Wood & Lumber Buying Guide
Have you ever felt confused when ready to start a woodworking project? You're not alone, but finding the right wood or lumber isn't as hard as it seems. We'll show you how to pick the right type of wood so your next project will be easy and fun.
Pick the Right Wood for Your Project
Wood types, grains, grades, densities, textures, colours, and even defects — there's a lot that goes into lumber. We have a huge variety for you to choose from, no matter what your project is. Shop online or in-store and get the perfect type of wood for whatever you need.
A Closer Look at Wood Grain
Two boards of the same species can look very different. Each tree has its own grain pattern. This is the direction in which the wood cell fibres grow. These variances in grain direction can have a significant impact on your project.
The grain direction is important to consider when building either structural projects or decorative projects such as furniture or crafts. For instance, when working on a structural application, a straight-grained board is generally the strongest. In more decorative projects, grain with varying characteristics can add beauty and personality to the project.
Making the Grade
When you are choosing lumber, do you know what the stamp on the wood actually means? Fear not, we've deciphered those hieroglyphics for you. So the next time you go to the lumber yard, you'll sound like a pro.
Grades of Hardwood
Grading designation depends on the number of defects in a given length and width of hardwood boards. As with softwoods, a lower grade can be perfectly acceptable, depending on placement and usage. Hardwoods are graded by the National Hardwood Lumber Association. Here's a chart to help explain the grading system. Grades are listed from highest to lowest.
|Grade Name||Abbreviation||Minimum Board Size||% Usable Material on One Face|
|First and Seconds||FAS||6 inch x 8 feet||83|
|Select||Sel||4 in. x 6 ft.||83|
|#1 Common||#1 Com||3 in. x 4 ft.||66|
|#2 Common||#2 Com||3 in. x 4 ft.||50|
There are grades below #2 Common, but they are typically not suitable for woodworking.
Grades of Softwoods
Softwoods are divided into two categories: dimensional lumber, with a grade based on strength, and appearance boards, which are typically used for woodworking projects. Grading of softwoods is overseen by a number of different agencies, so you will be more likely to find some variations in terminology. Grades listed here are from highest to lowest.
|Grade||What it Means|
|C Select||Almost completely clear of defects. Widely used for interior trim and cabinets.|
|D Select||Fine appearance, similar to C Select. May have dime-sized knots.|
|1 Common||Best material for high-quality pine with a knotty look. Knots will be tight, meaning they won't fall out and are generally small.|
|2 Common||Tight knots, but larger than found in 1 Common. Often used for panelling and shelving. Very suitable for general woodworking projects.|
|3 Common||Knots larger than 2 Common. Also used for panelling and shelving, but especially well-suited for fences, boxes, and crates.|
Lumber Grading Stamp
While lumber of the same species and size is still at the mill, it is designated and separated by grade. It is then identified by a stamp and often inventoried by its grade and species. When selecting wood, be sure you look for its grading stamp because different lumberyards sometimes use different names for the same grade. (And remember, if you are having trouble figuring it all out, ask for help).
Grade designations depend on particular defects such as knots or wane. Keep your project final results in mind when selecting the grade of wood. Grade does not indicate consistency of colour or grain patterns.
|Manufacturer||Mill's number, name, or symbol, e.g. 12.|
|Certification Mark||Symbol of agency providing quality-control supervision, e.g. WWP®|
|Grade||Often abbreviated, e.g. 1COM.|
|Moisture Content||Abbreviation for MC when board-surfaced. MC 15 is 15 percent or less; KD or S-DRY is 19 percent or less; S-GRN is green wood with more than 19 percent MC.|
|Species Mark||Symbol or abbreviation for types of tree, e.g. Ponderosa Pine would be PP.|
Whether solid or engineered, birch, maple, oak, or another exotic species, hardwood flooring is always a great choice. Find out more with our Hardwood Buying Guide.
Use our Rotary Tools Buying Guide to help you pick the right tools on your next DIY or professional project.