When Is A Cord Of Firewood A Cord Of Firewood?

It's a common pain point among homeowners: When you buy firewood, how do you know if the pile of wood they dump in your driveway is actually a cord or not--as in 8' wide x 4' high x 4' deep after being stacked? I mean, that's a lot of wood, and the pile never seems to meet the legal definition once you stack it. All of which is not even to ask whether the logs are 18" or 24" long (2 x 24" = required 4'. Great. But 2 x 18"? That missing 12" of depth represents 25% of the volume of a cord). Well, wood buyers take heart from the following email exchange with my friend, a philosopher-developer-sculptor and all-around great guy who doesn't really need the money and sells firewood more or less out of the goodness of his heart.
On Nov 4, 2010, at 11:53 AM, James Akers wrote:

Now don't get mad!! You wouldn't respect me unless I pointed out the following.

Here is the math you asked for so you could double check your cord estimating technique:

  • volume of 1 cord of wood stacked = 8' w x 4' dp x 4" high = 128 cu ft.
  • volume of 2 cords stacked = 128 cu ft x 2 = 256 cu ft
  • volume of my pre-existing 2009 remnant firewood pile: 2' high x 8' long x 2' deep = 32 cu ft
  • volume of 2010 stack (see photo, previous email) after 2 cords wood delivered and stacked over pre-existing pile = 10.5' w. x 4' dp x 6' h. = 252 cu ft
  • actual volume of the 2 "cords" you delivered = 252 - 32 = 220 cu ft
  • missing volume of wood purchased from best friend (you) = 36 cu ft = 8' x 2' dp x 2' high

I can come get it if it makes it easier? Or you can never talk to me again, your choice. But I would miss that:)


On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 7:59 PM, (best friend)  wrote:

I hope that your asshole is not as tight as you had to stack that wood (I looked) to "prove" the math. We can form the missing portion in suppository form (on a lathe) if that would be to your liking.

Actually, and all kidding aside, I am glad to have a lunatic actually check the formula. The kid that told me that 187 cubic feet loose was 128 cubic feet stacked--as published in the State of Maine Forestry something or other. The question, of course, is what does that actually mean? I loaded the truck to the "top" of the 24" tailgate (thus 2'X8"X12' or 192 cubic feet) with a little bit sticking up and some voids below--loose. The second load appeared a bit light but I had wondered if the first was a little heavy. Averaged out we are 12.5% shy on two cords. I will drop it off.
The thing I have puzzled over for years is why people are so anxious about getting ripped off on firewood. Its the corollary question to why people go to Taft Farms and peel their corn on site because there may be a bug and a dozen ears is four bucks. Firewood processing is basically public service and yet few of us hold all the other thieves to account i.e. the billable hours from the $250 an hour lawyer, the $20,000 a year health insurance bill and so on. Maybe it is because it is something you can see and count and we have so little control everywhere else. I was the same way whenever I bought wood.

Yer buddy

Me to my friend:

Very nice (and funny) reply. Glad you're still my friend after me being such an asshole. I think its a version of what you say: no one wants to spend $200 on a cord of firewood when the same could go toward food or fashion, so we cling to the commonly accepted definition of "a cord" to reduce the pain, always suspecting we haven't actually received a cord (since they know we'll never check--or have the guts to call them on it). A cord, goes the thinking, is still supposed to be a cord, thank God...unlike a 2x4. Of course a cord is also supposed to be 4' deep when stacked, begging the logical question: "should the 18" logs you left be 24" long so that, stacked in two parallel rows, they create a 4' deep stack, or is the 12" of air between two rows of 18" logs also meant to be overlooked by naive consumers?"

Anyway, many thanks for your honest and auspicious reply, and my condolences for your voluntary involvement in a thankless retail operation where performance is so easy to measure. Yer bud.