Q How much should a cord of wood cost? They are asking $80 for a load that's 4 feet by 4 feet and 18 inches. It sounds like a ripoff.

A The cost of firewood is what a person is willing to pay. But, first, let's get the terms straight.

A cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet tightly stacked, according to state statute. That's a stack that's 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long, according to the Minnesota Office of Weights and Measures.

A face cord or fireplace cord is different. It's one-third of a cord or 16 inches wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long.

What you describe sounds more like half of a face cord.

A cord of wood goes for about $150, according to the state's energy assistance program. The agency helps those whose main source of heat in their home is wood, just as it does for those using gas or propane. Indeed, the price of firewood historically holds parity with fuel oil/propane prices, according to Phil Smith with the Minnesota Department of Energy Security.

By that standard, a face cord would be a third as much, or about $50; a half face cord about $25. But bear in mind that such price extrapolations don't take into account the extra labor and transportation costs incurred in smaller loads delivered. A price of $80 might not be out of line for half a face cord of good-quality firewood conveniently delivered. As with any purchase, it can pay to shop around.

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-7032, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.