Firewood Buying Tips

Even though we’re in the midst of winter, some folks are still looking to buy seasoned firewood. Pick up trucks loaded with varying amounts of firewood for sale can be seen parked on Main Street in Georgetown and at various other locations around the Divide.

A couple of people have asked me lately if I know of anyone selling firewood. I recommend a friend of mine to them because I know he is honest and will deliver a full cord at a fair price. But what about buying firewood from someone you don’t know?

If you’re not real familiar with buying firewood, how do you make sure you’re getting what you paid for? You measure. Length x Height x Width. It’s as simple as that.

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Firewood is measured by “the cord“.  It must be sold by the cord or fraction of a cord, but never less than 1/8th of a cord. By law, a “cord” of firewood must equal 128 cubic feet, regardless of how you stack it.

To test this theory, you can take a known cord of wood and re-stack it into anyone of a thousand of clever shapes. Remeasure it. It’s still going to be 128 cubic feet of wood and still equal a cord.

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To determine the amount of firewood you have, the wood must be measured after the wood is “ranked and well stowed”. This means the wood should be stacked neatly in a row, with all the pieces parallel and touching with as few gaps as possible.

Stack all pieces neatly in a row.

Parallel and touching with as few gaps as possible.

If it’s not 128 cubic feet, it’s NOT a cord!!


So, how can you be sure that pick up truck load of wood you saw for sale on Main Street is really a full cord? Unless the truck is equipped with sideboards and loaded to the brim, it’s probably not really a cord.

Most 8 foot truck beds hold a 1/2 cord stacked to top of the bed-rail. When the wood is tossed in and not stacked, an 8 foot bed will hold about a 1/3 of a cord. A 6 foot bed can barely hold 1/3 of a cord stacked. And truck beds do vary in size, so measure to be sure!

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Be wary of terms such as “face cord,” “rack,” “rank,” “rick,” “tier,” “pile” or “truck-load,” as these terms are illegal to use in the sale of firewood.  If a seller uses such terms, consumers should be on alert for a possible problem.

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Be prepared to either haul your own wood or you’ll pay extra for delivery and handling. Check with your firewood vendor to see if delivery is included in the price of the wood. Stacking is usually not included in the price.

Ask for an invoice or delivery ticket that contains the name and address of the seller, the date purchased or delivered, the quantity purchased, and the price.  The seller is required by law to give you this information in writing.  You may want to take note of the license plate of the delivery vehicle.

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Finally, if you believe you have not received the quantity you ordered and paid for, call the seller to correct the problem.  Try to maintain the wood in the condition it was delivered, take a photograph, and do not burn any.

If the seller can’t or won’t correct the problem, contact the El Dorado County Weights and Measures office as soon as possible at: (530) 621-5520 or the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards at: (916) 229-3000.

Sources: How To Avoid Getting Burned When Buying Firewood, CDFA Press Release

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