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Check your cord — firewood buying tips from CDFA

CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) oversees fair commerce in California, including firewood purchases that are common this time of year.

If you’re a consumer who wants to purchase firewood to last through the winter, you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars per cord. The current average prices are $330/cord in the Sacramento-area, $360/cord in the Bay area, and $350/cord in Southern California.  Prices can go higher if you want a more expensive type of wood like maple or oak.

It’s important that consumers make the best purchasing decisions and value comparisons.  To do that, buyers need to be able to compare one seller’s offer with another.  Knowledge of the proper terms and units of measure used for firewood is key. 

Firewood is sold by the “cord.”  The cord, or fractions of a cord, are the legal units of measurement for firewood, just as milk is sold by the gallon or hamburger is sold by the pound.  A cord is 128 cubic feet.  To determine how much firewood you purchased, measure and multiply the length x width x height in feet to calculate cubic feet.  Any number less than 128 cubic feet is short of a cord. A helpful link of how to measure firewood may be found on the DMS webpage: CDFA – DMS – Programs – QC – Firewood (

Beware buying bulk wood by a “truckload”, “face cord”, “wheelbarrow”, or any other term other than a cord. These units of measure are not legally defined and therefore not comparable. For example, a dump truck load is far more than the capacity of an pick-up truck. Also, make sure you get a receipt for the wood from the seller.  The law requires this, plus the seller’s name and address, date, identity of the wood, quantity, and price.  If in doubt, take photographs and don’t burn any of the wood; file a complaint with your local sealer of weights and measures.

CDFA – County Liaison Office – County Commissioners & Sealers Contact Information (

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