Firewood is a great SHTF fuel source. You can use it for heating and cooking, and for many people, it’s a local, renewable fuel. If you have a bit of land and you’re not afraid of a little physical labor, all you need is a chainsaw (or axe if need be), splitting maul and a wedge. It’s the physical labor that scares many people off. Even if you have it cut, split and delivered, as I do, you have to stack and move it, load and clean the stove, etc. It’s not as easy as just turning up the thermostat with natural gas or home heating oil. Of course, there’s a difference in the quality of heat. Wood heat feels more … penetrating.
Firewood’s value, like any fuel, will skyrocket in a SHTF situation. Everyone will look at wood for fuel and market value. If you’re in the firewood market now or post-SHTF, you’ll want to make sure you don’t get ripped off. Here is how.
Firewood is sold by the cord. A cord is 128 cubic feet. Most people visualize a cord of wood as a stacked pile 4′ high, 4′ wide and 8′ long (4 x 4 x 8 = 128).
That is the way a cord of wood is typically sold. You cut the tree into 4′ lengths and cut those lengths twice, making 3 sticks of wood 16″ long. The wood has to be neatly stacked to be sold as a cord, no room for excess space.
People that don’t need or can’t afford a full cord, may buy what’s called a face cord. A face cord is just what it sounds like, look at the face of cord of wood in the pic above. A face cord is a stack of 16″ sticks stacked 4′ high and 8′ wide.
This sounds straightforward, but not always. People get shortchanged often. Here in Maine, the most heavily forested state in the nation, wood is a popular heat source. Firewood is a big market here. Many times in the fall or winter you’ll read about Maine’s Attorney General’s Office educating consumers and prosecuting the loggers that shortchange them.
Dealers may advertise and price firewood by the “truckload” or “pile” or what have you, but they’re not supposed to according to Maine law. They can sell firewood by the cord and by the loose thrown cord. A loose thrown cord is just as it sounds, firewood tossed into a pile or container. Firewood tossed into a 4′ x 4′ x 8′ bin is not a cord, because when it’s stacked, the size goes down. A loose thrown cord should consume around 180 cubic feet of space and once stacked, be somewhere around 128 cubic feet (according to Maine law) for 12-16″ sticks. Sticks sold in 2′ lengths and sold as loose thrown should consumer around 195 cubic feet.
When I buy firewood in the spring it comes loose thrown in 16″ lengths. I build a stack as long as I can beside my driveway then I calculate the cubic feet to make sure I wasn’t shortchanged. Well, I did that the first few times I used my firewood dealer. I don’t check it anymore, it looks about right and I trust him now.
– Ranger Man
BTW: In a TEOTWAWKI situation, many places in the United States could have firewood markets like those in Africa, where firewood is rare and so valuable that scrap brush and trees are gathered to be sold in street markets.