If you heat your home with a cast iron wood stove or a fireplace insert, you will have to either cut your own firewood, or learn how to buy at least a cord of firewood. Most likely, you will need 4 or 5 cords of wood to heat your house, so this skill takes on a new significance.
Because the suppliers of firewood are not regulated and the quality and quantity of wood depends on the seller, you need to have some basic knowledge before buying. If not, you could get a lot less for your money than you bargained for.
The best is if you can develop a long term relationship with your supplier. This eliminates the need to shop around, you can get a discount, and you can have the assurance of a fair deal. If you are just starting out, one way to do this is talk to other people who heat with wood and talk to the suppliers yourself.
In most areas, it is possible to find quality, seasoned hardwood, such as oak, maple, beech, hickory, birch, or ash. It is really not worth the effort to use softwoods, such as pine to heat your home. Softwoods work well for taking the chill of in the spring and fall, but just burn too quickly to be the primary heating source.
Make sure that you get the type of wood you order. This requires picking up pieces and looking at them to see what kind of wood they are. Usually this is not needed, but it can certainly happen in areas where people are more or less anonymous and have little compunction about taking advantage of trusting people.
Besides the type of wood you order, you must make sure you are getting the quantity you order. This is sometimes a bit of a guess because truck beds are not exactly the right size for measuring a cord of wood.
A full cord of wood is 4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft.. Split wood just does not come in such nice, rectangular shapes, so you need to estimate, and trust the supplier. If he is a local guy, he will have little incentive to cheat you. The anonymous supplier is a different case though.
Wood cannot be sold by weight because the moisture content changes so dramatically during the drying process. Green wood weighs probably twice as much as dry wood, so this is a very poor gage of quantity.
In a typical Vermont winter a house uses around 5 cords of wood a year to heat. Depending on your location and climate, you will use more or less the same amount. This is a lot of firewood and thus it pays to know what you are doing when it comes to buying.
One advantage of buying your wood is the simple fact that you do not need the typical wood stove accessories such as a gas chain saw, spare chains, sharpening tools, hearing protection, a pick up truck and a lot of muscles!