A Cord Of Wood: Stacking Firewood

Firewood Stacking

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What is a Cord of Wood?

A cord of wood should occupy a volume of 128 cubic feet.  This corresponds to a stacked woodpile measuring 4 feet high by 8 feet long by 4 feet deep.  Your pile can also be any other arrangement that yields the same volume.  The firewood should be straight stacked (as seen below) in order to get the most accurate measurement.

cord of wood

Your wood has been delivered- now what?

Typically, firewood is delivered by truck load and dumped in a predetermined location on your property.  Obviously, it’s smart to have it dumped close to where you plan to stack it.  Yes, sorry, firewood does need to be stacked.  In fact, stacking is so important that you do it ASAP.  If your wood is left in a large heap it will absorb ground moisture, attract insects, and start to rot.  Stacking firewood helps accelerate the drying process which is essential for efficient wood burning.

Plan ahead of time where you want to stack your firewood.   You want the location to be convenient but not too close to your house because rodents and bugs like to take up residence in and around the stacks.  Always store your wood outdoors- having large quantities of wood in your house, garage, or basement is bad news.  Heat will trigger insects and fungi activity.  For convenience purposes you can have a smaller pile in/near your house; which is periodically replenished from your main woodpile.


 Seasoned Wood

You should always ask your wood suppliers if their firewood is seasoned.  Once cut; wood can take anywhere from six months to a year to properly season (seasoned wood has a moisture content less than 20%). However, you don’t have to purchase seasoned wood if you get it early enough in the year.  If you’re purchasing firewood in the spring then this means your stacked wood will still have another 6-8 months to season/dry.  This green wood is typically less expensive than seasoned wood. However, if you’re a little late to the game make sure you only buy seasoned firewood!

Who is going to Stack my wood?

You have a few choices- Pay someone, do it yourself, or ask your kids to stack your firewood (good luck with the last).  Be wary of firewood dealers that offer free stacking.  This is often a way for them to rip you off by using a stacking pattern that leaves large amounts of airspace and less actual firewood in your stack.  If it comes to this you could insist that they only use a straight stacking method (shown in the photo below).

Firewood Stacking

Preventing Ground Moisture/Wood Rot

Elevate your woodpile on some kind of sturdy base.  I use a base of wood pallets to elevate our cords of wood.  You can look for any local business that receives merchandise shipments on pallets and ask if they are giving away or selling pallets at reasonable price. We got ours from a local garden and animal feed store for $2.00 apiece.  You can also make your own base with lumber or cinder blocks.  Just make sure you use a base that is a few inches off the ground and that can support the weight of a cord of wood.


Sun and Airflow

Stack your firewood outside and if possible choose a sunny location.  Both air and sun help to season your firewood. The more surface area that is exposed to air, the more rapid the drying process will be.  The stacking pattern you choose can also increase the amount of ventilation your woodpile is exposed to.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that the space between each log should be “large enough for a mouse to run through, but tight enough to prevent a cat from chasing it.”  You can also position your woodpile in a way that the cut ends face the direction of prevailing wind/air movement.  I took this photograph of my father’s stacking – on pallets and in the sun.

Stacked Firewood


Cover the top of your woodpile with a tarp, plastic, or some other protective material if you live in a damp/humid climate (like here in New England).  Since the tarp can trap moisture it is best to keep it from directly touching the firewood.  Rocks, bricks, or anything sturdy can be used to prop the protective material up off the wood.  Ventilation holes can also be made to promote evaporation. Also make sure the protective top is secured so it doesn’t fly away in high winds.  If you are trying to accelerate the drying/seasoning process I recommend that you remove the protective cover on sunny days.  Once your firewood is seasoned feel free to cover the entire woodpile- we do this to prevent snow from accumulating on our firewood.

Covered Firewood

Crisscross Pattern

There are different ways to stack your firewood.  However I am going to talk about my preferred method- in a crisscross pattern. Similar to a log cabin, each row is perpendicular to the row beneath it.  It is important to find similarly sized pieces to ensure stability and may have to play around with some of the wood to find the best fit.  You will get better at stacking with practice- like putting together the pieces of a puzzle.

Firewood Stacking

You can crisscross the entire stack of just crisscross the ends of the woodpile with straight stacking in the middle. Either way will ensure that your ends are sturdy and strong.  There’s nothing worse than a stack that continues to fall down.  At my house, we prefer to use the crisscross pattern throughout our entire stack for extra airflow and stability. We split our own wood so are not as concerned with measuring the actual cords delivered.

Below are a couple photos of how our stacked wood ends up looking.  The crisscross method can be used in free-standing form or reinforced with posts that have been driven into the ground at the ends of the pile. Both work great and we have both in our yard.  It really depends on how much extra lumber we have laying around that year.

Firewood Stacking

firewood stacking

Framed Woodpile

My father, Carl, built his own firewood rack/shed which has its own wooden roof and sides.  This keeps the elements off the firewood and also creates a sturdy framework.  The firewood inside this frame can simply be straight stacked without worry of toppling over.   He has his woodpiles within 10 feet of his garage for easy access on cold winter days.


 Other Wood stacking tips

It is recommended that split logs are stacked with their bark side up in order to help shed any rain that gets on the woodpile; mimicking what happens in nature.

Don’t stack your piles too wide but also don’t stack them too narrow.  A narrow pile will have less stability while a pile too wide with have less air circulation.

We like to stick with the traditional cord measurement and have our woodpiles stacked at 4 feet in height.  This makes it easier to measure cord dimensions (4x8x4) and you will have good stability at this height.  Anything higher may fall over due to uneven stacking and high winds.


Happy Stacking!  Woof! Woof!


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