Buying lumber can sometimes be hectic and of course confusing. Ironically, even seasoned lumber buyers and contractors sometimes get confused and even end up buying the wrong thing for the wrong task. Because of this reason, most people would surf through the internet, looking for a guide, sort of, to help them through the process. You are in luck because this is just the right place to be if you need an easy-to-understand lumber buying guide.
Before getting into the real thing, it is important to know that there are several types of lumber, and because you can never cram all of them, especially if you are a one-time person, always cross-check to know you are getting the right thing.
So, here is the lumber buying guide
#1. Softwood vs hardwood
Generally, wood is classified into two major categories, and that is softwood and hardwood. Contrary to what people may think, wood is not classified as softwood because it is soft, or hardwood because it is hard. Take Balsa for instance. It is one of the softest woods that exist, yet it is classified as a hardwood. So, hardwoods come from flowering plants, while softwoods come from the evergreen conifers.
Knowing whether wood is hard or soft is important because each of the categories has its best tasks. Hardwoods, which commonly include oak, maple and walnut are best for outdoor use. On the other hand, softwoods like Doug-fir, Spruce, and Hem-fir are best for indoor use.
#2. Moisture content
Ever heard of a seller referring to wood as green, then you get confused because the wood is not green? Well, that term hardly refers to the color. Instead green wood means wood which has just been cut. Such wood usually has high moisture content (S-GRN). And, though it works perfectly well on some projects, it does not for most projects. For this reason, you might want to avoid it because it easily warps, split and curp.
A better choice would be Kiln-dried (KD) which is the one that has been stacked and dried. Other types based on moisture ratings are S-DRY, which has a moisture percentage of less than 19 percent and MC-15 with 15 percent or less. These ratings are usually stamped on the lumber for easy telling apart.
#3. Surfaced vs unsurfaced
This is basically whether lumber has been smoothened or not. The common type, which is S4S, is lumber that has been surfaced on all its four sides. On the other hand, unsurfaced lumber is simply referred to as rough. While most people love surfaced lumber, others prefer unsurfaced; and this depends entirely on your preference and of course, the task at hand.
#4. Lumber grades
Knowing lumber grades is also important, and this is more about quality and appearance. Besides the moisture ratings, lumber grades are also usually stamped on the lumber. The grades are usually in the form of A, B, C, D. A is of the highest grade and it has no or the least number of knots or imperfections while D is of the least quality and has the most number of imperfections. To make the best choice, it is advisable to discuss the grades with your dealer.
#5. Lumber sizes
Lastly, are the lumber sizes. There are two types of lumber dimensions and they include nominal and actual/surfaced. Before lumber has been dried and surfaced, it has its nominal size. However, after this processing, the lumber will reduce in size and this will be its actual size.
For instance, lumber of 2 by 6 inches as its nominal size, will reduce to 1 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches, and this will be its actual size. However, note that, lumber is normally referred to using its nominal size.