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What is a cord?
One cord of stacked wood measures four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.) and has a volume of 128 cubic feet. The amount of solid wood in a cord varies depending on the size of the pieces. The amount of solid wood in a cord varies depending on the size of the pieces, but for firewood it averages about 85 cubic feet. The rest of the cord volume is air space.
Firewood should be kept up off the ground for seasoning to promote drying and prevent mold growth. Free standing firewood stacks need to have straight sides if they are to stay upright for the minimum of four months and maximum of two years needed for seasoning. The shorter the individual pieces, the narrower is the stack and the more wobbly it is likely to be. The mark of a good firewood pile is the way the stack ends. A common method is to crisscross the pieces in alternate layers to form a pillar at the end that is (theoretically) stable in both directions.
Here are some of the factors that can affect the price of firewood:
- Energy content: Very soft woods like poplar and spruce have about half the energy content per cord of very hardwoods like white oak or iron wood. Based on energy content, they should cost about half as much per cord. However, processing, transportation and storage costs are the same regardless of species, so while the price of softwoods may be lower, expect to pay considerably more than half the cost of hardwoods.
- Location: Because of shipping and storage costs, firewood sold in urban areas can cost at least double the purchase price in rural areas.
- Dryness: Fully-seasoned firewood usually costs more than green, unseasoned wood because it has been stored for longer.
- Piece size: Firewood processed in shorter lengths and split smaller usually costs more because of the additional handling and labor involved.
- Amount purchased: A bag of firewood purchased at a convenience store will cost more per cord equivalent than the purchase of a full cord or more.