• Measuring Firewood: What is a Cord of Wood and How is it Measured?

    August 13, 2023 7 min read

    Measuring Firewood: What is a Cord of Wood and How is it Measured? - Prime Yard Tools

    The shift of seasons often brings with it a surge in demand for firewood. But understanding firewood measurements is crucial. How often have we wondered, "How much firewood do I need?" or "What exactly is a cord of wood?" Here's a detailed look into the terminologies and measurements that dominate the firewood industry.

    What is a Cord of Wood?

    Historically, the term "cord of wood" was the brainchild of wood merchants looking to standardize their trade. In its most basic definition, a cord of wood represents a specific volume of stacked firewood. This volume is universally recognized within the firewood industry, making it an essential term for both buyers and sellers.

    How Big is a Cord of Wood?

    Firewood is often visualized as logs stacked neatly in a shed or under a tarp, waiting to be used during colder months. However, for those looking to purchase, sell, or use firewood, the exact dimensions and terminologies associated with wood measurements can be a bit perplexing. One of the most commonly used terms in this realm is the "cord of firewood." Let's delve deeper into understanding how big a cord of wood really is.

    Standard Dimensions of a Cord

    A cord of wood has specific measurements that are recognized universally. A full cord, which is simply called a "cord of firewood," occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet. This is equivalent to a stack of wood logs that measures 4 feet in height, 4 feet in width, and 8 feet in length.

    To visualize this, think of a parking space. A cord of wood would fill most of that space from the ground to about waist height for an average adult. It's almost like stacking logs in the back of a large van or a pickup truck bed until every available space is filled.

    Variations of a Cord

    While a full cord is the standard measure, there are other variations that one might come across:

    1. Half Cord: As the name suggests, a half cord is literally half the volume of a full cord. This means that if you were to stack wood in the same 8-foot length and 4-foot height but only fill it up to 2 feet in width, you'd have a half cord. It's the equivalent of filling up the large van mentioned earlier, but only halfway.

    2. Running Cord or Loose Thrown Cord: These terms are a bit more ambiguous. They don't stick to the strict 4x4x8 feet dimensions of a full cord. Instead, they refer to wood that's been thrown into a space without being neatly stacked. This can lead to more air gaps and less wood volume overall. As a result, the volume of wood in a "loose thrown cord" might be less than that of a full cord, even if it seems to occupy the same space.

    Why Does the Size Matter? Knowing the exact size of a cord of wood is crucial for several reasons:

    • Fair Trade: When buying or selling wood, it's important to ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding how much wood is being exchanged. This prevents misunderstandings and ensures a fair transaction.

    • Storage: If you're purchasing wood for personal use, understanding the size of a cord can help in planning storage. For instance, if you're buying two full cords, you'd need a storage space that can accommodate 256 cubic feet of stacked wood.

    • Estimating Usage: Knowing how much wood is in a cord can help in estimating how long it might last, depending on your usage patterns.

    While it might seem simple on the surface, understanding the exact dimensions of a cord of wood, and its variations, is essential for anyone involved in the buying, selling, or usage of firewood. With a clear understanding, you're better equipped to make informed decisions, whether it's regarding a purchase, a sale, or just winter preparations.

    How to Measure a Cord of Wood

    Measuring a cord of wood accurately is essential for both buyers and sellers in the firewood industry. A correct measurement ensures that buyers get the value for their money and sellers offer a fair amount of wood. Here's a detailed guide on how to measure a cord of wood to ensure you're getting exactly what you expect.

    Tools Required: While there are multiple ways to measure a cord of wood, using a measuring tape is the simplest and most straightforward method. A reliable, long measuring tape, preferably one that extends to at least 25 feet, will serve you best.

    Steps to Measure a Cord of Wood:

    1. Prepare the Firewood Stack

      • Ensure that the firewood is stacked neatly. The logs should be aligned parallelly, with minimal gaps and spaces to avoid discrepancies in measurements.

      • It's essential that the stack is uniform. Avoid "pyramiding" or creating a stack that bulges in the middle.

    2. Measure the Stack's Length

      • Extend your measuring tape from one end of the stack to the other, keeping it straight and taut.

      • For a full cord, the length should measure exactly 8 feet. Ensure that you measure from the very ends of the outermost logs.

    3. Measure the Stack's Height

      • Starting from the ground, extend the measuring tape upwards, perpendicular to the ground.

      • A full cord's height is typically 4 feet. Ensure the tape is vertical, avoiding any slant, to get an accurate reading.

    4. Measure the Stack's Depth or Width

      • This measurement is taken from the front of the stack to the back. Make sure the measuring tape is perpendicular to both the ground and the stack's length.

      • Aim for 4 feet for a full cord. Keep in mind; this measurement will vary if you're measuring face cords or stove cords, which are typically shallower.

    5. Calculate the Volume

      • Once you have the three dimensions (length, height, and depth), the volume is calculated by multiplying them together.

      • For a full cord: 8 feet (length) x 4 feet (height) x 4 feet (depth) = 128 cubic feet.

    6. Verify and Double-Check

      • It's always good to measure a couple of times, especially if you're new to this. By verifying your measurements, you ensure accuracy.

      • If the volume of your stacked wood is less than 128 cubic feet, then it's not a full cord. It could be a half cord, a face cord, or some other measurement based on its volume.

    Understanding how to measure firewood properly is crucial for anyone in the firewood industry or even for those purchasing wood for personal use. By ensuring that your measurements align with the standard definitions of cords, half cords, face cords, and so on, you can guarantee a fair exchange and ensure you're prepared for the cold months ahead.

    Face Cord vs. Full Cord: Differences, Applications, and What to Buy

    Firewood is not only about warmth; it's about value, efficiency, and making informed choices. Among the many terms thrown around in the firewood industry, "face cord" and "full cord" are perhaps two of the most common, yet frequently misunderstood. Here's a detailed look into what sets them apart and a handy comparison table to give you a quick overview.

    Distinguishing Face Cord from Full Cord

    The term "face cord" is synonymous with a "stove cord." It's a measure of wood that has the same height (4 feet) and length (8 feet) as a full cord, but its depth varies, typically between 16 to 24 inches. This makes a face cord smaller in volume than a full cord. The name "face" cord derives from the face of the wood stack being visible, without specifying its depth.

    Face cords are particularly popular among stove wood users because stoves often accommodate shorter pieces of wood. Hence, the term "stove cord" became prevalent.

    On the other side of the spectrum, a full cord is a behemoth in firewood measurements. Its dimensions are strictly 4x4x8 feet, resulting in a total volume of 128 cubic feet of wood. A full cord provides a significant amount of firewood, suitable for those who have larger heating demands or wish to stock up for extended periods.

    Seasoned vs. Green Wood: Making the Right Choice

    Irrespective of whether you're buying a face cord or a full cord, the type of wood you choose plays a crucial role in heating efficiency. Seasoned wood has been dried over time, reducing its moisture content. This not only ensures a cleaner burn but also releases more energy, making it a preferred choice for heating. In contrast, green wood, which is freshly cut and contains a higher moisture content, burns less efficiently and is less ideal for immediate heating needs.

    While seasoned firewood might be slightly more expensive than green wood, the former's heating efficiency and reduced creosote buildup make it a worthy investment.

    Comparison Table: Face Cord vs. Full Cord

    Parameter Face Cord (Stove Cord) Full Cord
    Dimensions 4 feet high x 8 feet long x 16-24 inches deep 4 feet high x 8 feet long x 4 feet deep
    Volume Between 42.6 and 64 cubic feet (varies with depth) 128 cubic feet
    Typical Use Stoves, smaller fireplaces, short-term heating Larger fireplaces, long-term heating needs
    Wood Type Shorter logs, suitable for stoves Longer logs, versatile for various heaters
    Efficiency with Seasoned Wood High, especially with well-seasoned wood Optimal, given the larger quantity of wood


    Your choice between a face cord and a full cord, and between seasoned and green wood, will likely depend on your specific heating needs, storage capacity, and budget. With the knowledge of their differences and a clear understanding of the value of seasoned firewood, you're better equipped to make the right purchase for those cozy nights by the fireplace.

    Importance of Accurate Measurement

    Both buyers and sellers benefit from accurate firewood measurements. A seller knows exactly how much wood they're parting with, and a buyer is assured they're getting their money's worth. In a world where terms like "face cords," "full cords," and "stove cords" float around, understanding their exact dimensions prevents misunderstandings and ensures fair trade.


    The firewood industry, with its myriad terminologies, can be a maze for the uninitiated. However, with a clear grasp of terms like cord of wood, face cord, and full cord, one can navigate it with confidence. Always remember, whether you're buying stove wood, seasoned firewood, or trying to gauge how much firewood you'll need for the winter, precise measurements are your compass.