How to Choose Lumber for Your Next Project

June 4, 2017

Are you planning your next home renovation or construction project? Quality lumber is a key to making your project a success.


For the inexperienced, choosing good lumber can be tricky! Don’t worry. The team at Kaufman Lumber can help.

These 5 tips will help you make better choices at the lumber yard.

  1. Make a List

Going to the lumber store without a plan can be overwhelming, and worse, you might come home with the wrong sizes or without all the lumber you need. Before shopping, make a detailed list of the boards you need.

Depending on what you are constructing, you might need to organize boards into “like groups” of same-sized boards. Creating these groups will simplify your experience in the lumber yard.

  1. Check Dimensions

The dimensions stated on the boards may not be accurate. For some types of lumber, the dimensions stated are actually the dimensions of the lumber before it was milled.

This means most boards are smaller than their stated dimensions. Measure the important lengths yourself to ensure your boards fit together as expected.

  1. Look for Defects

Defects can make your boards weak and prone to rot, so be sure to examine your lumber to avoid any defects. Knots are the type of defect most frequently found.  However, not all knots are defects. Tight knots are well integrated with the rest of the board and do not affect the strength of the wood.

Loose knots, on the other hand, indicate where a dead branch was not strongly attached to the tree. A loose knot is usually dark in appearance, has cracks or is softer than the surrounding wood. Because this type of knot is not securely integrated with the board, it is common for loose knots to rot or to fall out, reducing the strength of the lumber. Avoid choosing boards that contain loose knots or holes.

In addition to knots, check the board’s sides and ends for cracks, which make the wood weak and liable to break.   

  1. Check for Straightness

It’s important to avoid noticeably curved boards. To check that your board is straight, you should ‘sight’ a few edges. Doing this is quite simple. Holding one end in front of your face, place the other end of the board on the floor. With one eye closed, look along one end of the board. If the board appears straight, turn it 90 degrees check another edge.

Don’t worry about getting a perfect rectangle. If both edges look straight and everything else checks out, the board will stand up to the job.

  1. Choose Visually Appealing Boards

Call into your mind a mental picture of your completed project. If the wood you’re using will be visible, this stage is where your vision really comes through!

You should now have a pile of lumber that has the right dimensions and is straight and free of defects. Using the groups you made in step 1, choose boards that look good together; their tone and grain patterns should be similar. Now, you’re ready to take your lumber home and get started!