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No real mystery to buying firewood; just simple math

POSTED: December 6, 2013 1:00 a.m.

During the past few years, many folks have gone to living off the grid.

Well not entirely, but the interest in home vegetable gardens has increased and food preservation is starting to become more common. A lot of this interest, as you may know, is because of the economy. People are trying to cut costs where they can and reducing the food budget is an easy way to do it.

Controlling home heating costs also has gotten popular. Cheap fixes such as caulking and applying weather stripping to windows and doors help a lot. Many people also have started to use firewood again.

Understanding the basics of buying firewood is fairly common, but I wanted to touch on some things as good reminders.

When looking at a stack of firewood, first determine whether or not the wood is green or seasoned.

When a tree is cut, as much of 50 percent of the weight is water. Plus, depending on the type of wood, it can take four months to a year to season or dry.

One quick way to tell if it is seasoned is to pick it up. If it feels relatively light — that is a good sign. Another way is to take a piece and split it. Wet wood will have a darker center with lighter, drier wood toward the edges. Wet wood also holds on to its bark. If you can pull the bark from a piece of wood that is another good sign it is dry.

The second issue is figuring how much to buy and its price. A cord of wood is 4 feet high, 8 feet long and 4 feet deep. That is a lot of wood. Because of that, firewood is typically sold as a face cord, which is about one-third of a cord if the wood is stacked 4 feet high, 8 feet long and the logs are cut to 16 inches.

If you can arrange it, have the wood stacked upon delivery. If it is left in a pile, it’s harder to estimate what you have been given.

Another trick to know is a full-sized pick-up truck load is approximately half of a cord.

Determining a fair price is sometimes hard to do. If you are buying less than a cord of wood, you need to know how the price compares to the market value of a true cord of wood. One way to do that is to use a little math. Take 48 inches, which is the depth of a normal cord, and divide it by the average length of the wood you are buying. Take the result and multiply it by the asking price of what you want to buy. That will give you the amount you would pay if you bought a full standard cord.

Here is an example. Say you have a stack of wood made up of 18-inch sticks and is 4 feet high and 8 feet long. You know that a full cord is selling for $180, but the seller is asking $80 for this face cord. Take 48 inches and divide it by 18 inches to get 2.67. Then take the 2.76 and multiply it by $80, the asking price. This will give you $213.

This is the amount you would pay if you bought a full cord of wood. So now you know you would pay $33 more per cord than the market price.

I hope this takes some of the mystery or at least was a refresher for you on buying firewood.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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