Rick Vs. Cord Firewood




Buying firewood to burn in a wood stove or fireplace can be made easier if you understand the terminology commonly used by sellers. Two of the most common designations for a quantity of firewood are the rick and the cord. These are used interchangeably by some people, but they are actually two very different volumes of wood.

For this reason, federal and states have  regulations which apply to the sale of firewood, and these regulations generally require that firewood dealers advertise and sell wood only in cords, or fractions of cords. Other terms, including face cord, rick, rack, pile and pick-up load are not permitted.

 The Cord

Firewood is measured by the cord which is a standard unit measuring 128 cubic feet.  This works out to a stack of wood measuring 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by 4 feet deep. Two cords of wood purchased from the same seller will almost always have a different number of individual pieces of wood in them, as you are purchasing the wood by the space it occupies and not by quantity.

The Rick

By contrast, a "rick" of wood is a nonstandard unit, also known as a "face cord." As the rick is non-uniform, it cannot be precisely quantified; the only way to measure a rick of wood is to figure it as part of a whole cord. Depending upon the lengths of the pieces of wood, a rick can equal 1/4 of a cord up to 1/2  of a full cord. A rick or face cord of firewood pieces that are one foot long is half the amount of a face cord of pieces that are two feet long. But in either case they are both considered a full rick or face cord.

Like the cord, a rick measures 8 feet long by 4 feet tall. It differs in that its depth is just the length of the sticks of wood being used. If a rick is stacked using 16" inch long pieces of wood it = 1/3 of a cord.  If a rick is stacked using 18" inch long pieces of wood it = 1/2 of a cord.

Other Terms

A "rack" is a term meaning the same thing as a rick. A "face cord" measures 8 feet by 4 feet like a regular cord, but its depth depends on the length of the wood. This is similar to the rick except that face cord wood is cut so that additional rows added together will eventually equal a cord. For example, with 12 inch long pieces, one row equals 1/4 cord, two rows equal 1/2 cord, three equals 3/4 cord, and four equals a full cord.

Legal Measurement

The measurement of firewood can change up to 10 percent either more or less each time the wood is stacked. For this reason, the first stack of wood is the legal measurement for a sale. If a dealer stacks a cord of wood in the their yard or delivery truck, this stack is the first and is the legal measurement. If a dealer delivers loose wood to you and you stack the wood, your stack is the legal measurement.


An amusing quote from the arborist forum:


"A rank is the same as a rick is the same as a 'face cord'. These are all vague terms with no legal definition and therefore no enforceability. What is not legally defined cannot be legally enforced.

No objective meaning, in other words.

It means whatever the seller wants it to mean. So, if you buy a rank/rick/face cord of wood, and the seller delivers a 5 gallon bucket of sticks and calls it a rank/rick/face cord of wood, that 5 gallon bucket of sticks IS a rank/rick/face cord of wood. What are you going to do, file a complaint to Weights & Measures? They'll laugh at you.

Stick to the ONE defined term, CORD, and you won't have these problems. Don't want a cord? Buy a half cord or a third cord or a quarter cord. Fine. Those are all legally defined amounts.

Would you buy gas, sight unseen, by the fleeblestort? Would you take the seller's word that a fleeblestort is a third of a gallon?

Would you buy beef by the snickin? Would you take the seller's word that a snickin is a pile of beef 12" x 10" x 18"?

OR would you prefer to do business with standard, legally defined units of measure?

Why should firewood be any different?" 







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