You sure as heck don't want to try to purchase a winter's of wood that way. I can only imagine the cost of a cord when you are paying that kind of exorbitant fee.
Take a peek at your local Craigslist or other firewood ads. Some firewood dealers will try to sell you a rick, a rack (not the kind to fill out your bra; you'll have to see someone besides a firewood dealer for that), a truckload, or a face cord (4 feet high, 8 feet long, and however wide the one stack of logs works out to be). As it happens, in Ohio, all of the above are not allowed. Firewood must be pre-packaged, as in the above pic, sold by the cord (or fraction thereof), or sold by the ton. The ton must be weighed on a certified scale.
Keep in mind, a full cord of firewood can not be hauled in one load in a pickup truck. You'll probably run across at least three people with a truck load of wood for sale that will try to tell you different. A cord of wood weighs about 3500 lbs, and most trucks can't handle that, even if the cord would fit.
Before we found our reliable wood guys, we dealt with some not-so-reliable types. Our first load of wood was supposed to measure two cords, loaded into a dump truck. When it arrived, it was dumped in a pile, so we had no idea how much wood was actually there. It was covered in snow, soaking wet, and chock full of ants. Zillions of ants. So many ants that I only brought the wood inside as I was ready to toss it into the fire. Lesson one: inspect the wood before it's dumped, and don't be afraid to say, "Get that shite off my property!!"
Once we stacked the wood, we discovered that it was barely a single cord. Lesson two: Just because the measurements of the truck multiply out to 256 cubic feet, that doesn't mean you are actually getting that much wood. Picture this: Wood tossed willy nilly into said cubic footage, versus wood stacked neatly into same cubic footage. Which one do you think will be closer to the actual two cords? Of course the neatly stacked wood will fit more into the space, as there will be less air space between logs. That said, how many wood delivery guys do you think stack wood neatly into a truck? So far, the answer would be NONE. Lesson learned.
Our next firewood adventure was with a guy that advertised a guaranteed amount. Great. He showed up, dumped the wood, got paid, and left. I stacked the wood and discovered it was over 1/4 short. Grrrr! I called him and he said he'd make it up on the next load, gave me some stuff about a "thrown cord" being an allowed measurement, but blah de blah. His next load we took in good faith, and it measured a full cord...still 1/4 short considering what he owed from the last trip. I chalked it up to experience and moved on.
Finally, we got lucky. A dear friend of mine, Roo, and her husband, The Colonel, live on a tree farm. When The Colonel has time away from work, he clears certain trees, not suitable for lumber, from his woodlot and cuts them for firewood. We were fortunate enough to have him sell us a few cords of the driest, cleanest, hottest burning wood we've yet to run across. The only problem so far is the rather awkward issue of telling my dear friend that her husband has the best hardwood around. Um...double entendre, anyone? Fortunately, she has a good sense of humor. ;)
We found a second wood guy through Eöl's work, and he's been wonderful, as well. Between the two, we managed to purchase 13 cords of dry, seasoned, split hardwood, before the first snow even fell. If you've ever struggled to get your own wood cut and split before snowfall, you know that sense of warm fuzziness I'm talking about.
If you are unfamiliar with firewood, but are thinking of heating that way, here are a few things you should know:
- Unseasoned or green wood will only produce 2/3 of the heat of seasoned wood. Seasoned firewood has a moisture content of less than 50%. (I got this fact from the Ohio website, but The Colonel says that dry would should be 18-22% moisture. He's the expert! Probably why is wood is so awesome. (Sorry, Roo. ;) ) Seasoning hardwood takes several months, and in some cases a full year, depending on storage, type of wood, and moisture content.
- A cord of wood stacked green will shrink a bit. One site said 8%, another said 10%, but I'm going to check with The Colonel on that one.
- When a seller advertises dry wood, ask if he means dry as in seasoned, or dry as in it is still green but has been under a tarp or stored in a shed.
- Transportation of firewood across county lines, in many areas, is illegal. The emerald ash borer and gypsy moth are the main reasons here in Ohio, but be sure to check your local laws.
- Check your state's Dept of Agriculture website for more information on firewood laws in your state.
- Hauling wood uphill, in the snow, on a sled, absolutely, without a doubt, is one of the suckiest things I've ever had to do, but you'll never truly appreciate firewood until you've done it.
This is what a cord of firewood looks like, dumped in a tidy pile in the driveway: