Buying firewood can be a confusing adventure if you have never done it before. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may hear woodcutters refer to ricks, ranks, truck loads, and cords. Of all these units of measure, the most “official” or binding one is the cord. Even cords of wood can be skimped on depending on how the wood is stacked.
A cord of wood is officially defined as being tightly stacked wood in a pile 4 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long. Obviously, if the wood is simply tossed into a pile, there will not be as many individual sticks of wood in the same volume as there will be when the firewood is sold tightly stacked and already split.
When you buy firewood, it is generally sold ready for the fireplace or stove. This means it is cut in the length needed, which is usually about 20 inches long. The larger pieces are also split into smaller logs that you can handle more easily. Before ordering firewood, it is a good idea to measure your stove. Sometimes you will need the firewood to be cut to 18 inches, or even 16 inches. Twenty inch long logs may simply be too big to fit, so measure to be sure.
If you have to order a non-standard length, expect to pay more. The price of the firewood will go up with the extra labor required to produce what you order. It will also probably cost you more if the wood is stacked for you when it is delivered.
The surest way to get the amount of wood you are paying for is to measure the stack yourself. If the wood is thrown into the back of a pickup, here is a rule of thumb. If the pile reaches the top of the cab, a full size pickup load is about a half of a cord. It is also about half a cord if it is neatly stacked and reaches the top of the truck box sides. A compact pickup holds about half as much wood as a full sized pickup.
A rank or a rick are both alternative names for what is known as a face cord. This is an amount of firewood that is as long and high as a cord, but is only about 16 inches deep. It works out to being about a third of a full cord.
When buying firewood, there are more things to consider than just how much you are getting. For one thing, is the wood already aged and dried out? In most cases, it won’t be, so you should probably plan on drying it out yourself. You can burn green wood if you have to, but it can be hard to get started.
Also, what types of wood will be included? In general, hardwoods make longer burning firewood, but this is not always the case. Different woods vary widely in BTU’s produced when they are burned. Some government bodies are attempting to control these factors so that the consumer gets a fair deal, but there are many areas where it is simply up to the buyer to pay attention and beware.