What is a Rick of Wood – And How Much Does It Cost?
If you’ve been camping very long you probably know some of the basics of firewood.
You know that seasoned firewood works better than unseasoned, you know the differences between softwood and hardwoods, and you know how to store firewood effectively. Even the seasoned among us, however, may still be confused about firewood measurements.
This can be important when figuring out how much firewood to bring camping. You’ve probably heard of a “cord of wood,” but is that different from a face cord? And what on earth is a rick?
What on Earth is a Rick of Wood?
So there are a few different ways of measuring the amount of firewood in a stack. The most common and recognized measurement is a cord, which is measured by volume. A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet by volume. A rick of wood on the other hand (also called a “face cord”) is measured by only height and width.
The length of the logs (or depth of the pile) can vary, although typically firewood sold in this way is cut to 16” or 18”. You’ll still want to make sure you ask about the lengths of the logs because the size of a rick can vary based on the lengths of the logs (for instance, for use in a wood-burning stove) and you don’t want to get shortchanged on the volume of wood you’re receiving.
Even a rick of 16” logs is going to be less overall wood than one with 18” logs, so make sure to ask this question and have an idea of precisely how much wood you need. Another thing to keep in mind is that “rick” is not an unofficial or regulatory term for firewood.
Instead, it’s a commonly-used term in many parts of the US for any sort of pile. So people in these areas will often refer to a woodpile as a “rick.” Over the years this has led to the social standard that a “rick” of wood is about the same as a “face cord.”
We’ll talk more about what that means in a moment, but if you’re buying firewood and want to be sure of the measurements, a “face cord” is better to ask for than a rick. (Again, they’re roughly the same!)
What is a Cord of Wood?
While firewood can be bought in just about any quantity, from a few logs to a full pickup truck, few people understand how to properly measure an amount of firewood. There is, however, a standardized measurement system for a stack of wood.
So if you’ve been buying a “truck’s worth” it may be worth figuring out exactly how much wood you’re getting by translating the amount into cubic feet. A cord of firewood is any selection of wood that makes up a volume of 128 cubic feet.
Firewood is measured in this way (rather than by weight) because the weight of a full cord of wood varies greatly by the type of wood. A full cord of hardwood can weigh as much as 5,000 pounds, while softwood will barely weigh half that in the same volume.
Many people still choose to buy firewood in non-standard volumes, but it can help you get an idea of whether you’re paying a fair price to translate the amount you’re buying into cords or partial cords.
How Big Is A Cord of Wood?
To break down just how much wood is in 128 cubic feet, we can break down the standard cord of wood into its dimensions. A cord of wood is any stack of wood adding up to a volume of 128 cubic feet, but most commonly this means a stack 8’ wide, 4’ high, and with logs cut to 4’ long for a depth of 4’.
You can also buy a cord of wood with the logs cut shorter, but the other dimensions will increase, as long as the total volume adds up to 128 cubic feet, it’s a cord. To visualize it another way, the average pickup truck bed holds about ⅕ of a cord of wood.
A large pulpwood truck on the other hand holds about four cords. For most people, buying a part of a cord is more than enough for summer fun or weekend camping though. It’s important to remember that stacking makes a big difference!
Tightly and neatly stacked logs will take up much less space than a loose pile. You should also consider the length at which you’ll use the logs. If you want shorter logs (16” to 18”) you should ask for a face cord, also known as a “rick of wood.”
Other Measurements of Firewood: Stove Cord vs. Face Cord
There are a few other terms you should be familiar with when considering the amount of firewood you’ll need. As mentioned above, what some people call a “rick” of wood is the same amount of wood in a “face cord.” A face cord of wood has less volume than a full cord and is defined by having a depth of only one log.
A face cord of wood is usually 16 to 18 inches deep and comes to a volume between 40 and 50 cubic feet. One thing to look out for, though, is the difference between a “stove cord” and a “Face cord.” Like a face cord, the stove cord has a depth of one log’s length.
These logs are cut shorter, however, so that they can fit inside a wood stove. So a stove cord is about 12” in length, and will come to a volume of 32 cubic feet. So next time you’re getting firewood for use in fire pits or other open fire containers, it’s a better idea to get a face cord with longer longs and more wood. If you are using wood for a stove, however, the shorter “stove cord” is a good call.
How Much Does a Rick of Firewood Cost?
Now we get to the all-important question: how much is that stack of firewood going to cost? This is the main reason to understand different firewood measurements and how they compare. You don’t want to end up with additional costs because you’re getting less wood than you think.
So the first note is to ask for wood in cords or partial cords in order to make sure you know exactly how much you’re getting. If you ask for a “rick” or another informal measurement (such as a truckload, a rank, or a pile), you can translate the amount of wood you’re getting into cords by measuring the volume taken up by the wood.
In other words, multiply the length by the width by the depth of the stack of wood. If you’re buying wood by the truckload, you can measure the size of the truck bed to get a rough idea of how much wood you have. Or, measure the dimensions of the stack of wood you’re buying before moving it to get an accurate measurement of the volume.
How Much Firewood Do I Need?
Again, most people won’t need to buy a full cord of firewood. A full cord of wood is enough to last 6-10 weeks as your main source of warmth and energy. In other words, unless your home is using a wood stove as its main energy source, you’ll likely need a lot less wood.
If you’re just using a wood stove for cooking, have an outdoor firepit, or need firewood for camping, you’ll be measuring the amount of energy you need in hours. So you’ll need less than even a half cord, a third of a cord, or a quarter cord.
You’ll instead be buying pieces of wood by the bundle. As a rule of thumb, it takes about two hours to burn eight pieces of wood. If you’re stocking up for a summer of fires though, starting with a quarter cord can be a good idea. If it’s your first time buying firewood, there are few tips you can keep in mind to avoid getting ripped off.
To start, remember to ask for wood in cords, the standard unit of measurement, especially if you’re unfamiliar with fair firewood prices and need to compare to state guides. Every state has its own guides and regulations on firewood, and they can be very useful for making sure you’re getting a good deal. Again, though, you’ll need to know the measurement in cords to make the most of these resources.
How to Find Quality Firewood
When buying firewood, there are a few other distinctions you’ll want to be aware of as well. Different types of wood burn differently, and depending on how you’re using the wood, it can be important to get this right. Green wood, for instance, or wood that hasn’t been seasoned (dried thoroughly), will not burn as well as seasoned wood.
You can season wood yourself, but buying thoroughly dry wood is always easier. We’ll cover more on how to store wood for seasoning below. Next, you want to pay attention to the kind of wood you’re buying. First, there are hardwoods and softwoods which are the two main types of wood you’ll be choosing from.
Hardwoods, as you might imagine, are denser, and are generally better for heating than softwoods. You’ll commonly find Red Oak, Hickory, Maple, Locust, and Ash among the hardwoods available for firewood. Softwoods are more often used in woodworking, or as pulp, but sometimes they’re used for wood pellet fuel, and they tend to burn better than hardwoods in this form.
Some common softwoods you might see include Pine, Spruce, Cedar, and Cypress. These can also be used to change the temperature, smell, and other aspects of your fire for special applications. But for warmth and cooking, locally sourced hardwoods are best.
Source Locally Whenever Possible
Some states have strong regulations on sourcing firewood, in order to avoid bringing in invasive species from other regions. Always make sure the firewood you’re buying is sourced as locally as possible, and look out for state or local regulations on transporting firewood between different states and regions.
Invasive species can be devastating to local tree populations, so it’s up to everyone to source firewood responsibly and to make sure the wood you’re buying doesn’t have a dangerous stowaway on board.
Finding a Reputable Seller
You’ll generally have many wood suppliers to choose from at all levels of professionalism. Many people buy firewood from friends and neighbors, while others prefer buying at outlets or even big box hardware stores. There are a few things you can do to avoid paying additional costs though.
First, of course, make sure to have the seller stack the wood tightly and then measure it in cords. You should also make sure to get a receipt of some kind for your purchase, and you should ask about the type of wood as well as the seasoning (is it kiln-dried, unseasoned, etc.)
If you’re going to buy or sell firewood in a personal arrangement, make sure to agree on the terms ahead of time. Compare the prices being asked for to state guidelines and regulations, and make sure to properly measure and stack the wood being sold in order to avoid disagreements and miscommunications.
The last tip for buying firewood is to make sure the seller cuts the wood to your desired length. If you’re buying a full face cord, for instance, make sure to specify the length you need. Or buy a partial cord and ask for it to be cut down to the right size.
This will help with storing the firewood and you’ll have a better sense of how much space it will take up. If you’re able to buy seasoned wood, this will save you time and energy. The best wood is kiln seasoned, which means it’s dried out in a kiln, but this can also be more expensive than wood seasoned by the elements.
Here’s how to store unseasoned wood to encourage quick drying:
- Decide where to store your wood. If you live in an especially wet or rainy climate, a shed may be better than leaving your woodpile fully exposed. If you do leave it outside, make sure to cover it during rain. A simple tarp works quite well.
- Make sure to elevate the pile of wood off the ground, to prevent ground moisture from wicking up into your wood. The easiest way to do this is to make a short stack of recycled pallets and store your wood on top. The gaps in the pallets will also allow air to flow freely through the woodpile.
- Leave a little space between the rows. Seasoned wood can be packed tightly and efficiently and you should stack wood tightly when measuring it for a purchase, but a looser stack is best for seasoning wood outside.
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to fun around the campfire. Buying firewood can seem complicated with so many local and informal terms flying around, but simply asking the questions can help you find an honest retailer and make sure you get what you paid for.
Wood is a wonderful, ancient fuel and can be utilized safely and effectively for many different uses. From heating to cooking to fun, firewood is a versatile fuel and is also one of the more environmentally friendly options out there (as long as you’re not in a densely populated area).
It can also be cheaper for heating and is of course essential for campfire cooking! Getting started is easy once you understand the common firewood measurements, prices, and terms.
Bonus tip: Check out this video on how to build your own lumber rack for effective storage.