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How To Avoid Getting Burned When Buying Firewood

What Is a Cord?
Image of a wood burning fire
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.

Stacking a Cord for Measurement

Image of proper and improper way to stack a cord of wood to measure

If It Doesn't Equal 128 Cubic Feet It's Not A Cord!

Image of Measurements for a cord of wood

Words That May Indicate You Are Not Getting Proper Measurement

A cord, like other measurements such as a foot, a gallon, or a ton, 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 your weights and measures office before you burn any wood. It is also helpful to document the possible shortage by taking a picture of the stacked wood. Your weights and measures office is listed at the bottom of this web page. Local offices can also be located in the government section of your telephone directory or by writing or calling the:

National Conference on Weights and Measures
P.O. Box 4025
Gaithersburg, MD 20885
(301) 975-4004

What is the National Conference on Weights and Measures?

The National Conference on Weights and Measures is a professional organization of State and local weights and measures officials. Its members include representatives of industry, government, and consumers. The Conference's ongoing mission is to promote the development of uniform, effective State and local weights and measures laws that help maintain a fair marketplace and protect both consumers and businesses. Your State and local officials are responsible for enforcing the weights and measures laws. They use highly-accurate equipment to make sure that weighing and measuring devices, such as gasoline pumps and scales, are in fact giving proper measurement. They work to ensure that every commercial transaction involving weight or measure is fair and accurate. Throughout the millions of transactions that take place every day, your weights and measures officials help guarantee that you get what you pay for.

This information was brought to you by:

Image of the National Conference on Weights and Measures SealThe National Conference on Weights and Measures and your local Weights and Measures Officials