Are they ripping us off intentionally, or is it like many businesses out there that simply do not truly know their trade? I think a little of both!

With the rising costs of electric, propane, and heating oil, this year I decided to burn wood in my fireplace. Since I have lived here at the farm, I never rally utilized the fireplace prior to this season, so I needed to find some wood. To date in my search for quality wood it seems some vendors are cheating us. This may or may not be intentional, and it simply may be due to ignorance on our part and/or the part of the vendors. I am not sure yet, but would like to tell you what I have experienced so far.The first place I looked was on Craigslist, and found quite a few ads for local firewood vendors. Here is an account of what happened.

As stated I found quite a few vendors advertising on the York PA. Craigslist. So I picked the one that I thought was the closest, as well as reasonably priced.  After calling them and discussing their wood and pricing, I arrange for a cord to be delivered.They said they would get back to me when they could arrange delivery. So a day or so later they call and tell me they can deliver the wood. However I could not be at the farm the time they wanted to deliver it, so I arranged for them to drop it off , and I left payment for them. This was my first mistake!

So now I arrive at the farm after delivery and see the wood dumped just off the driveway. Upon inspection I noticed that most of the wood was not the split heart wood of the main trunk, but about 70% tops and branch wood. This if you do not know, is inferior wood, and should only make up no more then about 30% of the total cord max. The next thing I notice is most of the wood is completely rotten and wet in the first 1" circumference around each log. As a matter of fact much of the rotten part of each log fell off when they dumped it, and made a mess. I probably lost about 10% in rot that was turned into sawdust upon dumping, and left all over the ground. This was obviously wood that was very recently picked out of the forest where it laid and was left to rot. This is not the proper way to store and harvest firewood. It must be dried properly and in a specific manner for it to season properly. We will get to that later in this rant. I will say that once you got through the rotten outer surface that the heart of each log was of good quality oak.

Concerned about the wet and rotten part of the wood I attempted to burn some. It simply would not burn due to the wet nature of that rotten outer surface. You should know as well that I was told that this wood was ready to burn.

Even though I was disappointed in the quality of the wood, I decided to look past it and keep it anyway. It would soon dry out and be able to burn in the near future. So I commence to stacking.
I had set up a rack that was 16 feet log to accommodate a cord of wood. On this rack a cord would take up the entire sixteen feet in length, and should stack one row of logs to 4 feet high. (We will discuss in detail later what a  real cord of wood is suppose to be).
After stacking, the wood was obviously short of the sixteen feet stacked 4 feet high, and it was about 20% short of a cord....... (and this is when considering only these two factors in measuring a cord.) In reality it was a far larger percentage short because of other factors. We will get to that.  So needless to say, this fact, combined with the fact that it was inferior wood, as well as would not burn, it was simply unacceptable. So I call the vendor and tell them to come get it, and give me a refund. They agreed.

When the vendor arrived to take back their wood, I showed them what I did not like, as well as how I was short a cord. They really could not argue the point, as it was obvious, and they offered to bring me more wood in replacement of this load. However, lately I am simply fed up with being disappointed by shotty businesses, and business practices, and I simply will not give them my business. I must say however, that this vendor did seem to want to make up for his mistake. I will give him that. as well I do not think this vendor was intentionally trying to short or cheat me. His primary problem was ignorance in not knowing what good wood was, how various grades of wood should be priced in the industry, as well as what a cord of wood truly was. So since he did seem remorseful I gave them $25 for their troubles of delivery and pick up of the wood, and sent them on their way.

Now let's stop here and discuss firewood, and the industry standards, as well as what a "cord" of firewood truly is supposed to law. In my recent dealings with three vendors in a row, is seems as though the vendors themselves, at least some of them, don't even know what a cord truly is, or what the firewood industry standards are! It also seems as if many folks that purchase firewood don't know either, because if they did these vendors would not be able to attempt to short people like they do. So I think we need to go over a few things about firewood, for the sake of the vendors and customers that do not know how things are supposed to be in this industry.

Let's start by talking about the wood itself. It is a well known fact that different types of woods, ie; oak, maple, etc, have different value as firewood. The type of tree/wood has  a great influence on how much a cord of that given wood type should cost. Knowing this, it is also well known that oak is one of the best, as for burning, lasting, and getting the most heating efficiency from a given fire of the same. Oak simply burns better, longer, and more efficiently then most other average, softer, and common tree woods available. It is for these reasons that oak is the preferred wood to purchase and usually commands the highest price per cord. So needless to say when you are comparing prices per cord of wood, make sure as well that you are considering the type of wood you are getting.

Now, let's discuss the most important aspect of buying wood. The cord. By definition, a cord measures a volume of wood stacked tightly mind you, that is 8 feet long, by 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high. More importantly it needs to be 128 cubic feet of wood BY VOLUME AND STACKED TIGHTLY! To put this to example, if you cut logs 4 feet long, and stacked them reasonably tight, then the cord would be these 4 foot logs in a single row stacked 4 feet high, by 8 feet long. However, as you know, most people do not and cannot have logs to burn that are 4 feet long! Most firewood is generally cut between 16" and 24" long per log. Somewhere in this range are the most widely used and accepted lengths in the industry. However, there are occasions that a customer may have the need for longer, or shorter logs to accommodate whatever receptacle they are burning in. For example, some small wood stoves cannot handle logs longer then 12" at times, and some people have huge fireplaces that can handle very long logs.

Now, understanding all of this, it ishould be easy to see that if you stacked two rows of 16" logs side by side by 8 feet long, by 4 feet high, that this is NOT a full cord! Why? You see it is the 16" length that would cause you to be short of a cord. In other words, two 16" logs stacked side by side, would not give you the 4 foot wide measurement that a cord dictates. These two 16" logs stacked side by side in two rows would only give you 32" in width as opposed to the 48" it is supposed to be. You would be short by 8" ON EACH LOG or a total of 16" in total width of cord! That is a lot of wood you would be short. So as you can see, due to the varying lengths of the average log, you may have to increase the length or height of that measured stack of wood to get a true cord.

Only logs cut to 24" in length could be stacked in such a way to achieve the 4 foot within a cord. In all other shorter lengths of logs less than 24", you would have to increase the height and length of the total stack to get a cord. So however short (or even long) the logs are cut on average shorter or then 24", you would have to increase the length or the height of the stack to achieve the 128 cubic feet of wood by volume.

Let's talk about this 128 cubic feet in more detail from yet another angle. This is important and that is why I am spending so much time explaining this so that you all understand.
You figure cubic feet of wood by simply multiplying the length of the stack, by the width, and then by the height. For example. A cord measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, by 4 feet high. So take 8 times 4, times 4, and you get 128 cubic feet. Got it? So no matter the measurements of the logs if you multiply the length time the width times the height you can always figure you cubic feet no matter how long the logs are cut.

For example, let's say you get a load of wood that is supposed to be a cord. You would simply stack it in such a way to measure the length times the width times the height. It can be stacked for example in one row 16 feet long, or how it is generally done in two rows 8 feet long. Now let's say the average log in this load was cut to 18" in length.
In this case, you could stack two rows of these logs side by side and then see how long and high the stack was when finished. So, with two 18" logs stacked side by side, this makes the width when finished 36" or 3 feet. Now let's say when complete the total stack measured 8 feet long and 4 feet high. If this were the case, then you would multiply the 8 feet length, times the 4 foot height, then times the 3 feet width (two 18" logs side by side stacked in two rows). This only gives you 96 cubic feet, and with logs cut to 18" length, this is what many vendors would call a cord. Not! As you can see you would be 32 cubic feet short of the 128 cubic feet a cord is supposed to be, and this in turn is only 75% of a cord! You would be short by 25%, and that is quite a bit of wood! In this case you would have to increase the height or the length of the total stack to achieve the proper measurements of a cord.

So no matter the length of the logs, or how you stack it, it needs to end up as 128 cubic feet of wood to be a cord, and you need to increase the measurements of the stack to account for the length the average log was cut. As well, there are standards in how wood is stacked. Generally, it is to be stacked tightly, with one log placed neatly on another. There is an old saying that it should be stacked in such a way that a mouse could fit in between the stacked logs, but a cat could not follow it in. This is very general, but you should get the idea. Stacked neatly and tightly within reason!

I would also like to point out that most states have strict laws pertaining to how firewood is sold and even advertised. Upon researching this subject, even I was surprised as to the detail in these laws. So I would suggest that all you firewood vendors read any laws pertaining to firewood in your state, and stop cheating people. Learn your trade for goodness sake!

Now the second vendor I tried on Craigslist is listed below. This was a young man that was intentionally trying to cheat people and it was very obvious. His logs were cut to an average of only 13". This is short by average standards, and would be far less then a cord when stacked in two rows. As well he delivered it in a short bed pickup truck! (This fact will become important later).

When he arrived I immediately said it was far short of his advertised cord. He then stated that he would be bringing too loads in his "baby" pickup truck. I then said even so, I doubt it would end up a cord. He snootily replied that he was sure it would be a cord, and that if it was not, that it would be free.  Well guess what? He was far short a cord. Believe it or not he still had the audacity to argue with me, and was not polite at all. We all most went to blows. He was very rude and disrespectful, and tried all he could to weasel out of his very obvious fraud.

Below is a copy of his listing on Craigslist, so if I were you, I would avoid purchasing wood from this kid. He is absolutely and purposefully cheating people, and is not the least remorseful of it.

Since the ad below was copied and pasted here, he has changed his wording. He thinks it is for the better, but now he is really cheating people. He now also offers what he calls a "pickup truck load of wood for $80. He is implying by price that this is one half cord. Remember he has a very small short bed pickup truck and only piles the woods to the top of the sides of the bed! This is barely even a quarter of a cord! Avoid this guy!

Here is the exact listing #

[email protected]
and here is how the add read at the time;


--PICK UP --

$165 CORD
call for other pricing


$10 per cord based on distance


(Since the time I utilized this person their ad wording has changed some and their price has risen).
Here is his latest listing as of 11/27/11;

Date: 2011-11-25, 10:56AM EST
Reply to: [email protected] [Errors when replying to ads?] 100% OAK ALL SEASONED AND SPLIT READY TO BURN!


--PICK UP --

$185 CORD
$90 - 8 ft pick up
call for other pricing


$10-25 per cord based on distance