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Firewood Value and Costs

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Many people, including me, love buying a rack of firewood, fueling fireplaces with firewood and gladly accept the challenges involved. But fueling a fireplace or firewood burning stove can be a lot of work and cost you way too much if volumes and values are not known.

In many states firewood transaction laws have been enabled to protect the purchaser from being ripped off when purchasing fuel. Most states are concerned that if you buy a "cord" of wood you actually get a cord.

Terms like "rick", "rank", "pickup load", "pile", "face cord", and "fractions" of a cord make determining firewood values a nightmare. Here are a few tips and rules of thumb to help you determine fair market value of a load of wood and get what you pay for:

A cord is a lot of wood - sometimes. It is usually your state's legal unit of measure for wood. You are buying a unit of wood based on 128 cubic feet of condensed, stacked roundwood including bark and some air confined to an area 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet. Solid wood with no air or bark has a volume of from 85 to 110 depending on many variables.

Be aware that wood received in 4 or 8 foot lengths will occupy less space when it is cut and split for firewood but the total amount of wood will not change. In other words, a cord of wood split and tightly stacked in 16" lengths contains considerably more energy (less air space) than a cord of wood stacked and racked in eight-foot lengths.

So, if the firewood is cut to fit a stove or fireplace and is split and tightly stacked, the space occupying the wood is reduced. You have less air. If it is haphazardly piled, the air to wood volume ratio is increased and you have less energy per cord. You need to insist on neat and tight stacking.

Tip one: Try to avoid buying firewood that is not sold in cords or fractions of a cord. A cord is a legal unit that a seller can be held to if there is some question.

Tip two: Insist that your wood be cut to burning length, split, uniformly stacked and not randomly scattered in a pile.

Tip three: Be prepared to either haul your own wood or pay extra for handling and delivery. Also, firewood value is totally and completely driven by location and availability. Cordwood prices for mixed hardwood can range from $50 to more than $100 but that may not include processing, transport and handling costs. Getting wood to your fireplace and at the correct size is a major part of the expense of firewood.

REMEMBER: A "truck load" of firewood can mean anything from a loaded light-weight short-bed pickup (1/5 of a cord) to a pulpwood truck (4 cords). You need to determine the hauling capacity in cubic feet of any truck used to hold the wood and insure that the stacking is relatively tight and orderly.

Tip four: Pickup trucks generally hold from a fifth to a half of a cord of tightly spaced and orderly split, stacked wood. That is quite a broad range. You can (and should) actually measure your (or the seller's) transport bed to determine volume.

Tip five: Multiply the bed length X bed width X bed height to get the gross volume in cubic feet; then divide by 128. Take that number (probably a fraction) and multiply it by the price per cord to get your wood's value.

Example: You have a pickup bed that measures 6 feet long, 2 feet deep and 4 feet wide. You multiply 6'x 2'x 4' which equals 48 cubic feet. Convert to cords by dividing 48 cubic feet by 128 cubic feet (one split and neatly stacked standard cord) which equals to .38 cords. If processed firewood is selling for $150 per processed cord, multiply that by .38 cords. You will have a truck bed full of firewood valued at $57.

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