What Is A Cord?
Firewood is sold by a measurement called a "cord". A cord must equal 128 cubic feet. To be sure you have a cord, stack the wood neatly by placing the wood in a line or a row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other, making sure that the wood is compact and has as few gaps as possible. Then measure the stack. If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet, you have a cord of firewood.

Wood Measures
The legal unit of wood measurement is the standard cord--a pile of wood stacked 4 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long with a total volume of 128 cubic feet. The actual volume of wood in such a pile depends on the size the size and straightness of pieces and how they are split, but usually averages about 2/3 actual wood and 1/3 void space. Variously shaped stacks or piles are often assembled to approximate either a full or some fraction of the standard cord and sold accordingly. One unofficial unit is the "face cord" or rick--a stack 4 feet high and 8 feet long but only 16 inches deep, containing 1/3 of a cord. Other unrecognized units are "pickup load" and "bundle." A "pickup load' could contain 1/3 cord, if stacked in an 8-foot bed, 19 inches deep or a 6-foot bed with full 24-inch sides. A "bundle" may vary anywhere from 1/2 to 6 cubic feet or 1/250 to 1/20 of a cord. The buyer actually contains in standard cords.

Stacking A Cord For Measurement
WRONG

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Stacking A Cord For Measurement
RIGHT

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Words That May Indicate You Are Not Getting Proper Measurement
A cord, like other measurements such as a foot, a gallon, or a tone, is defined by law. A seller may not legitimately use terms such as "truckload", "face cord", "rack", or "pile" because these terms have no legally defined meaning and, therefore, you have no way of determining how much firewood you are actually receiving. If a seller uses such terms it should alert you to a possible problem. Wood can only be sold by the cord or by fractions of a cord.

Get What You Pay For -- Get It In Writing
How To Protect Yourself When Buying Firewood

When you buy firewood make sure to get a receipt which shows the seller's name and address; as well as the price, amount, and kind of wood purchased. If possible, get the seller's phone number and write down the license plate number of the delivery vehicle.
When the wood is delivered, ask the seller to stack it (you may have to pay extra for this service) or stack the wood yourself.
Measure the wood before using any. If the cubic measurement indicates that you did not receive the correct volume, contact the seller before you burn any wood.

What To Do If You Think You've Been Short-Changed
If the seller can't or won't correct the problem, contact the Measurement Standards Division before you burn any wood. It is also helpful to document the possible shortage by taking a picture of the stacked wood.

The National Conference on Weights and Measures