Question: What Exactly Is a Bush Cord of Wood?

If you rely on firewood for heating your home, workshop, or any other structures, you already know how important it is to make sure you’ve got plenty on hand, and well-seasoned, well before winter truly arrives.

a wood pile
a wood pile

In areas where fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and thermoelectric generators are popular, you’ll see firewood sold in large quantities throughout the year.

One of the most common advertisements for large quantities is a bush cord. Most of us, in warmer places, just buy it by the bundle! So, how much is a bush cord of wood anyway?

A bush cord of wood measures 8 feet long, 4 feet high, and 4 feet deep. A bush cord is a standard unit of measurement for selling large quantities of firewood.

It might not look like that much on paper, but a bush cord is a heck of a lot of wood. Though maybe not as much as you are thinking if you live in a place that’s truly frigid and you rely on wood heating full-time.

I can give you more information to help you make sense of a bush cord below, so grab your gloves and your poker, and let’s get going.

Why Use a Measurement Like a Cord, Anyway?

It’s archaic and rarely used for anything besides wood these days, but a cord is actually a standard unit of measure, specifically for dry volume. It is used throughout North America, but specifically in the United States and Canada.

Although the actual origin of the name cord is now apocryphal and lost to history, it most likely derives from the use of a particular length of cord or string to provide the measurement.

In any case, a cord is any arrangement of firewood or pulpwood that, when properly stacked tightly, occupies a space that is 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high.

Note that this is the nominal arrangement, but any other sort of arrangement that yields the same volume is still technically considered a cord.

A Bush Cord Should Be 128 Cubic Feet of Firewood

The most important thing to know about a bush cord is that the total volume of firewood should equal 128 cubic feet exactly, or very close.

Remember, a cord is a unit of volume, not strictly a given set of dimensions as described above, and considering that firewood is rarely precisely cut or uniformly sized, it is critical that it be stacked neatly and tightly in order to yield the prerequisite amount of wood.

If it’s done sloppily, you or someone else are getting cheated.

A Good Cord Should Have Pieces of the Same Size and Be Packed Tightly

It’s important that all of the pieces making up a bush cord of firewood be stacked as snugly together as possible in every dimension.

If there is lots of wasted space or wiggle room, or someone’s trying to get clever by using irregularly shaped pieces of wood to create dead space, they are getting more money per unit of wood.

The amount of wood, sloppy stacking, and other such chicanery should not be tolerated if you’re trying to make a deal on firewood.

Always Bring a Measuring Tape!

As mentioned above, a bush cord is a unit of volume, not a set of dimensions, but you can use those dimensions as a reliable guideline to make sure you aren’t getting gypped.

Assuming that the firewood is neatly and tightly packed, you should be able to measure out 8 feet in length, 4 feet in height, and 4 feet in depth.

Again, firewood is irregular so close enough is close enough, assuming you’re dealing with someone who has a good reputation or someone you’ve dealt with before. But if that wood doesn’t measure up, you’ve got to do some quick math to make sure you’re getting the right volume.

A trustworthy seller won’t mind a bit, but if they start getting skittish about it, they are probably trying to cheat you.

Are There Other Names for a Bush Cord?

Yes, there are. You’ll often see a bush cord of firewood referred to simply as a cord or full cord at times, and this can sometimes lead to confusion because smaller units like face cords might at times be referred to as simply cords if someone is using the longer name as detailed here.

When in doubt, always ask for the measurements of the pile and double-check them yourself. That way you’ll know for sure. Note that these kinds of mistakes are less common in areas where people go through tons of firewood since everyone’s used to dealing with it.

How Much Does a Bush Cord Weigh?

A lot. A whole lot! Again, wood is highly variable, but a bush cord can weigh up to an astonishing 5,000 pounds. You’ll need a good tower and trailer or a very large truck to carry it all in one go. Not exactly something you can bring home in your wagon, yeah?

However, your bush cord might weigh a lot less, and if you weigh it when you get home to discover that, it doesn’t mean you should fly off the handle at your seller: wood that still has a lot of moisture will be dramatically heavier than dry, well-seasoned one.

Likewise, softwoods tend to be much lighter whereas hardwoods are significantly heavier, and this will change the total weight of the cord in kind.

Always use common sense, and just make sure you check the tightness of the stack and the dimensions of the stack to make sure you’re getting the prescribed volume. Don’t rely on weight!

How Long Will a Bush Cord Last?

It depends entirely on how much wood you use, what kind of wood it is, and, to a lesser extent, how efficient your wood-burning appliance is.

As a rule of thumb, if you are heating a small area with energy-dense hardwoods and using an efficient wood-burning stove, you might get 3 months or even longer out of a bush cord of wood, assuming you need to burn at least a little wood all the time.

However, softwoods in a fireplace that is kept going nearly around the clock might exhaust a bush cord in as little as a month and a half.

It all just depends, and figuring out your fuel requirements is just as important as knowing how to measure a bush cord, so make sure you check out our content on that.

How Much Does a Bush Cord Cost?

I hate to keep saying it, but the price depends: a bush cord of wood can run you as little as $150 or as much as $500 or even more depending on the region, market, season, and kind of wood.

Your Wood from a Bush Cord Will Need Chopping!

One more thing: keep in mind that the wood from a bush cord is a full 4 feet long; the stack is 4 feet deep, remember?

Accordingly, unless you are burning it in a bonfire or a grand fireplace, you’ll need to chop it down to size so it is ready to use. Face cordsof firewood are typically sold in a much more manageable size of 16 to 18 inches.

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