The mythical cord of wood

jerry_njDecember 12, 2006

I purchased another "cord" of wood and it was delivered yesterday. I have for several years harvested free wood, so this it my first purchase in some time. The seller assured me he understands a cord is 128 cubic feet of wood, assumed stacked neatly. My area is approximately 8 feet wide, so if I can fill it 4 feet high and 4 feet deep I have about a cord of wood. After stacking the delivery I measure about 70% of a cord. While I've done better in the past, none ever better than about 90%.

One could argue I stack my wood too tight, but I wonder. The wood was delivered in a large high dump truck, so there was no easy way to tell looking at the load how much wood was in there, I know one can't get a cord of wood in a normal pickup unless it has high sides on it and the wood is stacked there-in, a lot of work for not a lot of money. The dump truck was loaded by a conveyer belt, so the wood had a lot of air space around it in the truck.

Am I measureing wrong or stacking wrong, or is it (almost) impossible to get a cord when you pay for a cord, any recommendations on sources in Hunderdon NJ? I'll write it down for next time. I have looked at the stacks of fire wood for sale at the curb in my rural area. Offered at $5 or so for a stack, but the stack is almost all air. The stack is constructed by layers of two pieces of wood on each layer, perhaps 5 layers, or a total of 10 pieces of wood. The way it is stacked I'd say the volume of the stack is 5 cubic feet, but stacked side by side would be no more than 2 cubic feet, or about $300 per cord. At least I did better than that, a so-called cord in this part of NJ is now $175 and up. At what I got its real cost was more like $250, not a lot better, I'd better go do a more careful count on the wood in those stacks.

One neighbor buys bulk wood, lengths of trees that he cuts and splits. I wonder how "size" of that delivery is estimated, as it too I believe is sold by the cord, but it could be sold by the ton, which one can relate to a cord given the type of wood/density. I think this type of purchase is more accurate. This all makes me thing wood pellets and corn as fuel may be a good choice. It may seem a bit more expensive than hard wood, but as it is sold by the pound, you do get what you pay for.

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I know how you feel. I discovered some shady dealers when I used to burn wood.
I once bought a face cord. They offered to stack it free. I say ok, but he started stacking in a criss/cross fashion. I said, stack it tight, he refused, so I turned this guy away.

The second guy I called tried to pull the same thing, but when I complained he did stack it tight (with much grumbling).

Eventually, I found a guy that would drop a face cord on my driveway, but not stack it. I didn't mind because it was good exercise, plus his wood was good seasoned hard wood.
Anyway, his load completely fill my face cord racks. For what its worth, I found out roughly 200 pieces of wood = face cord.

My advice. Once you found a source that will give you a fair amount, stick with them!


    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 1:07PM
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Good advice, my "problem" is I have been able to harvest/scavenger (I have a pickup truck and when the electric company comes by and clears power lines there's a lot of hard wood to be had for the taking) enough wood for the last several years.

My 20 year old fireplace insert (not up to code these days) has become an odor problem during warm weather and having the cheminy cleaned doesn't fix the problem, thus my comment about a pellet stove/insert. I was reading on an old thread on this forum that a 40 pound bag of wood pellets would run a "stove" full-blast for about 12 hours, so I'd likely get two nights out of a bag. At about $4 to $5 (I think) for pellets it seems an attractive option if one is going to replace their stove/insert anyway.

My understanding is a "face cord" is about 1/2 a full/regular cord, that is it is 8' wide by 4' high and one row deep. This means the dept would be 2' (i.e., half a cord) if the logs were 2', most are not, in fact I requested 18" length, which most of it is. I would have been "happy" if I had gotten two stacks, back-to-back, that had a width of 8' and heigth of 4'. Even this would have been less than a full cord, but close enough.

I'm getting to be too old to cut and split my own firwood, so that option is about to pass. I can still do it, but I don't know for how many more years I will be able to do that work. Pellets would remove this need. Then too so would coal, which I have used in the basement air-tight stove that has a coal grate. I haven't seen any "upstairs" fireplace insters that handle coal, and it does have its drawbacks too.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 2:47PM
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Have you called the guy back and asked him to look at your stack? When I buy wood, I criss-cross the ends of the pile for "structural integrity", all pieces in between are tightly stacked. If this delivery guy pulls this trick on 3 people, he gains an extra cord of wood that he can sell.

"..but it could be sold by the ton, which one can relate to a cord given the type of wood/density. I think this type of purchase is more accurate."
- No way. This would encourage the sale of wet wood or "green" wood since they weigh more than seasoned wood. How would you check the delivered weight? At least with a volume measurement, you have a measurement that can be checked.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 3:06PM
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Good point on the weight method. The neighbor used to heat with wood, then put in gas. With the increase of eneregy cost he seems to have gone back to at least heating with wood part time. He had a large drop of tree trunks, and I haven't talked with him. I have seen this "bulk" type of sale advertised and they did specify "cord measure", I suppose someone in the business knows how many cords come out of a running foot of "X" diameter. My memory is the price was given per cord and is about 1/4 the cost of split wood, albeit there's a lot of work between bulk and split wood, especially if you don't have a hydralic splitter. This may mean too that one should buy the wood, split it and store it for a year before using, he's using directly.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 4:49PM
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I don't know about New Jersey, because I left there in 1986, but most states have guidelines as to what a cord of wood is. It's 128 cubic feey tightly stacked. Many homeowners "castle" the ends for stability, but the wood is stacked all in one direction in the middle. I have NEVER heard of cordwood sold by weight. Because oak weighs more than pine. And seasoned pine weighs next to nothing! Coal and pellets are sold by weight.

When I lived in PA there were notices in the newspaper regarding what a cord of wood was. Dealers weren't allowed to sell by the "truckload" ot "stack" or anything like that. A bundle was a specific part of a cord and had to be listed as such.

When I get my deliveries up here, my dealer has always given me more than a cord. I usually get about 1 1/4 cords for each one I pay for. He fills his truck stacked tight, not just piled into the bed. And the bed is 6 feet wide by 6 1/2 feet long with 4 foot sides. He puts 5 rows of wood 16" long in it.

So while I hate to say this, you have a typical retailer just loading wood into a truck and thinking nobody is smart enough to know... or care exactly how much wood they're getting. And if you challenge him, he'll say that wood is measured stacked loose, not tight. And he'll argue the point with you.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 7:29AM
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I think I have never in 30 years of buy cordwood gotten a true full cord of fire wood. The load this last time was the shortes yet, so he'll not get any more of my business. I don't have the time to argue with him, life is too short. As I said I have gathered and split a few cords that cost only my labor, some gas for my pickup truck and for the chain saw. I decided this year to buy a cord again.

Your supplier, Chris, seems to be real "jewel", keep hold of him. I don't know how he an affort to hand stack the cord wood in his truck, unless you're paying $200 or more per cord. From the dimensions you gave you're getting 156 cubic feet, or about 1 1/4 cord. I do find the dimension of the truck bed strange and wonder what type of tuck it is. My book says a cord of air dried hardwood weighs in at about 4000 pound. I don't know of any pickup that can handle that much weight. The guy who delivered the fire wood for me was using a vey heavy duty dump turck. I'm about 6'6" tall and I had to look up at him when he was sitting in the driver seat.

I have used anthracite (hard) coal in past years for a number of reasons including it is very uniform and dry and is weighed on certificed scales. After putting in a geoghermal heat pump about 10 years ago, I quite burning coal, as I was burning it to save money as compared to the cost of heating with an air-to-air heat pump in outside temperatures below 20 degrees. I now burn firewood only for a few hours when I feel like sitting in the room with the fire to watch TV or read. I don't burn firewood to save on heating cost. Still the pellet type of fuel does seem to offer some of the benefits of hard coal with the charm of fire wood.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 9:45PM
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"...Your supplier, Chris, seems to be real "jewel", keep hold of him..."

This is typical of the type of dealer up here in VT.

"...I don't know how he an affort to hand stack the cord wood in his truck, unless you're paying $200 or more per cord..."

I paid $160 per cord.

"...From the dimensions you gave you're getting 156 cubic feet, or about 1 1/4 cord. I do find the dimension of the truck bed strange and wonder what type of tuck it is..."

He has an old (mid 70s) Chevy dump truck with a homemade dump bed. He uses this truck just for firewood and snowplowing. The top half of the steering wheel is gone as is the driver's door window. It probably hasn't been inspected in 10 years. But since the only traffic enforcement is the Sheriff, and the Sheriff knows him, he kinda looks the other way.

This is small town Vermont I'm talking about. A town with under 875 people. And my dealer is in competition with probably 6 others for my business. I can order the wood in August for an October delivery and I can rely on him. He also delivers free wood to some customers that are on hard times. "It's the Christian thing to do" he always says. He owns over 100 acres of forest and he says he can get about 50 cords a year out and sustain it. In the winter he plows snow, and in the spring he's making maple syrup. That's his complete source of income. He's in his sixties now and he says he's been doing it since he was 16.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 6:37PM
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Sounds great, there are few or none of this type in NJ, to my experience. My applause to your local VT business people. The truck does sound like a real "workhorse", and the dealer too.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 11:23PM
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Jerry, I grew up in New Jersey. Succasunna to be exact.
I got tired of the throngs of people and moved to the Poconos. But I discovered the New Yorkers also found them and are literally destroying the area.

Then I went on Vacation up here and discovered real people like "JP". They're all over. Money, prestige and a big new house are not on the top of their life's list, let alone a new BMW. Some families are living in the same house that their ancestors built in 1831.

We have lots of dirt roads up here. 28% of all roads to be exact. There's a runing joke around here about signs that should be at the border.

Welcome to Vermont
Pavement Ends

We have around 300 miles of interstate and over 4,000 miles of snowmobile trails. Heating with a woodstove is common. Just about everybody I know has one.
The area and people are real. And since you really can't build huge subdivisions around here without a fight from somebody, it's gonna stay that way.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 8:14AM
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I had one delivery that was more than a cord. I was surprised and happy about that. That was ten years ago. It was a landscape maintenance place and they delivered it for 125 bucks. Bought 2 other cords from two different guys. Ended up being about 80% on both loads.
I don't mind buying a cord here and there when I can't get up into the sticks to cut some but haven't found anybody to trust. It is pretty pathetic.
A cord is 4 x 4 x 8.
So I cut my own.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 10:05AM
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a pickup with an 8 ft bed, long wheel base not regular, can hold a cord. 4 rows each 4ft long, stacked 4 ft high. gives you a cord. you have to have extended sides though. most around here load the bed full, then pull a trailer loaded. usually haul a couple cords at a time.

MANY people here think a cord is one standard truck bed full. and many dealers here will sell it like that. what one guy says is a cord for 135.00 another guy says is half a cord and his whole cord is 150. this second guy is as close to a true cord as you can get. either one will deliver AND stack for the quoted price.

i don't buy it though, my BIL got me several cords last year. the other day i cam home and he had dumped about 2 cords worth of split wood next to my woodpile. now i gotta stack it, but hey it's free!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 4:51PM
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Can't argue with "free" as a great price. I don't expect free, I have gathered, cut and split enough fire wood to know it is a lot of work.

As far as getting a cord into a pickup with high sides, I still think it would overload even a heavy duty suspension, say 3/4 ton would be badly overloaded. I did about ten years ago have a delivery by a pickup, it had high sides and the wood was stacked in the truck. The guy asked me to look at the load before he started unloading, which was by hand, but he was good/fast at a throwing it off the truck. That was one full cord as far as I'm concerned, still my experience is mostly on the short-change end. Seems to go with the territory, even rural NJ. In fact I had to get a tow for my car last Sunday, about three miles. I have Alstate Motor club, they said over the telephone the tow was fully covered by Alstate. When the tow guy reached me by my cell phone he wanted about $10 more than the Alstate maximum. I wanted to get home so I figured I'd take it out of his tip. These are the thing that keep me engaged as a DYI'er on most things. Getting cord wood and towing my own vehicle are two cases where I've asked for help, paid help and either got short changed or over charged. Forutnately, none of these have cost me enough money to cause me any financial problems. So, while I'm spending time here, it is more as a "cracker barrel" exchange. I am also interested to see if there is something strange about my experience, seems strange to me. Keep the head down, keep the heart high and focused on good things and "keep stroking".

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 8:59PM
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Hello to everyone! Lets see if I can clear up all the hullabaloo on a cord of word. 1st off, let me give my credentials. I come from a large logging family in Montana and i have been in charge of many large logging projects in Montana,Idaho, and Alaska. My wife and I own cumberland timber and firewood in Eastern Ky and we sell wholesale only, to 5 large retail dealers in the Northeast and ship it all on 50 foot live bottom/walking floor tractor trailers.

We sell them a tightly stacked, and I mean tight! a true cord at 128 cubic feet. All our wood is kiln dried and every stick is dried to 12 to 15 percent moisture content. 1 cord, 128 cubic feet of dried Hickory will weigh right at 3000 pounds. We ship 20 true cords at a time. This past year we shipped 7,778 cords. For 14 true cords, 4x4x8 128 cubic feet, cut 16 inches,(we make up the cubic feet cause of the 16 inches with more wood) for $5,000 dollars. Thats our bench mark for all 100 pct hickory.

They take it and sell 32 cubic feet at there prices. And they sell what is called up in the north, a face cord/rick etc. What us loggers call a cord of hardwood out in montana, is called logger cord and it is 1 cord of unsplit wood, that weighs 6000 pounds. This is timber that is cut down, delimbed and loaded on a log truck. Anytime anyone has any questions or wants to see photos of our high ball firewood business? just hit us up.

We have a 190 acre farm in Eastern Ky right outside of Manchester. Just so you should know what type of processors we use, go to multitekinc com and look at the models 2040 and 3040. We have 2 of each. For this coming winter we re expanding once again, and for the last time and we will be shipping right at 10,000 cords and that is big enough.

Ed & Rhonda

PS The easiest way to get a 3x4x8 128 cubic cord is to buy it cut 2 feet long. Each stick. But im sure most of you know hardly anyone has fireplaces or wood stoves that can take a 2 foot log. So, if someone brings you a cord, that they are calling a cord,and its cut 16,18,20 inches, they have to make up the difference!!!! look for our web site soon. cumberlandfirewood com We will have lots and lots of photos of our farm, and our business and the process of wholesale firewood.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 11:17AM
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