How Long Does a Cord of Wood Last?
If you are new to buying firewood or produce your own firewood but have run out of logs, you may want to consider buying some firewood but wonder how long does a cord of wood last. Usually, firewood is sold by the “cord” or “face cord”. If you will ask a firewood dealer, you may get the typical answer on the size of a cord and may even get the approx number of pieces in a cord.
But here are simple details about the size and volume of a cord of firewood.
A cord of firewood is a stack of already cut firewood with about 3 piles that are squeezed in one big heap. This heap has a total volume of 128 cubic feet. So if you measure this volume, what you get is a stack of wood that is about 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long (4ft W x 4 ft H x 4 ft L). If you are to buy a full cord for the whole winter, make sure you get the right volume although some sellers do cut their wood shorter or longer. The average length of a firewood piece is 16 inches. But you may find that some of the firewood pieces can be longer or shorter because those who cut the logs cut the wood in different lengths.
But more or less, the volume and size of a cord of firewood is what we have mentioned above. So to be safe when buying, ask the sellers on how many pieces of wood in a cord so that you will have an idea of how much wood you can get.
How Many Pieces of Wood in a Cord
There are also some terms that most of the time confuse us when buying firewood. Such is the “face cord” which is the opposite of a full cord. A face cord represents about one-third of a full cord in terms of the depth of the stack. Some sellers of firewood even exchange width to length. For example, some dealers will tell you that a full cord is 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long.
However, other sellers will tell you that a full cord is 4 feet high, 4 feet long and 8 feet wide. But regardless of how you’ll measure it, it will still be 128 cubic feet in total volume although we rather choose the latter in measuring to simplify the volume of a full cord. Anyway, here is our explanation of a full card and the face cord:
A full cord of firewood is 4 feet wide, 4feet high and 8 feet long (48 inches) so it’s 4’Wx4’Hx8’L.
A face cord of firewood is 1.4 feet wide (16 inches) which is also called the depth, 4 feet high and 8 feet long so it’s 16”Wx4’Hx8’L.
In the US, the term for measuring a cord varies from state to state. But to understand the measurement fully of a cord, the “Width” stands for the total length of the stack from the front down to the back of the stack. The “Height” is simply the measurement of how tall the stack is which is constant at 4 feet and the face or front of the stack is measured as the Length which is also constant at 8 feet. So a face cord of firewood is only about 1/3 the size of a full cord in terms of length and can be composed of a single stack of firewood. As mentioned, the standard length of firewood pieces can be from 16 inches but some may get up to 20 inches.
A face cord approximately has 220-240 pieces of firewood while a full cord has tripled the number of pieces of these wood. So another tip to consider when buying firewood is to ask the seller on how many pieces of wood in a cord to get the idea of what you are buying. If you are also wondering about the average thickness of each firewood in a cord, that depends on the log. A large log with about 26 inches in diameter can be split into 6 to 8 pieces while a small cut log of about 12 inches in diameter can be split into 4 pieces.
How Many Trees Are Needed To Obtain a Cord of Firewood
For those who are inquiring if we have an idea on the number of trees needed to complete a cord of firewood, well, this also depends on the size of the trees you intended to cut. The larger the trees, the more firewood you can produce but less the number of trees. For example, if you have lots of trees with an average diameter of 5 inches, it would take you about 50 trees to make up a cord of firewood. But if your trees have an average diameter of 14 inches, it would take only about 3 trees to complete a full cord.
There are also other ways to calculate the number of trees you should cut to come up with a full cord of firewood while the trees are standing. But the procedures are somewhat complex because it involves measuring the trees from the base up to its highest point as well as the average diameter of the trees’ trunks. This method is usually used by some loggers and not usually done by lumberjacks but it can come up with more accurate data and can help loggers conclude on how many pieces of wood in a cord could fit in their trucks. This also helps them estimate the amount of wood they can derive from trees with different sizes and lengths.
In 2005, the New Hampshire University Cooperative Extension released data about estimating the number of trees you could get firewood from to make a cord of wood while considering the diameter of the trunk of the trees.
This is their conclusion:
For 5-inch diameter trees, it requires 50 trees to produce 1 full cord.
For 6-inch diameter trees, it requires 20 trees.
For 7-inch diameter trees, it requires 12 trees.
For 8-inch diameter trees, it requires 8 trees.
For 9-inch diameter trees, it requires 6 trees.
For 10-inch diameter trees, it requires 5 trees.
For 11-inch diameter trees, it requires 4 trees.
For 12-inch diameter trees, it requires 3.5 trees.
For 16-inch diameter trees, it requires 2 trees.
For 18-inch diameter trees, it requires 1.5 trees.
For 22-inch diameter trees, it requires 1 tree to produce 1 full cord.
From these values, you can now estimate how many pieces of wood in a cord if you cut trees of varying sizes.
How Long Does a Cord of Wood Last for Hardwood and Softwood
When it comes to how long does a cord of wood last if it’s a hardwood or a softwood, the hardwoods are the long-burning type and they also burn hotter. Good examples of long-burning hardwoods are the live oaks, ashes, hickories, and walnuts. You can also include apple wood and cherries. However, the moisture content of the wood can also enhance or slow down the burning process of wood even of the hardwoods. Like we have said, if the wood has more than 30% MC, it will burn slower and can produce smoke and creosote which is the acidic tar residue that comes from the thick smoke of wood and can form inside the chimneys.
If the wood is properly seasoned, a full cord of hardwood can last a month or more for a single family but this may also depend on how much wood you are burning in a single fire. For instance, some people would want to burn many pieces at once while some individuals would burn only a few pieces and put one firewood piece at a time to control the home temperature while keeping the fire burning.
Softwoods, on the other hand, can burn faster but these woods are quicker to season. It is also cheaper than hardwood and easy to start a fire. But if you choose softwood that is best for burning, it could be the hemlock, cedar, pine, tamarac and spruce and a face cord of these can last a week if you will heat your home continuously. That’s why it’s also advisable to mix these softwoods with hardwoods not only to save money but also to keep the fire more alive.
How Much Does a Cord of Wood Weigh
How much does a cord of wood weigh will depend on the type of wood you want to buy. Since hardwoods are more compact, solid and heavy, a cord of it will eventually be heavier than a cord of softwoods. But according to many sellers, a cord of hardwoods may weigh from 2,000 lbs (2 tons) to 4,000 lbs (4 tons). This means that the weight of the green or fresh firewood can be twice as heavy than the seasoned firewood.
Consequently, the weight of a cord may also be based on how the wood is seasoned or dried and on the type of wood that is converted into firewood. Typically, a fresh hardwood after a few months will weigh much lighter because most of its moisture content has evaporated or dried out already. And we also know that some woods are denser than other woods which make up for their heavier weight.
Other factors can also affect the weight of a cord. For example, if the firewood pieces are cut small or the shape of the pieces are mostly crooked, there can be a 5% decrease in the weight compared to the standard weight of a cord that has larger and straight pieces. So if you imagine, shorter pieces tend to get lighter because they are drier while the crooked pieces have more air spaces in between.
Factors That Can Affect the Weight of a Cord
Another factor that can affect how much does a cord of wood weigh is the physical shape of the wood on the stacks. Like if the cord is composed of round logs, its weight will also be lighter than the split pieces considering that these are both seasoned. This is because the round logs can occupy more space than when split. As for the type of wood, the weight may vary from tree to tree regardless if the trees are of the same type. For example, the red oak which is one of the best types of trees for firewood is heavier than the white oak. So why is this?
This is because the wood of the red oak has a denser composition than the white oak. The red oak has finer and smaller grains and it’s more compact. So the choice for firewood between species should also be considered because this influences how the wood will be burned and how much they can give out their BTU outputs. For this example, the red oak will burn slow and the white oak will burn quicker but it can provide higher BTU output.
The same thing, the longer the wood will be seasoned, the lighter the cord will weigh. This brings us to another question, Is a heavier cord of firewood better than the lighter one? Again, that depends on the wood type and the amount of moisture content the wood still has. In our experience as well as by many homeowners’, the best woods are the oak and the ash tree species. These remain to heavy even when kiln-dried or seasoned always give out higher BTUs. So the heavier the wood, the longer it will burn.
How Long Does Firewood Last?
It’s common for people to ask how long does firewood last or how long does a full cord or a face cord can last. We also get questions on how long you can store firewood outdoors when there’s no room for it inside the home. For the first question, a face cord that approximately has 240 pieces of wood and with a standard length of 16-inches, this can last for about two weeks during winter. If you and your family usually leave the house during the weekdays in winter to go to work and the kids go to school, a face cord may last for two weeks considering that you only warm up your home during the afternoon until morning and do full burning on weekends. The amount of wood you burn in a week or month may also depend on the type of wood you burn on your fireplace or stove. If you prefer the heavy type of firewood like hickory which is known to be the hardest type of commercial firewood, a face cord may last you more than a week. But if you prefer the pine which is a softwood, you will need more of it for regular home heating. So why do people prefer pine woods if it burns faster? Mostly because it releases a good fragrant smell inside the home and burns faster. However, pine has many species and they generally give out about 17 million BTUs per cord only compared to oak that can reach up to 29 million BTUs per cord.
As such, some people mix some softwoods with hardwoods which also influences how long firewood lasts. Another factor that can influence how much firewood you’ll need to keep you warm on cold days is the size of your fireplace or wood stove and we know that fireplaces are typically larger than the standard wood stoves which indicate the larger your burning area, the more you will need firewood for it.
We all want to stay warm during the cold season and so firewood is the best and the cheapest form of heat source you can have during these times. But if you are buying some firewood, it would give you the advantage to know what a full cord and a face cord is. In summary, a full cord is 3 times larger than a face cord. So with this volume, you can estimate how much wood you will need to keep in your shed.
Knowing how long a cord of wood lasts can keep you out of trouble when you get short of wood fuel especially during winter when all types of firewood become expensive. So if you are to produce your firewood , the best time is to season your wood during the spring.
For our next article, we will be discussing the “rick of wood”. Rick of wood is somewhat similar to the volume of a face cord but there’s also a slight difference and history about it.