AskDefine | Define cordwood

Dictionary Definition

cordwood n : firewood cut and stacked in cords; wood sold by the cord

User Contributed Dictionary



cord + wood


  1. Wood suitable for use as firewood; firewood cut and split into conveniently sized pieces for easy stacking into cords.
    1884 ''The June rise used to be always luck for me; because as soon as that rise begins here comes cordwood floating down, and pieces of log rafts -- sometimes a dozen logs together; so all you have to do is to catch them and sell them to the wood-yards and the sawmill. — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter 7.
    1902 The The barkeeper drew beer from two pumps immediately in front of him, and rinsed glasses in some sort of a sink under the edge of the bar. The centre of the room was occupied by a tremendous stove capable of burning whole logs of cordwood. — Edward Stewart White, The Blazed Trail, Chapter 27.
  2. Split and cut firewood as an economic commodity.
    1884 ''The price of the paper was two dollars a year, but he took in three subscriptions for half a dollar apiece on condition of them paying him in advance; they were going to pay in cordwood and onions as usual, but he said he had just bought the concern and knocked down the price as low as he could afford it, and was going to run it for cash. — Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'', Chapter 20.
    1899 ''In his earlier days he had been successful both as a small farmer and as a dealer in cordwood and hoop-poles; and many of his ventures in this line had sailed out of the tortuous rivers of South Jersey to Philadelphia, where the wood and the poles then found ready sale. — T.G. Steward. A Charleston Love Story'' Chapter 1.

Extensive Definition

Firewood was the primary source of fuel until the 1800s, when it was displaced by coal and later by oil. Firewood is a renewable resource, provided the consumption rate is controlled to sustainable levels. Today firewood is usually obtained from timber or trees unsuitable or unwanted for building or construction. In the United States, firewood is sold by the cord, and is therefore also called cordwood.
Of all of the renewable resources, only biomass, including wood, and geothermal need to be carefully managed in order to prevent depletion. The shortage of suitable firewood in some places has seen local populations damaging huge tracts of bush thus leading to further desertification. On the other hand, proper forestry practices applied to firewood allow the usage of a carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative, energy source, since the carbon dioxide released by the burning of the firewood was previously absorbed from the ambient atmosphere through photosynthesis. Because of this, firewood can be considered to be a form of solar energy.

Harvesting firewood

Some firewood is harvested in "woodlots" managed for that purpose, but in heavily wooded areas it is more usually harvested as a byproduct of natural forests. Deadfall that has not started to rot is preferred, since it is already partly seasoned. Standing dead timber is considered better still, as it is both seasoned and has less rot. Harvesting this form of timber reduces the speed and intensity of bushfires. Harvesting timber for firewood is normally carried out by hand with chainsaws. Thus, longer pieces - requiring less manual labour, and less chainsaw fuel - are less expensive and only limited by the size of their firebox. Prices also vary considerably with the distance from wood lots, and quality of the wood.
Normally wood is cut in the winter when trees have less sap so that it will season more quickly. Most firewood also requires splitting, which also allows for faster seasoning by exposing more surface area. Today most splitting is done with a hydraulic splitting machine, but it can also be split with a splitting maul.

Measurement of firewood


In the metric system, firewood was normally sold by the stère (= 1 m³ = ~0.276 cords). Currently it is also sold to consumers by the kilogram.
In the United States, firewood is usually sold by the cord, 128 ft³ (3.62 m³), corresponding to a woodpile 8 ft wide × 4 ft high of 4 ft-long logs. The cord is legally defined by statute in most states.

1/3rd cord or face cord

It is also common to see wood sold by the "face cord", which is usually not legally defined, and varies from one area to another. For example, in one state a pile of wood 8 feet wide × 4 feet high of 16"-long logs will often be sold as a "face cord", though its volume is only one-third of a cord. In another state, or even another area of the same state, the volume of a face cord may be considerably different. Hence, it is risky to buy wood sold in this manner, as the transaction is not based on a legally enforceable unit of measure.
In Australia, it is normally sold by the tonne.

How to buy firewood

The only measurement of firewood that is regulated is a cord. All other measurements including 1/3 cord, half cord, and truckloads are not regulated. Also, firewood can either be seasoned or unseasoned and that can affect the price.

Seasoned firewood

Firewood needs to be seasoned for 8 months, so the best time to buy firewood would be in the spring. It is also the cheapest time to buy firewood. The term seasoned is not regulated, so a reseller can claim that they are selling seasoned firewood, but it may not be seasoned for a full 8 months.
Using 4 mil plastic it is possible to create a greenhouse effect and decrease the amount of time needed to season the firewood. See the link below.
The energy content of a cord of wood depends on the type of wood, and ranges from 15.5 to 32 million Btu per cord.

How to stack firewood

There are several methods for stacking firewood.
Under a roof: Here are no concerns about the wood being subjected to rain, snow or run-off. The methods for stacking depend on the structure and layout desired. Whether split, or in 'rounds' (flush-cut and unsplit segments of logs), the wood should be stacked lengthwise, which is the most stable and practical method.
Outdoors: Firewood should be stacked with the bark facing upwards. This allows the water to drain off, and standing frost, ice, or snow to be kept from the wood. When possible, a tarp or water-proof cover may be placed over the top of the pile. This can be a large piece of plywood or an oiled canvas cloth, although cheap plastic sheeting may also be used.

See also



cordwood in Samogitian: Malkas
cordwood in Catalan: Llenya
cordwood in German: Brennholz
cordwood in Spanish: leña
cordwood in Persian: هیزم
cordwood in Finnish: Puupolttoaine
cordwood in French: Bois énergie
cordwood in Hebrew: עצי הסקה
cordwood in Japanese: 薪
cordwood in Polish: Drewno na opał
cordwood in Russian: Хворост
cordwood in Swedish: Vedeldning
cordwood in Walloon: Bwès d' tchåfaedje
cordwood in Chinese: 柴
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