How to Buy Wood

Before ordering wood lets discuss the proper units of measurement so you know how to order and know what to expect when it shows up at your home.

1.  What’s a cord?  This is a unit of measure 8′ long by 4′ high 4′ deep, or 128 cubic feet.  The way wood is stacked largely determines how much wood you actually receive.  So, don’t let anybody short-change you.  There’s an old saying, “If you’re selling, stack it so a cat can run through.  If you’re buying, stack it so it can’t.”  Make sure you get your money’s worth and get a real cord of wood.

2.  Face Cord/Run/Rick – This is a unit 8′ long by 4′ high and any depth.  It’s important to specify “full cord” if that is what you intend to buy.  If you don’t, you may end up with less.

3.  Truckload – This is obviously pretty vague.  The average cord of seasoned hardwood weighs about two tons.  If it is delivered in a half-ton pickup, you’re not getting a full cord.

4.  By the Pound – A pound of wood, regardless of its type, is a pound of wood.  The only difference in types of wood is its density.  An oak log weigns more than the same size pine log.  This means there is more fuel packed into the oak log and is worth more.  When buying by any other unit of measurement, you may pay more per pound for softwoods.  If hardwood is available in your area, it’s a good idea to specify hardwood when ordering.

When ordering, ask questions and be specific.  Is it hardwood or softwood? 100% hardwood?  What type of wood?  How much per cord?  Is that a full cord?  Is it seasoned?  How long?  What lengths is it cut?  Is it split?

Specify full cord if that’s what you want.  If you have a choice of hardwood or softwood, specify hardwood because you will get more heat for your money.  If you don’t have a choice, go somewhere else.  Unless the price difference between the two is greater than 25%, pay the extra for the hardwood.

Specify dry seasoned wood.  The moisture content of green wood is typically 50% or more.  Seasoned wood has a 20% to 25% moisture content.  Green wood requires from six months to two years to season.  If the wood is green, you should pay lots less for it.  Also, tell them that you want it stacked, but be aware many will charge you extra to do so.

It’s important for you to be there when the wood arrives and be firm about getting what you pay for.  Check the wood as it’s unloaded.  Then measure it to make sure that what’s delivered is what you’ve paid for.  Check for dryness by looking for check marks.  These are cracks that radiate outward from where the center of the whole log would be.  The larger the check marks the better.  Green wood may appear dry, but without pronounced check marks, you can be assured it’s not.

Another method of testing is to hit two pieces together.  Dry wood will give a sharp ringing sound.  Green wood will give a dull thud.

If ordered hardwood, don’t accept pine, cedar, or other softwoods.  Follow this advice and you’ll get the right wood, and the right amount of wood you purchased.