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October 19, 2016
Don’t Get Burned When Buying Firewood
Check your delivery before paying to be sure you get full value
Contact: Elaine Lidholm, 804.786.7686

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) offers this advice on how to keep from getting burned when you buy firewood.  Grab a tape measure, a yardstick or even a ruler.

Bulk deliveries of firewood for home heating are measured by the cord. A cord is 128 cubic feet of firewood. Legitimate firewood dealers know exactly how much wood goes into a cord and will make sure consumers get the full measure. Con artists also know what comprises a cord. More importantly, con artists know that most people have no idea how much wood they are supposed to get when they order a cord, so it is easy to take advantage of unwary consumers. That’s where the yardstick, tape measure or ruler comes in.

To thwart unscrupulous sellers, savvy consumers should measure a shipment of firewood as soon as possible after it is delivered and stacked compactly, and before using any of the wood. A full cord of firewood, when stacked in a compact line or row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other, would be a pile that measures

4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long (4 x 4 x 8 = 128)
2 feet wide, 4 feet high and 16 feet long (2 x 4 x 16 = 128)

No matter how the wood is stacked, the width times the height times the length should equal 128 cubic feet.
In Virginia, sellers are prohibited from using terms such as “face cord,” “rack,” or “pile” when advertising, offering for sale or selling wood for use as fuel. If the buyer visually inspects a truckload of wood and agrees to a selling price for that load, the term “truckload” may be used. 

Sellers are also required to provide a delivery ticket or sales invoice upon delivery of any non-packaged fireplace or stove wood. In addition to the vendor’s name and address, the ticket must contain the purchaser’s name and address, the date of delivery, the quantity delivered, the quantity upon which the price is based (if it differs from the delivery quantity), and the total price of the amount delivered.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers this advice for people who suspect that they have not received the full amount of wood they paid for:

  • Keep the delivery ticket or sales invoice as proof of purchase.
  • Pay by check so that you have a record of the purchase.
  • Write down the license number of the delivery vehicle.
  • Measure the wood before using any of it.
  • If you determine the delivery to be short measure, first contact the seller to rectify the shortage.
  • If the seller does not cooperate, contact the VDACS Office of Weights and Measures at 804.786.2476. Do not use any of the firewood prior to the investigation by VDACS.

Savvy consumers also want to ensure that they are using firewood in a safe and sensible manner.  Use only seasoned wood, not green wood, for fireplaces and wood stove fuel. 

In addition to safety concerns, consumers should also take into consideration the origin of the firewood they purchase. VDACS recommends buying firewood from local sources. Native trees and forests are threatened by invasive insects and diseases that live in dead and dying wood. These devastating pests may be accidentally spread to new locations by transporting firewood from areas outside your community. Buying firewood from local sources reduces the threat from these pests. VDACS also recommends buying local firewood instead of transporting it into campgrounds or parks as another way to help prevent the potential spread of invasive insects and disease. 

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