For Immediate Release - December 01, 2005

Don't Get Burned On Firewood Sales

Advice from MA Consumer Affairs Office on Firewood Purchases

Homeowners with wood burning stoves or fireplaces may look to offset heating costs this winter by burning firewood instead of relying fully on their primary heating source. But availability, price, heating efficiency and the quantity of firewood promised are important factors to consider leading up to a consumer's order.

"If you order a cord of firewood, make sure the dealer understands that what you expect to get is what the law provides," said Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom. "A cord is not a truckload or a pile dumped in your driveway. It must measure 128 cubic feet and measure four feet by four feet by eight feet long when closely stacked," specified Lindstrom.

Beware Loose Talk, Fuzzy Math and "the Dump"

  • Massachusetts law specifically prohibits the terms "cord", "face cord", "pile" or "truckload" from being used in advertising the sale of cordwood or firewood.
  • The first stacking of firewood is the legal measurement and doesn't necessarily happen on your property after delivery.
  • Sellers are required to disclose their name and address, the amount of cubic feet sold and price charged on the customer's invoice or delivery ticket.
  • A standard pickup truck full of loose firewood that "should be about a cord" is simply NOT a cord. If anything, it might be a "face cord", which is roughly one-third of 128 cubic feet.
  • Beware the dump! Get a delivery receipt attesting to the quantity sold and stack it tightly and promptly. Measure and take pictures. If the quantity delivered is less than promised, contact your local weights and measures office or the Division of Standards at (617) 727-3480.

"The density of firewood is also very important if you are going to use it as a supplemental heating source. Ideally, you want a hard wood that is seasoned and ready to burn, added Lindstrom."

The Best Burn for Your Money

  • Purchase fully seasoned firewood or split your firewood at least six months before use. Keep it off the ground and covered with plastic, allowing air to circulate freely.
  • Green wood (freshly cut) has less heat value because energy is expended evaporating moisture trapped in the wood.
  • Different species of firewood yield varying amounts of heat per cord. The Massachusetts Association of Professional Forresters provides the following information:
SpeciesHeat per air-dry cord, in millions of BTU'sEquivalent gallons of #2 fuel oil
Hickory24.6146
White oak22.7135
Beech21.8130
Red oak21.3127
Hard maple21.3127
Yellow birch21.3127
Ash20.0119
Soft maple18.6111
Black cherry18.4110
Paper birch18.3108
Poplar12.574

What's the Cost and Availability of Firewood?

An informal survey of twenty firewood dealers by the Office of Consumer Affairs during the first week of November shed light on current prices and availability:

  • Prices ranged between $185.00 and $430.00 for 128 cubic feet of cut firewood and also varied for seasoned, semi-seasoned or unseasoned.
  • All dealers indicated firewood is delivered cut and split, but delivery charges varied.
  • Delivery time ranged from "same day" to seven weeks out; some specified "local only".
  • Seven dealers were sold-out of seasoned firewood and five of those dealers were completely out of firewood.