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How Many Ricks of Wood are in a Cord of Wood?

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Heating your home with wood will require that you learn about ricks and cords and how these measurements of firewood can be used to heat your home.

Often wood is thrown into a pile and left to sit until it is needed.

Heating your home takes more planning and patience. How many ricks of wood are in a cord of wood?

Ricks are the sections of wood that a cord is piled into. A cord of wood will be 4 x 4 x 8 feet, and each section called a rick, will be a 4 x foot section of 16 to 18-inch logs.

Often called face cords, the ricks are split into three groups that constitute the cord’s entirety.

There’s a lot of history and math involved in wood chopping, more than expected, at least.

Knowing how much and when to get your firewood ready can be a lesson in failure for the uninitiated.

Don’t sweat it!

Read on and learn exactly what you need to know about ricks and cords of firewood.

What is a Rick of Firewood?

We discuss in more detail what a rick of wood is here. As mentioned earlier, a rick is a section of a cord of firewood.

These sections are chopped pieces of timber that have been split and stacked for drying. If you are going to cut down a tree and immediately burn the wood, that would be a huge mistake.

The wood must be cut appropriately and weathered before it can be burned in the fire. 

When a tree has just been felled, it will be full of water and sap that could keep the fire from burning properly or from burning at all.

Burning green wood is not advised as it could create a deadly composite called creosote that can be deadly.

Creosote, mostly if burned indoors, can clog your chimney and produce carbon monoxide.

How to Split Wood into Ricks

One of the most laborious jobs before the advent of coal heat was cutting and stacking firewood.

The job itself is pretty straightforward, but weathering and stacking the wood for the best results takes the most time.

Chopping and cutting wood is one of the most dangerous jobs you can take on.

If you aren’t equipped with leather chainsaw chaps or any other protective gear, buy or borrow before jumping in.

If you plan on felling the tree, hiring a lumberjack or a millworker with vast experience would be best.

Measure the Wood

Before you begin cutting, you should have a pencil or marker handy.

Take this pencil and make a mark every 16 to 18-inches long on the surface of the wood.

These marks are going to show you where you cut and will allow the pieces to stack well.

Advanced workers can notch the logs with their axes.

Cut the Logs into Sections

The more extensive selection of wood should be cut into manageable pieces for cross-cutting and splitting.

It also helps them to weather faster as more area is exposed to wind and sun.

Crosscut the Logs with a Chainsaw

The cross-cutting should occur once all the other sections have been cut to measure. The measurement is the most crucial part.

Don’t skimp.

Use a chainsaw and make the cuts as square as possible to keep them evenly shaped.

Split the Logs with a Splitting Machine or Cudgel Ax

Take the large 16 to 18-inch sections and split them into manageable logs.

This section could take several rounds to make the appropriate amount of wood.

Remember that you are going for 128 cubic feet of lumber.

That’s enough to fill the bed of a truck several times over.

If you use a lot of wood each year, you may want to rent or invest in your own log splitter.

Prepare the Ground for Stacking

Before you begin stacking, you should ensure that the wood is up off the ground.

Leaving the wood on bare earth will cause bugs and dirt to embed in the wood and keep it from burning evenly. 

Stack the Wood in Cords

A stack of timber appropriately will ensure that the wood burns even and that no earth or rocks are sticking to the logs.

This wood could be essential for your survival. Ensure it is adequately stacked, or you could be in for a long winter of buying wood.

Cover the Wood

Now that the wood is placed into ricks and cords, it is time to cover it with a tarp. You should use a tarp made from plastic to make the water run away from the pile.

Keep a bit of space around the stack, as complete coverage will lead to mold and mildew inside the cover.

Once the complete felling to covering process has been done a few times, you will develop a strategy to make it faster and more efficient.

Dry wood is critical for survival during the cold months.

A mistake in the process could mean that you are without food or heat for several days, which could be deadly.

Signs of Well Weathered Firewood

Having good wood to burn not only creates a smell that is soothing and peaceful but creates the popping that all fire watchers know and love.

Removing water and sap from the timber makes it easier to burn and makes it much harder to break.

There are some signs to look for when you get ready to bust into the new woodpile to let you know if the wood is prepared to burn.

The significant signs of wood that has been adequately weathered are:

  • Wood is light – When all the water leaves a piece of wood, it becomes buoyant and is much lighter than usual. Wood could be made up of as much as 25% water when it is cut down. When the water is out of the log, it will be very light, and you should be able to carry several pieces at once.
  • Bark is falling off – The bark on the log should be loose. While some pieces could be falling off, you should make sure that they are at least easy to remove. Water and sap keep the bark close to the tree’s surface; once they are gone, the bark will slide off easily.
  • Cracked ends – The wood you are getting ready to burn should have cracked or split ends. The cracks show that the wood has lost its water and has been thoroughly drained of any sap or excess.
  • Sounds hollow – The wood will have a hollow sound when you knock on it. Try and bang a couple of logs against each other to make sure they make the hollow sound you are looking for.
  • Gray color – When wood is dried out, it will lose the yellowish color of tree meat and sap. When the wood has become gray, it will ready for burning. The gray color is hard to miss, and it could be white, depending on which type of wood you are burning.
  • No wood smell – Firewood will lose the wood smell when it is ready to burn. Once the sap has been dried out, the wood will have no scent.  Grab several pieces and smell them before throwing them into the fireplace.


Splitting and sorting wood into ricks is a critical skill that must be built through hard work and time-consuming labor.

Each section should be measured out to between 16 and 18-inches to fit conventional ovens and fireplaces.

Take the time to measure before you begin the cutting process.

Stacking and storing firewood is the most essential part of the process. If the wood remains dry and covered, it will weather properly.

Proper weathering ensures that the wood will burn evenly and not create hazardous chemicals. Covering the wood too well could lead to dangerous outbreaks of mold.

Be sure to checkout our article on the top firewood racks we can find, as well as learning about how you can rent a wood chipper!

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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