roundwood (whole or split, with or without bark) containing wood and air space, with all bolts of similar length piled in a regular manner with the longitudinal axes approximately parallel.

A cord of roundwood (logs).

A cord of roundwood (logs).

Most buyers don’t want 4-foot long pieces of wood because they’re too big to burn in fireplaces and stoves, and that means they have to be cut and split before they can be used. Most firewood sellers provide firewood that is already cut to usable lengths.

A cord of split firewood, in stacks of 1/3 cord each.

A cord of split firewood, in stacks of 1/3 cord each.

A “face cord” is an inexact term that describes a neat stack of split firewood that is 4 feet high and 8 feet long, but can be just about any width. The split wood cord shown here is made up of 3 “face” cords, each about 16 inches wide, or each about a third of a cord.

A “stove cord” is the usual 4-foot high and 8-foot wide stack, but the pieces are only 12 inches wide, or a quarter of a cord.

A “truckload” of loose firewood is highly variable in volume, depending on the size of the truck. The box of a small pick-up truck can hold about a quarter of a cord, but a bigger truck can hold several cords. The only way to know for sure how much wood you’ve got when it’s delivered is to stack it and measure it.

A loose pile of firewood takes up a lot more space than neatly stacked firewood. It takes about 180 cubic feet of loose firewood to make up a cord (128 cubic feet) of stacked wood.

Bundles and bags of firewood sold at gas stations and convenience stores come in various sizes (such as a cubic foot), but the pricing often has little to do with the price per cord. You’re paying a premium price for the convenience of small bundles of split wood.

More on measuring firewood: