What’s in a cord of firewood?


A great deal of debate, actually, and the federal body that administers how everything is measured has weighed in.

Measurement Canada, a division of Industry Canada, is suggesting people stop buying and selling firewood by the cord.

“Measurement Canada recommends that the use of the cord as a unit of measurement be discontinued, as it is largely misunderstood and often misused by people selling firewood,” reads a statement on Measurement Canada’s website.

A cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet, or a pile four feet by four feet by eight feet.

Sound simple? Well, it’s supposed to be. But if you’ve bought much firewood, you’ve likely heard terms like stacked cord and processed cord.

Those terms Measurement Canada deems illegal because they invariably refer to a cord that, once split and stacked, measures less than 128 cubic feet.

“To avoid any confusion about the amount of firewood purchased or sold, Measurement Canada recommends the use of the stacked cubic metre when purchasing or selling bulk firewood,” reads its statement.

Despite Measurement Canada’s ongoing struggle to convert everything to the metric system, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any firewood sold in Nova Scotia by the cubic metre.

“Why would you change 700 years of a system of measurement because there are a bunch of scammers out there and someone is too lazy to do their job and enforce the law?” said Frank Rhyno.

The owner of Frank Rhyno’s Valley Firewood in Canaan, Kings County, is passionate about firewood measurements. The cord, its many derivations and Measurement Canada are frequent topics on the 68-year-old’s blog.

Rhyno, who sells a 128-cubic-foot cord of split firewood for $295 (delivery not included), was not pleased to hear of Measurement Canada’s recommendation.

“Stupid,” he said of the idea.

He’s written the last three premiers asking that firewood selling be regulated in Nova Scotia.

“What you need is that anyone who is selling firewood be registered with the province.

“There should be a sticker on their truck that identifies and tells you everything about them. And if they come into your yard and sell you a cord that isn’t a cord, you should be able to call the Mounties and have them hauled away because they’re committing fraud.”

Not all firewood purveyors are as strongly attached to the cord as Rhyno. Tim Laing sells split firewood in lots of 110 cubic feet — 18 cubic feet short of a cord — for $300.

“I sell it by the cubic foot because there are only two ways you can legally sell firewood — by the cord or by the cubic foot,” said Laing, owner of Home Hardwood Firewood in Halifax.

Most of this province’s firewood processors receive hardwood in tractor-trailer loads of eight-foot logs. That load is sold to them as 16 cords.

However, there are losses during processing so Laing said he ends up with about sixteen lots of 110 cubic feet of sawed and split firewood off a tractor-trailer.

“I sell it that way because it makes the bookkeeping simpler.”

No one from Measurement Canada was available for comment Monday.


The Working Forest