WOOD STACKING 101
With such value sitting there, stacking firewood
should be done carefully and with an eye to
aesthetics. As Ceylon Monroe writes in the
rural-life magazine Grit, “A woodpile is a public
thing — as much of a ‘statement’ as your garden
or your mailbox.” Aside from impressing
passersby, the purpose of a woodpile is to store
wood neatly and in a way that allows air to
circulate, seasoning the wood by drying it to
around 20 to 30 percent moisture content.
The traditional New England woodpile has
two stable “towers” on either end, leaning
inward slightly and built from even-sized,
flat-bottomed sticks crisscrossed in the manner
of cribbing (pictured). Smart stackers put their
piles on treated-wood runners or shipping
pallets, so the bottom layer of wood doesn’t rot.
For the right air circulation, the sticks should be
piled, as an old saying goes, loose enough to let
a mouse through, but tight enough that the cat
chasing him won’t follow.
The long, squared-off woodpile is a classic
sight, but a rival style has its adherents. Variously
ascribed to Scandinavians or Shakers, the round
pile has the advantage of being quicker to build,
more stable, and able to shed water more effectively.
In one popular version, sticks are arranged in a
circle 8 feet around; as the pile rises, all the irregular
and hard-to-stack pieces (sometimes called
“chunks”) are thrown into the hollow inside. For
further stability, poles fashioned from saplings are
laid across the circle at intervals to act as tie rods.
Finished off with a cone-shaped top and covered
with a tarp or thick shingles for rain protection, this
is an eye-catching way to stock up for cold nights.
Whatever the shape of your woodpile, if
you’re buying instead of chopping, make sure you
get what you pay for. A true cord of wood is 4 feet
high, 4 feet deep, and 8 feet long — 128 cubic
feet. Many wood sellers offer what’s known as a
“face cord,” which is 4 feet high and 8 feet long,
but only a stick’s length deep, usually 16 inches
— one-third of a true cord. So misleading is this
practice that the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts mandates that “cordwood” be
defined as being 4 feet long, that “firewood” only
be offered for sale in cubic feet or meters, and
that “the terms ‘cord,’ ‘face cord,’ ‘pile,’
‘truckload’… shall not be used in the advertising
and sale of cordwood or firewood.” — B.I.
DAN HISEL ARCHITECT
Featured as a Rising Star in
Boston Home, Fall 2010.