When it comes to buying firewood, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has two pieces of advice. #1: Buy local firewood to keep from spreading invasive pests that may be hiding under the bark. And #2: Grab a tape measure, a yardstick or even a ruler to be sure the delivery you paid for is accurate.
Buy Local – Consumers should take into consideration the origin of the firewood they purchase. Purchasing local firewood reduces the chances of transferring a plant pest such as Emerald Ash Borer or Gypsy Moth with the wood. Native trees and forests are threatened by invasive insects and diseases that live in dead and dying wood. These devastating pests may be spread to new locations via the transport of firewood from one area to another. Buying firewood from local sources reduces the threat from these pests.
VDACS’ Office of Plant Industry Services also recommends buying local firewood when camping. It can be tempting to throw a few sticks from the backyard woodpile in the car or truck on the way to a campground or park. But if invasive pests are lurking under the bark, moving the firewood can spread the pests from one area to another.
Check Accuracy of Delivery – Bulk deliveries of firewood for home heating are measured by the cord. A cord is 128 cubic feet of firewood or a stack 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long (4 x 4 x 8 = 128) or 2 feet wide, 4 feet high and 16 feet long (2 x 4 x 16 = 128). No matter how the wood is stacked, the width times the height times the length should equal 128 cubic feet.
Legitimate firewood dealers know exactly how much wood goes into a cord and will make sure consumers get the full measure. Con artists also know what comprises a cord. More importantly, con artists know that most people have no idea how much wood they are supposed to get when they order a cord, so it is easy to take advantage of unwary consumers. That’s where the yardstick, tape measure or ruler comes in.
To thwart unscrupulous sellers, savvy consumers should measure a shipment of firewood as soon as possible after it is delivered and stacked compactly, and before using any of the wood.
Buyers should also be aware of some of the other ways con artists rob consumers by selling “short” cords of wood, or ones containing less than the requisite amount. For example, they may unload the wood after dark when it is hard to assess the size of the delivery, and then demand immediate cash payment. Or they might unload when the residents are not at home, and come back after dark for payment. In a three or four-cord order, they will often deliver a full cord and stack it neatly, then demand payment for the full order before delivering the remaining load. When the rest of the order comes, they leave it in a pile rather than neatly stacked so it is difficult to determine how much wood has actually been delivered.
In Virginia, sellers are prohibited from using terms such as “face cord,” “rack,” or “pile” when advertising or selling wood for use as fuel. If the buyer visually inspects a truckload of wood and agrees to a selling price for that load, the term “truckload” may be used.
Sellers are also required to provide a delivery ticket or sales invoice upon delivery of any non-packaged fireplace or stove wood. In addition to the vendor’s name and address, the ticket must contain the purchaser’s name and address, the date of delivery, the quantity delivered, the quantity upon which the price is based (if it differs from the delivery quantity) and the total price of the amount delivered.
VDACS offers this advice for people who suspect that they have not received the full amount of wood they paid for:
- Keep the delivery ticket or sales invoice as proof of purchase.
- As an extra precaution, pay by check so that you have a record of the purchase.
- Write down the license number of the delivery vehicle.
- Measure the wood before using any of it.
- If you determine the delivery to be short measure, first contact the seller to rectify the shortage.
- If the seller does not cooperate, contact VDACS’ Office of Weights and Measures at 804.786.2476.
A weights and measures inspector will come to your house to inspect and measure the wood. Just be sure you do not use any of the firewood prior to the investigation.