How big is a cord of wood?
What is a cord of wood?
It’s a surprise to many people that here in the US, a “Cord” is a unit of measurement defined by law in most states. So here in North Carolina, a cord of wood must legally measure 128 cubic feet.
Traditionally, forest rangers and loggers described a standard cord as a well-stacked pile of logs measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet.
But since few people can burn firewood in 4-foot or 8-foot lengths, the length of the logs in most of today’s cords has been reduced to either 2-feet or 16 inches, in order to fit inside modern wood stoves or fireplace inserts.
But the legal volume of a cord, still remains 128 cubic feet, no matter how you stack it.
To be certain that you have a cord of wood, you will have to neatly stack the wood in a line or a row (preferably against a flat surface like a fence or a wall).
Or you can also stack it against metal or wood poles, set out in a predetermined grid (see the big photo at the top).
In either case make sure that the logs are touching and parallel to each other – stacked tightly together without any noticeable gaps.
Once this is done you can measure the stack.
If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet (approximately) then you have a cord of firewood.
Firewood Sizes Don’t Determine Cord Size
Firewood logs are sold in variety of different lengths and thicknesses. The size log you buy depends on the size of your stove or fireplace.
You should only purchase logs that will fit comfortably inside your stove or across your fireplace grate.
But you have to be careful! Don’t let anyone tell you that a “truckload” or a “face cord” of firewood is the same as a full cord.
Anything less than 128 cubic feet is NOT a legal cord of firewood.
For example, if your purchase a “truckload” of firewood in 16-inch (1.33-foot) lengths and find that after you stack it tightly, it only forms a pile 4-feet high by 8-feet long.
You actually have bought a one-third of a cord: 1.33 x 4 x 8 feet = 42.6 cubic feet, which when divided by 128 = .333 or 1/3 cord.
As you have discovered, a full cord of firewood (128 cubic feet) is actually a legal unit of measure regulated by the state of North Carolina and if you pay for anything less (no matter what’s called or how it’s stacked), you are not getting a proper measurement.
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