Firewood for Home Heating Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.

Today’s topic: Firewood for Home Heating.

Virginians have found wood to be a desirable source of home-heating energy.  During an average heating season, Virginia households burn approximately 1.9 million cords of fuel wood.  In terms of volume harvested, sawlogs, pulpwood, and fuel wood are the Commonwealth’s most important forest products.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is responsible for the regulation of fuel wood sales.  According to VDACS, wood for use as fuel in bulk form (Quote)“shall be advertised, offered for sale and sold only by measure, using the term ‘cord’ and fractional parts of a cord, or the cubic meter”(Unquote).

Virginia law prohibits the use of terms such as “face cord,” “rack,” or “pile” when advertising, offering for sale, or selling wood for use as fuel. If the buyer visually inspects a truckload of wood and agrees to a selling price for that load, the term “truckload” may be used. A standard pick-up truck usually holds about two-thirds of a cord.

Occasionally, very small quantities of firewood are sold on a weight basis, and this can be especially confusing because the weight of wood varies greatly depending upon the moisture content.  A cord of wood, depending upon species and dryness, generally weighs between 2 and 3 tons.  Purchase of a ton of green wood could mean that you are buying ½ ton of wood and ½ ton of water; however, if the wood is air-dry, you would be buying about 1,670 pounds of wood and only 330 pounds of water.  When buying firewood on a weight basis, you should be sure to specify whether or not prices are based on green or air-dry wood.

What is a cord?

Firewood quantities are sometimes difficult to estimate.  The official measurement of firewood is a “cord”.  To help you make an accurate estimate, here is how some common units of firewood measurement compare to the full cord.

A full cord is a large amount of wood.  When neatly and tightly stacked, it measures 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by eight feet long and has a volume of 128 cubic feet.

Two full-size pick-up truck loads (8 foot box) equals one full cord, whether the wood is stacked carefully so it is about level with the truck box sides, or is thrown into the truck box with the top of the pile about as high as the cab.

Four compact pick-up truck loads (6 foot box) equals one full cord, whether the wood is stacked carefully so it is about level with the truck box sides, or is thrown into the truck box with the top of the pile about as high as the cab.

The most common firewood piece length is 16 inches, but other lengths are also available.

A frequently asked question by wood burners is the price of each cord.  Price is important; however agreement on a standard way to measure and transfer wood is equally important.  Both the buyer and seller must agree and understand the procedure.

The law also requires that the seller present a delivery ticket or sales invoice upon delivery of any non-packaged fireplace wood or stove wood. In addition to the seller's name and address, the ticket must contain the purchaser's name and address, the date of delivery, the quantity delivered, the quantity upon which the price is based (if it differs from the delivery quantity), and the total price of the amount delivered.

To file a complaint, contact the Office of Product and Industry Standards, Weights & Measures, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services toll-free at 1-800-552-9963.

Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.



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