Everything You Should Know About Buying Lumber

If you’re doing any kind of remodeling project, the odds are good that lumber will be a necessity. This is especially true if you’re adding on a room or building a whole new home for your family. Even many smaller projects, though, such as building decks and adding beams to ceilings, involve the use of lumber. Purchasing this material can be easier said than done. The lumber industry is large, and it is often tough to know precisely what you need to buy for your next project. This guide is here to help you make the right choices when you start shopping.

Important vocabulary

When you begin shopping for lumber for your project, you’ll soon realize that there are numerous terms and phrases with which you might not be familiar. In this section, you’ll discover some key definitions that will help you as you select your lumber.

  • Softwood – Softwood is harvested from coniferous trees and is generally less dense than hardwood. Typically, softwood is not used for major construction projects, like house framing, deck building, or flooring.
  • Hardwood – Hardwood, including popular options like oak and maple, is harvested from deciduous trees. There are varying levels of hardness, with certain tropical woods like ipe being the hardest on the scale. Typically, the harder the wood, the more costly it is. You can, however, find good deals if you keep your eyes peeled or talk to your contractor.
  • Green – There is a fairly common misconception that “green” wood has a greenish color, but this is not the reason for the term. Instead, “green” simply refers to newly harvested lumber that has not been seasoned or treated in any way. Typically, “green” lumber is not a good choice for outdoor projects in particular; it will not resist insects and inclement weather.
  • Moisture rating – The amount of moisture in a piece of lumber depends on several factors, including how long ago it was cut down and what sorts of chemicals have been used to treat it. All lumber has a moisture rating. A rating of “S-GRN” means the lumber is green, a rating of “S-DRY” indicates the lumber has under 19% moisture, and a rating of “MC-15” assures buyers that the lumber has under 15% moisture. Your contractor will be able to tell you which option is best for your job.
Know what a board foot is

When you start getting cost estimates for lumber, you are likely to notice that your quotes indicate the price of a board foot. This refers to a one-square-foot, one-inch thick piece of wood of a given type and grade. A 12-inch long 1×12 and a 12-inch long 2×6, which is double the thickness, would both qualify as a board foot.

Learn about lumber sizing

Lumber sizing can be extremely confusing for novices. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to get the hang of. The main thing you need to be aware of is that the “surfaced size” of a piece of wood is smaller than its description indicates. A standard 2×4, for instance, is really 1 ½ inches thick by 3 ½ inches wide and a 1×12 is truly ¾ inches thick by 11 ¼ inches wide. Lumber store employees or your contractor can assist you if you need help the first time or two you shop.

Hopefully, you’ve become far more familiar with how buying lumber works from this short guide. You should, of course, never hesitate to ask your contractor questions if you’re confused about anything regarding your upcoming renovation job. Furthermore, the staff at your local lumberyard is sure to be happy to assist you. With practice, you’ll be shopping for lumber like a pro!

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