How to Stack Wood. With or Without a Rack.

There are two ways to stack a cord of wood:  with the help of a rack or without one. Only one of these methods will get you taken seriously as a mountain man.  Woman.  Person.

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Skip right to the stacking tutorial.

I’ve been stacking wood since I was 9 years old. Because apparently I was some sort of pioneer child, further proven by the fact that my favourite toy was a potato. My father Norm taught me how to stack wood. According to Norm (may he rest in peace with a roaring fire) you should basically be able to drive a monster truck up one side of your wood pile and down the other without it moving an inch. 

While it’s true you want a very stable pile of wood, if it’s stored outside you don’t want it so tightly packed that no air can circulate through the logs.  That’d get you laughed RIGHT OFF THE MOUNTAIN. 

First some fun facts about wood. I mean what facts about wood aren’t fun? Do they even exist?

What’s a face cord of wood?

8 feet wide x 4 feet high x 16″ deep.

A face cord of wood is a stack of wood that’s 8′ long x 4′ high made of wood that’s 16″-18″ lengths. So if someone delivers wood to you saying it’s a face cord but it doesn’t measure that  when you stack it, then you didn’t get a face cord. A face cord is also called a rick.  I have NO idea why.

What’s a bush cord of wood?

8 feet wide x 4 feet high x 4 feet deep.

A bush cord is the same amount as 3 face cords.  It’s called a “face cord” because the amount is the same as what you see on the face of a bush cord.

Is Stacking Wood Good Exercise?

You bet it is. Even the tiniest person will burn around 300 calories an hour moving and stacking wood. The bigger you are the more calories you’ll burn.

How do you get a stable, solid stack of wood without using racks?  You use the wood stacking technique of making wood pillars.

 

How to Stack Wood (without a rack)

To stack cords of wood without the help of any rack you’re going to have to build something to contain and stabilize the wood pile.  You have to make wood columns out of your firewood on either end of your wood pile.  If you do it right they’ll act just like regular columns and stabilize the whole pile.

Pros
  • No extra materials or costs required for this method.
  • Looks super-cool.
  • Very sturdy.
  • Gives you street cred. Errr …  pioneer cred. Homesteader cred? 

Cons

  • It’s time consuming.
  • You have to be precise. If one log in your pillar isn’t steady your entire pile could crash down.

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**The night before your wood is going to be delivered make a batch of chili. Seriously. You’ll be so happy you did then when you’re 8 hours into stacking wood the next day.**

Here’s my award winning (not really but it COULD be) Chili Con Carne recipe.

  1. Lay equal sized pieces of wood side by side, then side by side in the opposite direction. Test your stack as you build it to make sure it isn’t rickety.  When you push on the wood there shouldn’t be any wiggling. 

 

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2. Continue doing this until your stack is 4′ high.

 

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3. Fill any large gaps in the column with smaller pieces of wood to create a sturdier structure.

 

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4. Repeat this on the other end of where your wood pile will be. There should be a space of around 7′ between your columns.

For the past few years I’ve made my columns anywhere from 4′-5′ high and I haven’t had a single one fall down.

 

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5. Once you have made your wood columns, you can stack your wood in between. 

Wood Stacking Tips

  1. Use square cut logs or logs with a very flat side for your columns. Save round logs for in your main pile.
  2. Use the largest pieces of wood on the bottom of the main pile (in between the columns) so they can support the rest of the wood.
  3. I do 2 logs one way, 2 logs the other way and then fill in the columns. Doing 3 and 3 logs will make a sturdier column, but also take a lot more time.
  4. The MOST important thing for stacking the columns and your main pile is to make sure they are level. If things aren’t level they’ll eventually topple over. It might not be today or this week, but they will fall down.
  5. I stack directly on my flagstone because it doesn’t hold water.  Do not stack directly on soil or grass if you can help it because that’ll rot the wood AND it’ll be filled with bugs who happily house themselves in your pile.  Just place a couple of long 2x4s down 12″ apart and stack your wood on that to keep it off the ground and dry.
  6. Put any weirdly shaped logs that just won’t fit into the pile nicely off to the side. They’ll only make your wood pile wobbly.  When you’re done stacking you can put the weird ones on top of your finished pile.
  7. To cover or not to cover?  If your wood is in open air the best thing to do is cover just the top of the pile with a tarp to keep rain and melting snow off of it. The rest of the pile should be left open to allow for air circulation. The easiest thing to do is to place a folded tarp over the pile and hold it down with a few of the weirdly shaped logs.
  8. Wear steel toed or HEAVY boots for wood stacking. I wear Bogs like this and I’ve had them for years.

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There are 2 mistakes people make when stacking wood.  They either stack it too tight so there’s absolutely no air circulation in between the logs which promotes damp wood that isn’t ready for a fire OR they just drop it down and end up with a pile so loose and wobbly that it tumbles over the second an amorous squirrel chases his lover over it.


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If you don’t have a huge property for keeping wood, just use whatever space you can to stack your wood. If you have nice piles they look really good around your yard come fall and winter.

 

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To Stack Firewood with a Rack

Buy a firewood rack, set it up and start stacking.  That’s all there is to it.

Pros
  • Much faster to stack wood on than making wood columns.
  • Keeps wood off of the wet ground.
  • Almost zero chance of the wood pile ever toppling over (which is really dangerous!)
Cons
  • It can get expensive if you need a lot of racks.
  • You have to store the rack somewhere when it isn’t in use.
Where to buy Wood Racks

Most hardware stores carry some form of rack, but for larger racks you’re best bet is Amazon. You can see all the Amazon wood stacking racks from big to small here.

You can also buy plain brackets that 2x4s fit into which create a rack that can be disassembled at the end of the season.  They work great but you’re going to have the added expense of the brackets themselves, plus you need a lot of 2x4s if you’re stacking a lot of wood. All of which you’re going to need to store when they’re not in use. 

The racks I’m using in this photo are plastic, which eventually cracked but you can now buy cast iron brackets.

How to Stack Wood. With or Without a Rack.

How to Stack Wood. With or Without a Rack.

Yield: 1 cord of stacked wood
Active Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Estimated Cost: $0

How to stack a bush cord of wood without a rack using wood columns.

Instructions

    1. Lay equal sized pieces of wood side by side, then side by side in the opposite direction. Test your stack as you build it to make sure it isn't rickety.  When you push on the wood there shouldn't be any wiggling. 
    2. Continue doing this until your stack is 4' high.
    3. Fill any large gaps in the column with smaller pieces of wood to create a sturdier structure.
    4. Repeat this on the other end of where your wood pile will be. There should be a space of around 7' between your columns.
    5. Once you have made your wood columns, you can stack your wood in between. 

Notes

    One Face Cord = 8 feet wide x 4 feet high x 16" deep.

    One Bush Cord = 8 feet wide x 4 feet high x 4 feet deep.

  • Use square cut logs or logs with a very flat side for your columns. Save round logs for in your main pile.
  • Use the largest pieces of wood on the bottom of the main pile (in between the columns) so they can support the rest of the wood
  • I do 2 logs one way, 2 logs the other way and then fill in the columns. Doing 3 and 3 logs will make a sturdier column, but also take a lot more time.
  • The MOST important thing for stacking the columns and your main pile is to make sure they are level. If things aren't level they'll eventually topple over. It might not be today or this week, but they will fall down.
  • I stack directly on my flagstone because it doesn't hold water.  Do not stack directly on soil or grass if you can help it because that'll rot the wood AND it'll be filled with bugs who happily house themselves in your pile.  Just place a couple of long 2x4s down 12" apart and stack your wood on that to keep it off the ground and dry.
  • Put any weirdly shaped logs that just won't fit into the pile nicely off to the side. They'll only make your wood pile wobbly.  When you're done stacking you can put the weird ones on top of your finished pile.
  • To cover or not to cover?  If your wood is in open air the best thing to do is cover just the top of the pile with a tarp to keep rain and melting snow off of it. The rest of the pile should be left open to allow for air circulation. The easiest thing to do is to place a folded tarp over the pile and hold it down with a few of the weirdly shaped logs.

 
My wood order for this year was 2 bush cords.

Curious about what 2 bush cords look like when they’re dumped on the road and how long it takes to stack them? It goes something like this …

You wake up in the morning and you stack.  And you stack and you stack and you stack.  And when the neighbour asks if you’d like some help you say NO. Because you’re stoic.  And hard working.  And filled with OCD tendencies about your wood stacking.  So no.  But thank you.

And hours pass and neighbours pass and you start to feel embarrassed because it’s getting late and you’re still stacking wood.  You’re sure people think you’re lazy.  You aren’t stacking fast enough.

And just when you’re about to cry a neighbour comes over and starts lugging wood into the backyard.  He doesn’t ask if you need help.  He just starts stacking. And then so does his son.  And later on the elderly woman from down the street who recently fought cancer and the heartbreaking death of her husband grabs a rake and starts to help clean up.

And by 9 o’clock or so, almost 12 hours after you started, those 2 cords of wood are finally moved.   And so are you.

 
 

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How to Stack Wood. With or Without a Rack.

130 Comments

  1. Thera says:

    I sympathize. We got and assembled one of those carport tent things and then moved/stacked almost 4 cords this weekend. There is still app 1/2 cord to split and stack. -sigh-

  2. Danni says:

    Something very Zen and meditative stacking wood, at least until you squash a finger or two. One of those jobs I too prefer to do myself, being too stubborn/stoic/hard-working/mule-headed. It’s a woman thing.

  3. Debby Cross says:

    I loved my Mother-in-law, but I can clearly remember the first, and probably only time she criticized my domestic skills. She pointed out, that the bark, prevents rain and melting snow from easily penetrating the wood. Just as I learned to lay sod with the green side up, I also learned to stack wood, with the bark side up.
    Which, by the way, is very easy to do if the logs have not yet been split. To avoid the thunderous sound of a log pile falling, just keep the round ones in the middle of the pile, and continue to ponder the optimal placement of the remaining jig saw puzzle pieces. Further proof, that stacking wood is an art AND a skill!

  4. Ei conklin says:

    When I was in Germany I saw wood piles stacked in cylindrical towers. Very artful and European. See this article in Mother Earth News, though the ones I saw were smaller and the core was empty for better air circulation.
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/a-better-way-to-stack-firewood.aspx#axzz3I0WJ9bsG
    And I have that garden cart too. I hate it.
    -Ei

  5. Su says:

    That’s a LOT of wood… so is it kinda like the saying that if you chop your wood you warm yourself twice? I love the Maple leaf sweater/sweatshirt too! As for Martha giving you the tip on how to stack? you gotta LOVE Martha…. bitch knows of what she speaks usually… :)

  6. Beth W. says:

    One quick question, then a compliment. I see that none of the wood is stacked against your house. Is that just a coincidence, or should you not stack wood right against brick? And that compliment… Those jeans fit you like plaster fits lathe (in the old days). BAM! (that’s a good thing)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Beth, lol, I’ve never heard that one before! And there just isn’t room around my house to stack the wood. The back of my house is surrounded by either chicken coop or raised beds. Stacking against brick is fine but some people don’t like to stack wood near the foundation of their house because wood carries so many bugs and centipedes and mice that will eventually make their way into your house if it’s stacked close to it. ~ karen! BAM!

  7. Sue says:

    Kudos to you! That’s a hell of a lot of wood! We used to chop, split and stack that and more at our cottage for heating and bonfires but that was in my younger days when I had endless energy and a useless husband. Careful of the wood stacked close to your house, although I think that’s your coop because your house is brick, but mice love wood piles and burrowing holes through those wonderfully stacked logs into warm houses. Also termites from infected wood are also becoming a major problem here in southern Ontario. Now, lastly but most importantly, what are you doing refusing help from a man? When they actually offer to get away from the T.V. or video game take their assistance! Even if it just to be able to teach them the proper way to stack wood! Now go back to your book in front of your crackling fire and enjoy!

    • Louise says:

      Yes, never turn down a favor from a man (unless he’s an axe murderer!). Just give him your most dazzling smile and say, “Oh thank you, kind sir!” Then bat your eyelashes if he looks interesting (and single).

      You must realize that accepting a a kindness from a man is actually doing him a favor. It makes him feel useful and masculine, and it gives him good karma!

  8. Mary Kay Feely says:

    I had always been told never to stack directly on the ground. Are the bottom pieces good when you finally get to them? And do you use all that wood during one winter?

    • Karen says:

      I wouldn’t stack wood directly on grass or soil, but it’s fine to stack it in my backyard which is all flagstone. The grass or soil will get wet which wicks up into the wood and depending on how long the wood pile is sitting there will eventually rot it. But that would takes years. Also as the grass gets soggy the wood pile will sink a bit, shift and could eventually topple over. ~ karen!

      • Karen says:

        A little off subject, but what do you use to keep grass and weeds from growing in the cracks of your flagstone?

      • Karen says:

        Hi Karen. There isn’t any grass in my backyard so I never get grass coming up. I get the odd weed, but that’s about it. Not much. Mainly it’s because like I said there is no lawn in my backyard. Also I used semi hardening sand in the cracks of my flagstone which isn’t as friendly as soil I suppose for things to sprout in. The one thing I have that helps is moss. It’s taking FOREVER for the moss to spread through all the cracks but it does also help to keep other things from seeding in the cracks. ~ karen!

  9. Tigersmom says:

    I’m glad you have such wonderful neighbors. We have some great neighbors and I really love it. If I haven’t spoken in a while with one in particular one of us will text the other just to check in.
    Of course, we have some crazy ass neighbors too, but have somehow managed to avoid becoming the direct target of their ire.

    And there you go with pictures of that perky butt of yours again. Now I think you’re just showing off. ; )

    • Karen says:

      Well of course I am. And I intend to for as long as it makes sense to. ;) ~ karen!

      • Tigersmom says:

        Can’t say as I blame you. I’d show it off too if I had anything close to a butt like that, but I don’t…..just some flat Italian thing back there. : (

    • Louise says:

      And don’t forget the perfectly toned legs! They look like a ballerina’s, but WE know they’re that way from squatting and lifting and mixing adobe and running back and forth!

  10. jainegayer says:

    12 hours!! I had the same thought as Bobbi. How could you even lift your arms, walk, still love wood??
    But I’d do it too for a wood burning fireplace cause there’s nothing better than a crackling fire on a cold winter night.

  11. Dava says:

    That stack of wood in the street intimidated the hell out of me. Here in southwest Michigan we would never dare stack wood against buildings because of termites. Must be you don’t have them in your area.

  12. Louise says:

    Oh my God, I didn’t know they would just dump in in the street! (We don’t have much experience with that in sunny Southern California. It’s supposed to get up to 80F this Thursday!) I’m exhausted just THINKING about all the work you did – I can barely hold up my margarita as I lie on the chais longue by the pool. ;-)

  13. Sally A says:

    That huge pile looked so overwhelming I think I would have sat down and cried. When I first saw it I said to myself Please don’t tell me you stacked all that by yourself! So glad you eventually got help! And I didn’t realize there was an art to stacking. Who knew? I guess you and Martha. :o) And now me. Thanks!

  14. Melissa says:

    Great post! Made me cry at the end. Who crys over wood?

  15. Minki says:

    Goodness…!! Great job with stacking that HUUUUGE pile of wood and thanks for the stacking tips. What wonderful neighbours you have! Hugs from sunny South Africa.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Minki! (love the South African accent!) ~ karen

      • Irene says:

        As a fellow South African, I’d like to double up the S’African hugs and send some to your neighbours!
        How amazing to live in a place where you have that kind of community! Here, we tend to hide behind our huge boundary walls, barbed wire, electric fences and so on; prisoners in our own homes, and don’t even KNOW our neighbours. It’s so sad.
        We live in such an incredible country, but it’s messed up by the fear of the criminal few.

      • Karen says:

        Thanks Irene! I had no idea I had so many South African readers. :) I love knowing where everyone comes from! And that’s generally how it works. A few assheads screw everything up for everyone else. :/ But it also only takes a few to make things a lot better. ~ karen!

      • Irene says:

        All I can respond with is … yes. :-)
        Thank heavens for the good people.

  16. Wow…this answers the question how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A lot. That is not a sight we see here in Florida very often…ever! No wonder you have such great toned legs? That is a 12 hour workout..insanity holds nothing over you.

    Then there is the hooch still that I think we need to see a post about…I have much more need to build one of those, Betty maybe has a schematic for that if it’s a family thing.

    Lastly, the arduous squirrels. Now that is going in my own “hate it” category on my blog as they are my menesis,.maybe a cord of wood delivered to my door would keep them busy enough and away from my bird feeders…then they wood…would…have the great toned legs, dam…damn!

  17. Auntiepatch says:

    You are one crazy woman! When a man offers to help, say, “Thank you!” and offer him a beer and maybe a pizza to thank him afterwards! That being said, you did a great job!

  18. Lin says:

    That was a humungus amount of wood! Well done grrrl!! Great neighbours…hope they got hugged. Do you heat with wood cuz yer gonna have enough to make pizza’s, bread, etc. for ten years. If I’d have moved that much wood my body would be whacked the next day. Treat yourself to a good wheelbarrow. Job well done Mz. Karen!

    • Karen says:

      The reason I have that wheelbarrow is because I don’t have room to fit a regular sized, regular wheelbarrow anywhere. I keep this one in the storage area under the pizza oven so it’s out of site and it fits there perfectly. And yes. It’s not the greatest wheelbarrow, lol. But it’ll do. ~ karen!

      • Pam'a says:

        Karen, Karen, Karen. You MUST invest in a collapsible wheelbarrow. I have one I rarely use anymore. Want me to send it?

        There are lots of choices if you search, and they take up almost no room. Mine folds flat and can hang on a wall. A quick glance tells me you could score a decent one for well under $100.

        You’re welcome… ;)

      • Karen says:

        LOL Thanks Pam’a! I’ll look into it. I’d love one that would take up even less room under the pizza oven. Off to Google them now. ~ karen!

  19. TucsonPatty says:

    That. Is. An. Awesome. Amount. Of. Wood. How long will it take to burn it? Do you heat with it? Are you having a lot of pizza parties to use it all up? Do you have to buy more before next winter because you’ve made too many pizzas and bread? Inquiring minds want to know. I can’t do wood burning because it usually gives me a migraine. Not that I want too many fires here in Arizona. Beautiful piles.

    • Karen says:

      That wood should last me one year Patty. So from now until the end of next October. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Oh God, it had better. ~ karen!

    • Mary Edmondson says:

      I lovvvvvve a physical job like that because I don’t have to engage my mind other than what it takes to execute a perfect pile. I feel so tranquil during and after. I’m curious about three things. Who was the photographer who did such a good job of showing you in action? Assuming your path to the yard was not blocked, did you start hauling from the street corner end or the closer to your house end? I’ll bet it was the far end – that’s how I would have done it, and would not have wanted help stacking either. Don’t like micro managing so working alone gets it done the desired way without the need to supervise and direct. And lastly – I know that you surely have devised the most efficient painless way of cleaning out the fireplace ashes – would you share that routine with us?

  20. Bobbi says:

    How in the world could you even lift your arms after that ? I am in AWE. That’s all.

  21. silvie says:

    I lay a couple of 2×4’s down on the ground – my woodshed’s floor is bare-earth. this keeps moisture from wicking up. a tip from the wild wet coast of Vancouver Island.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, I’ve done that in years past Silvie, but really once things freeze here they stay pretty frozen for the winter. :) Besides. Like I said, I used up my stash of spare 2x4s, lol. ~ karen!

  22. Sia says:

    The sight of all that wood on the road scared the crap out of me! I’d feel like all the neighbours would be saying “how long can I wait before I complain about the parking spaces this crazy woman has stolen from us??? ”
    It also took me back to when I was yay high – showing ’bout 3 feet high – when they dumped the wood in our drive – no complaining from our neighbours!! – and we moved them into our garage for dad to pile up. Wondering why I use to look forward to that? Crazy kid!
    :)

  23. Sandy says:

    Nice maple leaf sweater and nice neighbours too.

  24. Sandra says:

    That’s a good way to stack wood in the fire pit, to burn it, too, though I’ve always been great at the tipi style.

    How about stacking the wood before it’s split? Any tips?

  25. Becky says:

    Two things… first, I have that wheel barrow, and i hate it. It doesn’t turn, and if you are on uneven ground, it tips over. ugh. hate hate hate. I should have gotten the one wheel in front kind.
    Second, I hope you plan to use the wood from around the tree first, or you aren’t going to be able to tap it in a few months.

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