We’re preparing for winter, and we were wondering how much firewood we should be stocking up. I couldn’t find a good answer out there, so I did some research and testing to learn more. Here’s what I found.
The average campfire burns for about 4-6 hours and requires around 3 logs per hour. For fireplaces and wood stoves, allow 2-4 logs per hour. During winter, these amounts can easily double. If you’re stockpiling firewood to use as heat during the winter, store at least 2 cords. Aim for 4-8 cords for extreme winters.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can get a more accurate estimate of the firewood you need, along with some tips to keep your fire going longer.
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How To Calculate How Much Firewood You Need
|Type of Fire
|Approximate Firewood Amount
|2-3 logs per hour
|Large Campfire or Bonfire (3+ feet in diameter)
|5-12 logs per hour
|4 logs per hour
|2-4 logs per hour
|At least x2 the above
How much firewood you need depends on many factors such as:
- Type of Wood
- Size of Wood
- Wood Moisture
- Air Temperature
- Desired Heat
With all of these variables, it’s difficult to provide an exact figure for the amount of firewood you need.
However, here’s a good starting place:
- Start with a rough estimate of the type of fire you need with the table above
- Perform a “burn test”. Do this by getting a fire to full burn and measuring your firewood’s burn rate (count how many logs you use per hour).
After doing this test, you’ll be able to estimate how much firewood you need. Keep in mind some weather conditions and temperatures can be worse than others, so it’s always smart to overestimate firewood.
For best results, perform the test during similar conditions as what you’ll be expecting. However, this isn’t always possible.
|How Much Firewood
|7-12 pieces (4-5 Logs)
If you’re buying firewood, you should have an idea of the different measurements so you don’t get ripped off.
If you cut your own firewood, feel free to skip this section.
A bundle of firewood is what you’ll find at most convenience stores. It’s usually a wrapped pile of 7-12 pieces of firewood for about $5-$10. Usually, the firewood is already seasoned (dried) and split, so this means it’s about 4-5 logs.
If you aren’t making fires often, such as a campfire, bundles are your best bet to get firewood. However, if you need a lot of firewood, bundles are more expensive than buying in bulk.
A cord, or a full cord, is a stack of split firewood typically containing around 600-800 logs and costing an average of $300. However, prices vary between $200 to $600+ depending on availability and the season.
A cord of firewood is the most common unit of measurement when buying firewood in bulk.
A face cord is smaller than a full cord as they vary in depth between 12 to 18 inches, depending on the seller. They do this to make it easier to store, but it can mean you’re paying more than you think.
Here’s a table I put together to help show the difference between a cord and a face cord.
|1 Face Cord
|128 Cubic Feet
|32-48 Cubic Feet
While these measurements help, they don’t mean much if your fire burns inefficiently.
Campfires and Fire Pits
Small campfires and fire pits burn 2-3 logs per hour, average ones burn 3 logs per hour, and large ones (along with bonfires) burn 5-12 logs per hour. Factors such as air temperature, airflow, wood type, and wood moisture heavily affect these estimates.
So, what does this look like for a day of camping?
I recommend at least 2 bundles of firewood per night of camping. Since the average campfire lasts around 4-6 hours, this is about 1 bundle for every 2-3 hours of fire.
A bundle is about 7-12 pieces of split firewood. If unspilt, this is about 4-5 logs.
From this, you can figure out how much you need per week (at least 14 bundles for 7 nights of campfires, 4-6 hours each).
What if you’re not camping and you’re thinking of using the heat to keep yourself warm during the winter?
Avoid using campfires or fire pits as heat sources for winter. Campfires and fire pits are highly inefficient as most of the heat travels upward and is lost. Contained fire pits that have a top work better.
Speaking of inefficient…
Masonry and open fireplaces generally burn around 4 logs per hour. However, there are many variations and models of wood fireplaces, so this can range from 2-8 logs per hour. The average fireplace provides around 30,000 BTUs, but this depends on the size.
I tested how much firewood my fireplace burns, and it was 3 logs per hour. Granted this was during 60ºF weather, so you’ll likely need more on colder or windy days.
While fireplaces are incredibly popular, many people don’t know that masonry and open fireplaces often make your house colder.
This is due to drafts.
The fire in fireplaces requires oxygen to burn, and they often use the warm air in your house. It then sends this air up your chimney, causing a sort of vacuum effect in the rest of your house. This results in cold air getting sucked in through the spaces in your doors and windows.
However, there are still efficient ways to use firewood to heat your home.
Recommended: Can You Burn Firewood in a Gas Fireplace? (Answered)
Wood stoves are one of the most efficient ways to use firewood to heat your home. Newer wood stove models are much more efficient and burn cleaner, only burning about 2 logs per hour. Older wood stoves may need 4 logs per hour or more.
For example, older wood stoves can use 1 cord of firewood every 30 to 60 days, while newer models can use as little as 1 cord per season.
“If you live in very cold climate and/or are using your unit as the primary heat source in your home or if you are an eco-conscious consumer looking for the lowest emission wood burning product available a hybrid catalytic wood stove will be your best fit.”Regency-fire.com
If you do opt for a wood stove, place it in the center of your house if possible. Also, use firebrick, cob, or other insulation earth material around the wood stove. This not only protects your house from the stove’s heat but significantly retains the heat from the stove.
How Much Firewood Do You Need for Winter?
The best rule of thumb for calculating how much firewood you need during the winter is to double your usual amount. So, campfires and fire pits burn about 6 logs per hour, while fireplaces and wood stoves need about 4-8 logs per hour.
I recommend storing at least 2 full cords to use as heat during the winter. This should last around 6 months. But to be safe, aim for 4-8 cords.
“Here, on Long Island (NY), I use 2-4 cords, depends on the winter, I figure for 4, and am always 2 years ahead, at least.”Dix, Hearth.com
Don’t worry about getting too much firewood. As long as it’s stored properly, firewood doesn’t go bad, so you can simply use it the following year. Better to have too much than not enough.
Keep in mind the amount of firewood vastly depends on the type of fire, air temperature, size of the room, wood type, and other factors. One of the most important though is your home’s insulation.
Here’s a quick guide for how many cords of firewood you may need depending on the insulation.
|Firewood Per Season
Again, this is a rough estimate, so plan to get more firewood than you think you need.
Pro-Tip: When in doubt, ask your neighbors how much firewood they use and which appliance they use. If you’re unable to do this, call around or post in a forum for your city or state (such as Reddit).
More Tips When Heating a House with Firewood
- Use hardwood over softwood for a hotter, longer, and cleaner burn. While softwoods such as pine burn well, aim for hardwoods such as oak, maple, and ash.
- Get a backup heater if you rely on firewood for heat. Some examples are a gas fireplace or propane heater. For context, 800 gallons of propane is equivalent to 2.5 cords of wood.
- Season firewood for the most efficient burn. After you cut, split, and store your firewood, seasoning takes at least 6-12 months. Hardwoods such as oak can take longer (up to 2 years). You’ll know your firewood is seasoned when you use a moisture meter and it reads 20% or below.
- Test how much firewood you need by burning firewood for 1 night. Do this before you need to rely on fires. While it might not be the most accurate since the weather is likely different, it’ll give you a good gauge of how much firewood you’ll need.
- Use this cord of wood calculator to measure your firewood piles.
- Firewood is more expensive in the winter, so stock up during the warmer months
- You can’t have too much firewood. Stockpile it and let it season. The worst case is you don’t need to buy and store as much next year.
If you’d like to see how big a cord of wood is, and some tips when buying firewood, check out this helpful video by Country Living Experience: A Homesteading Journey.
Need More Help?
You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.
- Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
- Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10