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What is the Difference between a Cord of Wood and a Face Cord?

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/25/2010

Heating with wood requires knowledge of certain terminology. A "cord of wood" is one of these terms. It is used in both measuring and pricing. If you heat with wood you need to know how to measure a cord to avoid getting ripped off or running out of fuel.

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    If you use wood to heat with, you are familiar with the term “cord of wood". People selling firewood often use different terminology to describe the amounts they sell. Ricks, racks and stove cords are all different terms describing a face cord. A face cord is not the same thing as a full cord. Understanding the difference and how to calculate the difference is an important factor in finding the true cost of wood and the amount you are purchasing.

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    Face Cord vs. Full Cord

    Stack of firewood A face cord is any stack of wood that measures under the size of a full cord. A full cord of wood measures 128 cubic feet of wood. The official standard measure of a full cord is 4-by-4-by-8-feet (being 4 feet high, by 4 feet wide, by 8 feet long). A log 4-foot long equals 48 inches. Most fireplaces and wood stoves can only use up to 16-inch logs. Because of this problem smaller measurements were required, hence the term face cord. Face cords are usually 1/3 the width of a full cord; therefore it takes three face cords to equal one full cord of wood.

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    Measuring a Cord of Wood

    A stack of wood can be any height, length or width. To accurately determine the amount of wood you need to find the average length of the logs. This goes for split or whole logs. Have the stacks of wood packed as tight as possible. This provides an accurate measurement for calculations. Measure the height, length and width to find the total dimensions of the stack.


    1. 4 rows of 12-inch sticks = 4 feet (a stack 12-inch wide is a ¼ cord)

    2. 3 rows of 16-inch sticks = 4 feet (a stack 16-inch wide is a 1/3 cord)

    3. 2 rows of 24-inch sticks = 4 feet. (a stack 24-inch wide is a ½ cord)

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    Calculating Cubic Feet for Measuring

    Figure out the volume by multiplying the stack’s height by its length by its width. Then divide the volume by 128 to convert the cubic feet into cord feet of wood.

    Here's the steps to the calculations.

    1. You have a stack 6 feet tall, 15 feet long and 4 feet wide. Take 6 x 15 x 4 to get 360 cubic feet.

    2. Divide 360 by 128 to get a total of 2.8125 (you have just under 3 full cords of wood)

    You can use these examples to help figure out the cost and the amount of wood you need. Once you have the quoted price and the measurement of the stack available, you can determine if it is worth purchasing and it gives you room to negotiate with the supplier.

    Beware of anyone selling various measurements or anything labeled as a cord when it may not; representations of cord wood that are not is illegal in most states.

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    Jonesy's Woodyard

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commmons