Five Things To Consider When Purchasing Lumber

Posted on: 3 August 2020

Picking the perfect lumber for your project helps ensure its success. The following are a few things that you can do to ensure that the lumber you choose will be durable, attractive, and long-lasting. 

1. Hardwood or Softwood

Hardwood typically comes from deciduous trees, like oak, while softwood is usually a conifer, such as pine. Generally, you want to use hardwood in areas that are exposed, such as for outdoor projects or for flooring indoors. Less expensive softwood is often reserved for hidden structures, such as framing in a wall, or areas where weathering or heavy use won't be an issue.

2. Grain Direction

The direction of the grain is very important. Generally, you want wood with a vertical end grain, which means the grain runs the length of the board. Lumber with a vertical grain is more stable, which means it is less likely to warp or change shape due to moisture and environmental changes. Flat grain boards show the actual rings of the tree along the flat length of the lumber. These boards are more prone to warping, but they can be useful in ornamental projects where you want the wood to provide more visual interest.

3. Knots and Holes

Knots and holes, such as those caused by insect damage, are usually something to avoid. First and foremost, they can weaken the wood, which is especially a problem in projects that must bear weight. When the project is more ornamental, though, some knots or holes can be a good thing. A skilled woodworker, for example, can polish and bring beauty to these defects in the finished project, such as when building furniture.

4. Warping

It's not uncommon for long lengths of lumber to be warped. For most projects, this is something to avoid. Check each piece of lumber before you purchase or use it. Look down the length of the board to verify it's straight. A warped board is not something that can be fixed, so always start with boards that are straight and true.

5. Cost Concerns

Although it would be nice to always get the best wood, sometimes cost must play a factor. Hardwoods, for example, tend to be more expensive. You can lower the cost of lumber for a project by using softer, less expensive woods in areas that won't be seen or exposed to the elements, and only purchasing hardwood for the highly visible or exposed parts of the construction. Purchasing wood in bulk can also help minimize costs, but make sure you can return any boards that have the defects listed above.

Contact a lumber supply yard for more assistance in picking the right wood for your project.