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Lumber and Wood

Lumber is used for furniture making, decking, and room framing. Here are some tips to help you find the right wood for your purpose.

Types of Wood

Most home improvement and lumber yards stock a variety of woods ranging from the least expensive knotty pine to very expensive oak with a variety in between, such as cedar and maple. Pick the type of wood appropriate to your project: size of grain, hardness and stiffness, texture, and overall appearance. In many cases, the wood you might want is actually a man-made product such as particle board or fiber board, which are wood and resin composites. If you intend the wood to be used outdoors (such as a deck), choose between treated woods, woods that you treat yourself, and woods that have a natural resistance to water and insects.

Types of Lumber

  • Finished Wood: generally available in 1" depths (actually measures 3/4") and widths of 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches (with actual measurements 1/2" or 3/4" less). Finished word has clean, smooth surfaces and is ideal for shelving, furniture, or other wood projects.
  • Tongue & Groove: shaped wood, used commonly for flooring. Each piece has one edge with a tongue (a middle layer that projects beyond the edge) and, on the opposite side, a groove (that allows the adjacent board to lock in to it).
  • Furring Strips: a thin, low quality wood for attaching plasterboard or paneling.
  • Dimensional Wood: used for framing structures and available in 2x4, 2x6, etc,. sizes.
  • Laminates: wood sandwiched together in layers (such as plywood). Laminates resist warping and have increased strength because the grain of the layers are glued together in different directions. However, this composition is difficult, if not impossible to sand at the edge and get a satisfactory edge.

Grades of Lumber

Lumber is graded based on the number of knots. A grade of "clear" has no knots;
select or select structural, #2 common, #3 common, construction or standard, and utility represent progressively poorer quality. The lowest quality for visible wood (panels, desks, etc.) should be #2 common. Construction quality is strong, but not pretty, so use it internally to frame walls, etc.

Wood is sensitive to heat and humidity and is therefore subject to change over time. Inspect all wood -- don't assume that because it is a top grade that the piece is good in all other respects. Make sure the board is flat and straight along all dimensions and, if it includes knots, that the knots are tight (not loose and subject to popping out).

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