Hey Ranger! How Much Firewood is in a Cord?

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September 12, 2008


The Internet can be a great source of information, but it isn’t foolproof. If you aren’t already familiar with the topic, taking on-line advice without a bit of checking can sometimes leave a person in a Melancholy Situation.

A good example involves units of weight or measurement we don’t use on a regular basis, such as how much firewood is in a “cord.”

Even campers who travel in a fully self-contained RV sometimes enjoy the ambiance of a wood fire at their site, and with the price of propane, some campers are using wood a little more often for cooking or a warming campfire. Locating legal firewood near a heavily used campground can be a challenge, however, especially late in the season. Start looking for “dead and down” wood close to camp and you’ll likely conclude that those hunter-gatherer genes are still well-represented in the campers who have come before you.

Many campers just end up springing for a bundle or two of wood from the camp store, but firewood purchased that way can be pricey if you plan to use it on a regular basis. That’s probably the background for an item I spotted on an Internet message board, offering advice on how campers in one location could save some serious money on firewood by the cord.

So, how much wood is in a “cord”? The answer is… it depends. A “full cord” is a stack of wood 4 feet wide x 4 feet high x 8 feet long and equals about two full-size pickup loads. You’ll often find firewood sold by other units, such as a face cord (or rick), a stove cord, and to make it really scientific, a “truck load.” If you want the full scoop on those terms, check out www.woodheat.org.

Here’s one other useful set of numbers, and we’ll get to the fun part of this story. Before you volunteer to help your neighbor stack his woodpile or decide to haul some wood home in your pickup, you might want to know that the weight of a cord of green firewood can range from 3200 to 5700 pounds, depending upon the type of wood. You’ll find a helpful calculator for the weight of wood by the cord here.

Now, back to that well-intentioned tip on the Internet. It noted there were areas near a particular park where campers could “clear firewood … for free.” Thrifty readers were advised, “if you have a little extra space in your vehicle, throw in a couple [of] cords of low cost wood for your campfire.””

“A little extra space?” Hmmm…. I hope anyone taking that advice has a hefty vehicle! “A couple of cords” = about 128 cubic feet (four full-size pickup loads) and could tip the scales at up to 11,400 pounds. That’s going to be quite a campfire!

There’s proof that the axiom, “Free isn’t always cheap” could apply to advice – and firewood. How much wood that woodchuck could chuck is irrelevant if you’re the one who has to load it!

Jim Burnett


Life – it’s an adventure…. Find something to smile about today!

Jim’s book Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks is available from Trailer Life Directory.com

Leave a Reply


  1. John is right, moving untreated (not kiln dried) wood is a big deal. It’s a problem that’s actually getting worse as the “world gets smaller”. As a firewood distributor I regularly get calls and emails from OTHER COUNTRIES about getting wood!

    There is a bunch of good information on this topic at: http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/

    Check it out!

  2. Thanks for the comment, John – and for being responsible in regards to “importing” firewood from other areas. All it takes is one log harboring a few insects to start an infestation that can kill thousands of acres of forest.

  3. John Jackman

    I live outside Toronto, Ontario about 35 miles. There are signs on the highway travelling up north to where our trailer is and it is strictly forbidden under threat of a fine to bring wood from Toronto to more northern areas. There is a beetle pest that is destroying trees in the Toronto area and right now the best control is to not bring any wood especially any green firewood up. I do bring up some skid wood for fire starter but the rest is all local firewood..

  4. Ouch! At times like that, buying a couple of bundles of wood from the camp store doesn’t sound so expensive, after all.

  5. Gary Hauck

    I almost forgot, Just picking up wood from the wilds can be hazardous to you health, I got a good dose of poison Ivy early this summer.

  6. Gary Hauck

    Jim, sent you a email on the Jaws..Gary

  7. Gary –

    Thanks for the great comment about folks who build a campfire on a hot, summer night – and then have to sit waaay back to “enjoy” it! I guess in some cases the experience just won’t be “complete” without a fire.

    The Alligator Jaws sound really handy – I’ll look for some information on that.

    We did just fine with Ike – no problems at home, so we were blessed.

  8. Gary Hauck

    I live in Kansas where the temperatures get in the 100’s during the summer, its funny to watch people as they will build a fire in the evening and sit 75 ft from the fire. I have been ok so far in getting wood in the spring or fall as there is plenty around the lakes I go to. My wounderful wife gave me one of those Alligator Jaws wood cutter last christmas. You cant beat them, so cutting wood is no problem, I bring the wood back to the camper as The jaws uses electricity. Dont need to carry gas. Jim I hope you and your family did ok on your trip to Flordia with the Hurricane..Gary

  9. Thanks for the comments!

    Bob, hauling enough wood to heat a 10-room farmhouse in Canada definitely qualifies as a challenge! (How many “bush cords” do you have to haul before you’re “bushed”?)

    Marie – thanks for the point about not bringing in firewood from other areas. This is important information for campers, who may be tempted to save a little money and bring some firewood from home.

    Huge areas of forests are being killed in many parts of the country by insects, and “importing” firewood, even from a nearby area, can introduce those pests to a new area and start an outbreak. Those insects often live under the bark, and are so small they can easily escape notice when someone loads a few pieces of firewood in their vehicle.

  10. Marie

    I live in MO, and if you go to this site from the Missouri Conservationist you can read why we request you not bring in outside wood. Other states may say the same.


    Thanks for interesting columns.

  11. Bob Cameron

    I grew up in frosty Canada in a 3 story 10 room farm house, with 6 siblings, heated by slab wood and a hot water boiler (now, guess my age!!). Myself and my brothers were responsible for cutting, hauling and stacking enough slab wood from our fathers sawmill into the basement (not part of the 3 stories!!) to last the winter. We got “paid” by the cord, and the argument was always around what constituted a “cord”.

    My Dad always won (naturally)!! There are actually two different types of cords – one is called a “bush” cord (his favority!!), and a “face” cord (ours, of course!!). A “bush” cord is 4′ high, 8′ wide, and 4′ deep (uncut 4′ lengths), while a face cord is same height and width, but only 16″ deep – thus there are 3 “face” cords in a “bush” cord!!

    The “bush” cord was used by woodlot owners to measure sales to “wood” resellers, and “cityfolk” who had a means to cut the 4′ lengths (known as cordwood) into firebox lengths (16″), and would get a price break for buying in bulk and doing some of the work themselves.

    A “bush” cord is vertually unknown today, and almost all sales are in “face” cords – not the least reason for which is that people just don’t want to get out that old Swede saw and make short pieces out of long pieces. Most wood today is “machine processed” into 16″ pieces, making the whole discussion mute!!

    What did I say:
    – there are two kinds of cords – “bush” & face”
    – almost all firewood is sold in “face” cords today
    – you’ll pay between $40. & $60. US for a well cured dry face cord.


  12. Steve

    A cord of wood, if I’m not mistaken, is 8ft lengths of wood stacked 4ft wide and 4ft high.

  13. bob smith

    A cord of wood makes my back hurt just thinking abnout it. When I was younger didn’t think much about it, now I don’t either. would rather just buy it delivered and stacked no spare room in my vehicle. bob

  14. Dan

    One thing you did not mention is how tightly it should be stacked. One rule of thumb I was told is: If a cat is chasing a squirrel, then the squirrel should fit through, but the cat should not. Now, living on the farm, we had lots of cats but not that many squirrels, so I could never verify the truth of that story…..

  15. Thanks in advance to any of you who read this week’s post. If I don’t respond as promptly as usual to any comments, it’s because I’m about to board a plane back to Dallas and then drive home to East Texas. We’re far enough inland that we don’t expect major impacts from hurricane Ike, but we could be without power and internet service for a while.

    I hope all of you have a great weekend!

  16. Rich – you are exactly right. Good job on doing the math better than I did! Either number makes me glad I don’t have to “throw in a couple of cords” very often.

  17. Rich D.

    ““A little extra space?” Hmmm…. I hope anyone taking that advice has a hefty vehicle! “A couple of cords” = about 128 cubic feet (four full-size pickup loads) and could tip the scales at up to 11,400 pounds. That’s going to be quite a campfire!”

    Uhh, that would be 256 cubic feet for TWO cords, one cord is 128 cubic feet.