When you’re buying firewood, it’s a bit more complicated than just going to the shop and picking out your favorite stack of wood. First, you have to know which type of firewood you want, and there are many types. Hardwoods alone include oak, honey locust, and many more. Plus, you need to know how much to get.
Most firewood is sold in cords, which is the standard unit of measurement for lumber. Cords measure 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet, which is the standard volume. However, the weight is not standardized because it depends on a lot of factors.
A cord of wood weighs between 2000 and 5500 pounds, depending on the density of the wood and the moisture content.
Here is what you need to know about measuring firewood in cords.
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What Is a Cord of Firewood?
If it’s your first time buying your own firewood, you might not know what a cord is. Professionals and long-term wood buyers know this term well. A cord is a standard unit of measurement for wood. It is the legal unit of measurement for buying and selling wood.
The cord has a standardized volume, so buyers know how much they’re getting, and sellers know how much wood they are parting with during each sale. Having a standardized cord makes it easier to set unit prices.
How Much Volume Is a Cord?
A cord has a standardized volume and external dimensions, but not a standardized weight. A cord is a stack of wood four feet wide, four feet high, and eight feet long, or measuring 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet. If you don’t remember your geometry from high school (and who would blame you for forgetting), that means a cord has a standard volume of 128 cubic feet.
The volume of a cord is the standard measure when it comes to wood. However, the weight can vary depending on many factors (more on that later). While standardizing cords was supposed to prevent unscrupulous sellers from taking advantage of honest people just trying to buy firewood for the winter, some sellers still inflate the price by lying about the weight or other factors.
How Heavy Is a Cord of Firewood?
If you know the volume of a cord of firewood, figuring out the weight should be easy, right? That actually isn’t the case. There is no standard answer to how heavy a cord of firewood is because the weight differs according to a few factors.
Some of the main factors affecting the weight of a cord of firewood include:
The Wood Species
Some wood species are denser, meaning the same volume of wood will be heavier than the same volume of another species. Hardwoods such as maple, oak, and walnut are usually heavier.
Some species of wood contain over half their weight in moisture. Seasoning the wood will eliminate most of this moisture content, but some moisture remains. If you buy greenwood, the same volume will be heavier because greenwood contains more moisture.
Stacking and space arrangement
While a cord has a standardized volume and stack dimensions, the measurement does not specify how the wood has to be stacked. Round logs have more space between them than split logs, so a cord of split logs will be heavier because more wood can fit. Loosely stacked wood cords with an uneven appearance will weigh less than tightly stacked, uniform cords.
Most wood cords weigh several thousand pounds. However, the exact weight is hard to determine without knowing more about your particular cord of wood, or at least the type of wood you are dealing with.
Firewood Cord Weight by Species
|Type of Wood||Green Weight||Seasoned Weight|
|Apple||4850 lb/cord||3900 lb/cord|
|Ash||3950 lb/cord||3500 lb/cord|
|Basswood||4400 lb/cord||2000 lb/cord|
|Birch||4300 lb/cord||3000 lb/cord|
|Boxelder||3600 lb/cord||2600 lb/cord|
|Horsechestnut||4200 lb/cord||2000 lb/cord|
|Catalpa||4550 lb/cord||2350 lb/cord|
|Cherry||3700 lb/cord||3000 lb/cord|
|Coffeetree||3900 lb/cord||3100 lb/cord|
|Cottonwood||4650 lb/cord||2300 lb/cord|
|Douglas-fir||3300 lb/cord||3000 lb/cord|
|Elm||4450 lb/cord||2900 lb/cord|
|Fir||3600 lb/cord||2100 lb/cord|
|Hackberry||4000 lb/cord||3050 lb/cord|
|Honey Locust||4650 lb/cord||3850 lb/cord|
|Juniper||3550 lb/cord||3150 lb/cord|
|Black Locust||4600 lb/cord||4000 lb/cord|
|Maple||3900 lb/cord||2750 lb/cord|
|Mulberry||4700 lb/cord||3700 lb/cord|
|Bur Oak||4950 lb/cord||3800 lb/cord|
|Red Oak||4900 lb/cord||3550 lb/cord|
|White Oak||5550 lb/cord||4200 lb/cord|
|Osage-orange||5100 lb/cord||4750 lb/cord|
|Pine||3600 lb/cord||2350 lb/cord|
|Red Cedar||2950 lb/cord||2650 lb/cord|
|Spruce||2800 lb/cord||2250 lb/cord|
|Sycamore||5100 lb/cord||2800 lb/cord|
|Black Walnut||4600 lb/cord||3200 lb/cord|
|Willow||4300 lb/cord||2540 lb/cord|
How Heavy Is a Cord of Softwood Firewood?
A cord of softwood firewood usually weighs about 2,000 – 3,000 pounds. Although this is much lighter than hardwood, that is still pretty heavy! The reason why softwood is so much lighter than hardwood is that softwood is less dense. That means that for the same volume, it weighs less.
There is still a wide range of weights for a cord of softwood because other factors affect the cord weight, such as moisture content and the exact species of firewood.
If you’re unsure about what is softwood, this term usually refers to the wood from evergreen trees such as pine, fir, and spruce.
How Heavy Is a Cord of Hardwood Firewood?
Most wood counts as hardwood. Examples of hardwood include oak, sugar maple, apple, and walnut.
A log of any given hardwood will be heavier than a log of the exact same size from a softwood such as fir. That’s because hardwood is denser due to its lower moisture content and weighs more when measured at the same volume.
A cord of hardwood firewood can weigh 3,000 – 5,500. The range is so large because many different hardwood species have different properties. Even wood species differ in weight by over a thousand pounds per cord.
How Much Firewood Do I Need?
Just as it’s hard to determine the weight of a cord without knowing any other information about that group of wood, it’s also hard to determine how much firewood you need. A few factors you need to consider include:
- The size of your house
- The length (and severity) of winter in your area
- The efficiency of your stove or furnace
- Whether you are burning firewood for heat or just for aesthetics
You can decide how much firewood you need based on cords. Some experts recommend three cords per winter for a 1,000 square foot home. If you prefer to think in weight, others recommend 50–100 pounds per winter day.
A cord is a standard way of measuring wood for sale by volume. One cord is 4x4x8 feet, or 128 cubic feet, in volume. Cords differ in weight according to many factors, including wood type, wood species, moisture content, wood preparation, and stacking method. How many cords you need for the winter will depend on as many factors, including the weight of the cord, the size of your home, and the efficiency of your heating system.