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October 27, 2020

Beginners Guide for Buying Lumber

Whether you’re a weekend warrior tackling DIY projects or a seasoned pro, good construction starts with quality lumber. So how do you make sure you’re getting good lumber – and don’t wind up with big issues from crummy materials? Follow this beginner’s guide for buying lumber from the experts at Kaufman by Design West!

Step One: Measure Twice

The old adage “measure twice, cut once” still holds true! When you’re considering the size of boards or sheets you need for a project, understand that the dimensions of the wood aren’t exactly what’s listed on the tag at the lumber yard. The length of the lumber piece should align with the lumber’s description, but the width and depth of the lumber are almost always slightly smaller than the nominal dimensions listed. If you’re looking for a 2x4x96, for instance, the lumber you’re getting will actually measure up to 1.5” deep by 3.5” wide by 96” long. This normally won’t make an enormous difference, but if you’re building a deck or planning a project that requires a lot of lumber laid out side-by-side or lying flush, that half-inch might mean you need more lumber than you originally thought.

Always consider your specific project, identifying the right type of wood and the right boards or sheets. Never be afraid to sketch up your project and go to your lumber yard of choice to measure the actual dimensions of the lumber before you commit to a lumber purchase to make sure it all measures up! At Kaufman by Design West, our lumber pros can help you consider these measurements for the area you need to cover.

Step Two: What Wood Do I Need?

Different woods have different properties that make them perfect for specific projects. Generally, wood species are divided into softwoods and hardwoods. If you’re building a structure or using the wood in home construction, local codes will include guidelines about which wood to use, what hardness and grade are required, and other restrictions. Popular softwoods include cedar – perfect for outdoor projects since it resists molding, rotting, and insects – and pine – great for carving and generally easy to stain and seal. Hardwoods, on the other hand, include mahogany, cherry, oak, ash, and birch. Each of these wood species have their own benefits – ask an expert if one wood is better than another for your specific project.

Step Three: Treated or Untreated Lumber?

Generally speaking, you should use pressure-treated lumber for projects where the wood may come into contact with moisture. Some builders use pressure-treated lumber for all outdoor projects, but this isn’t always the right choice. As a general rule, use pressure treated posts for outdoor projects like decks and sheds, applying oil-based sealants to help keep the chemicals used for pressure treatment from leaking out of the wood or causing potential harm to people and pets that might come into contact with the lumber. In 2-by measurements, however, treated lumber can sometimes warp after a few years. In building a deck, for example, use treated posts and untreated deck boards, and handrail planks. You should still use a sealant or protectant for the lumber, but untreated lumber planks or boards at smaller depths will hold up longer and maintain a professional appearance without weathering over time. 

Of course, the use of treated or untreated lumber will depend on your project. As a general rule, you shouldn’t use pressure-treated lumber for inside projects. When you have questions about which is the best wood for a specific project, contact the pros at Kaufman by Design West for guidance!

Step Four: Pick the Straightest Boards

Lumber is planed and sawn to give it the straightest edges possible – but sometimes, wood warps. Stand the board up on edge, close one eye, and look down the line of the board from a standing height. You’ll often be able to see if the board has any bends or has warped by taking this close look down its edge. Pick the straightest boards or sheets to keep your project lumber tight and avoid issues down the road in your project. 

Check with the Lumber Pros

At Kaufman by Design West, we stock a wide variety of lumber products to meet your needs. Our expert craftsmen can point you in the right direction – whether you’re just starting a project or are right in the middle of one. Contact us today or visit our convenient lumberyard to get help from the pros!