Buying firewood to burn in a wood stove or fireplace can be made easier if you understand the terminology commonly used by sellers. Two of the most common designations for a quantity of firewood are the rick and the cord. These are used interchangeably by some people, but they are actually two very different volumes of wood.
Firewood is often priced and sold by volume. The cord is a very widely used designation for a volume of wood equal to 128 cubic feet of wood. This works out to a pile of wood measuring 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by 4 feet deep (8'x4'x4'). Two cords of wood purchased from the same seller will almost always have a different number of individual pieces of wood in them, as you are purchasing the wood by the space it occupies and not by quantity.
A rick is a smaller volume of wood than a cord. Like the cord, a rick measures 8 feet long by 4 feet tall. It differs in that its depth is just the length of the sticks of wood being used. If a rick is stacked using 9 inch long pieces of wood, the rick would measure 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by .75 feet deep, equaling 24 cubic feet of wood. 18 inch long pieces would yield a rick measuring 8'x4'x1.5', or 48 cubic feet.
A "rack" is a term meaning the same thing as a rick. A "face cord" measures 8 feet by 4 feet like a regular cord, but its depth depends on the length of the wood. This is similar to the rick except that face cord wood is cut so that additional rows added together will eventually equal a cord. For example, with 12 inch long pieces (a 8'x4'x1' stack), one row equals ¼ cord, two rows equal ½ cord, three equals ¾ cord, and four equals a full cord.
When you buy a cord or a rick of firewood, it is important to pay attention to the condition of the firewood. Freshly cut "green" firewood should be allowed to dry for six to twelve months to make sure it is properly seasoned. Seasoned firewood has very low water content, allowing it to burn efficiently and cleanly. Freshly cut firewood produces more creosote and less heat. If you cannot buy wood already seasoned, you will need room to store it outdoors so that it can dry properly before using it.
If you are buying a cord of wood, measure the stack of wood to be certain you are getting a full cord. You are paying for 128 cubic feet of wood, so be certain that the pile is stacked tightly. If the seller stacks it loosely or haphazardly, you won't be getting the most for your money. If the seller won't restack the wood, buy from someone else. Compare local prices and be certain you aren't being charged full cord prices for a rick or a face cord stack.