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How To Shop For Lumber

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Hardwood Lumber

Hardwood Lumber

Yes, you read the title correctly. Shopping for lumber can be a simple process. But, if you enter your nearest home improvement store and grab the first five boards laying on top, you may find when you bring it home that your lumber project doesn’t go as well as you planned. Taking the time to shop for lumber the right way might make all the difference.

Good Intentions Gone Bad

Lumber quality goes a long way into the success of your project. The kind of project you have will dictate how close you should pay attention to the quality of your lumber stock. If you’re throwing up a floating wall in your home, and the lumber will be hidden by drywall, lumber quality may not be so crucial.  If you’re working with framing for a shed, garage, or other structure, lumber quality is essential. The challenges that come from trying to compensate for lousy lumber in your project can be difficult to manage (be sure to stay on top of your mental health if you find yourself in this situation). Here’s why.


Lumber Should Be Straight

With increased governmental regulations on lumber harvesting in the last decades, more and more inconsistencies in lumber have been popping up, leading to warped, knotty, and twisted boards. Any projects where your lumber is showing or where you’re using it to build a sturdy straight frame, you should use good quality lumber.


Be On The Lookout Poor Wood Quality Indicators



When you pick up a piece of lumber at the store, before you put it in the cart, lay one end on the ground and stare down the length of the lumber from the other end. Is there a curve that appears as you peer down the board? Flip the board over and peer down the other side. Any curve there? If there is, find a straighter board. If all of the boards seem to be curved, choose the boards with the least amount of curve in them.



Warped boards may have one or more twists in them. Twists can significantly impact the quality of your build, especially if you’re framing or railing work. While you’re looking down the length of the board, check for twisting. Slight twists may not make much of an impact, but larger twists will through your project off track.


Knots and Cut-Outs

You’ll only need to worry about knots and other missing chunks of wood if your boards are going to show. If you’re framing and covering with drywall, knots won’t be an issue. Keep this in mind when you select your boards.


Shopping For Lumber

Trying to find quality lumber at your local home improvement store may drive you mad, looking down board after board only to discover the whole lot is warped. Shop around before you decide on where to do your purchasing. If you’re lucky, you live in an area where more than one lumber outfitter exists. Keep these tips in mind before you look for lumber:


Search For Outfitters

Find out what suppliers are in your area (depending on how far you’re willing to drive) by conducting a simple online lookup. You may discover there’s a lumberyard or two in your area. Choose two or three suppliers that appear to be a good choice based on online reviews and the distance from your project location. 


Ask Around

Talk to your neighbors, coworkers, or family about their lumber experiences. They may have found the perfect supplier that offers high-quality lumber at reasonable prices. Or, they may have an awful experience to share that may steer you clear of bad suppliers.


Decide How Much to Pay

Higher quality lumber may mean higher prices, too. If your project doesn’t require the straightest least-warped, non-knotty boards, you may be okay with accepting lower-quality lumber for lower prices. If your project relies on accuracy, straightness, and aesthetics, higher-priced lumber may be the way to go.







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