It is not easy to select the right wood for a construction project or for carpentry. There are different types of lumbers present in the market, and the wide array of selections could be confusing to buyers. You may have difficulty choosing the right lumber for your next project once you visit a lumberyard or a local distributor. In this state of confusion, the following lumber buying tips may help you select the right pieces for your projects. You may find a variety of materials through lumberyards/distributors in relation to the species of woods, the thicknesses/grades of lumber and the machining process.

Lumber’s Thickness

There are two different types of lumbers. Softwood lumbers come from coniferous trees. Hardwood lumbers come from deciduous trees. Both variants offer lumber pieces of varying thickness, which is the most important factor to consider when buying lumber.

The pieces of structural lumber usually follow a standard dimension for thickness. The thickness of a piece of lumber is not written in inches. The measurement is usually written in quarters. A 1-inch board of lumber features 4/4 measurements. Some boards of lumber also feature 2x4, 2x6, 2x8 or 2x10 measurements. The thickness of a piece of lumber usually changes after going through the sawing and drying processes. A board also loses its thickness due to surfacing. It’s prudent to remember these points when checking the lumber’s thickness.

Board Food for Hardwood

Hardwood lumbers are available in various thicknesses, lengths and widths. The board foot is a measurement that accounts for different variables of hardwood lumbers at once. To calculate the board foot, you measure the thickness and the width in inches. A board’s length is supposed to be measured in feet. To calculate one board foot, you can multiply these measurements and divide the result by 12. If this calculation seems difficult, then you may use another technique many woodworkers use. The four board-feet measurement includes 4/4 boards of eight feet in length and six inches in width.

Lumber Grades

It’s a daunting task for beginners to purchase hardwood lumber pieces based on their grades. The National Hardwood Lumber Association has set a grading rule. The majority of lumber companies use this rule to grade the lumbers. One side of hardwood lumber looks better than the other. The grade is measured based on the clear surface area of the inferior- looking side. This measurement can determine the amount of usable material present in the board.

The FAS (first and second) represents the boards with highest grades. These boards are at least six inches wide. These boards may be 8-16 feet in length and have at least 83% clear surface. Hardwood lumbers can achieve ‘Select’ grading after the FAS grading. The No.1, No.2 and No.3 ‘Common’ boards have 66.6%, 50% and 33.3% clear surfaces respectively. FAS-quality lumbers are excellent for the manufacturing of tabletops or high-end furnishing items. The boards with No. 1 common grading are ideal for kitchen cabinets or smaller items.

Milling Options

An unprocessed piece of lumber has a rough surface and is not straight in shape. Each piece of lumber goes through milling processes to achieve a smoother surface and straighter shapes. You may find four different types of milling services in a reliable lumberyard. In SL/E (straight-line edge) service, the rough board becomes straight after ripping off one edge. The ‘hit-and-miss’ service removes 1/16-inch off the surface to make both faces of the board smoother. The S2S service also offers smoother faces on both sides with the removal of 1/16-inch surface. With S4S service, the lumber board gets smoother faces and edges.


We hope these lumber buying guide will help you select the best piece of wood for your projects and determine the true value of a lumber piece based on its basic qualities.