Lumber Buying Tips and Tricks

Learn about the different types of wood and what to look for when buying wood.

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Lumber is essential in homebuilding and remodeling. Even a solid masonry house may have a large proportion of wood elements, including rafters and joists, and the studs in a stud wall. In addition to these, there are decorative aspects: doors, moldings, and stairways. These pages deal with the different types of lumber used in homes, the properties of different woods, and sourcing sustainable lumber.

Hardwood and Softwood

Hardwood is usually harvested from deciduous trees (ones that shed their leaves), and softwood from coniferous trees (which bear cones). Hardwoods take longer to grow, and are more resilient than softwoods, so they are considered to be higher-quality woods. Because of this, they are more expensive. This does not mean that softwood is a less effective building material — indeed, it makes up the bulk of all lumber used in the home. It is used planed on all four sides in structural components such as wall studs, and planed for moldings such as baseboards. Some of the more common hardwoods and softwoods used in house construction and decoration are detailed below.

DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement