Understanding Lumber Sizes

Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated March 10, 2021)

Understanding lumber sizes is a good way to really break into the do it yourself scene. After all, learning the different sizes of lumber will let you know what you are dealing with as you wander through the lumber yards and home improvement stores purchasing your materials. All you need to do is keep in mind this information as you are doing your shopping.

  • Nominal vs. dressed. There are typically two terms commonly used when talking about lumber sizes. Those terms are nominal and dressed. Nominal refers to wood that has been rough cut, and hasn't been planed or surfaced. Wood that has been planed and surfaces is referred to as dressed. Typically nominal sized wood is slightly larger than the actual, dressed, measurements.
  • Board vs. dimension. Another couple of terms that are commonly used in lumber sizes are "board" and "dimension". These terms are usually in reference to how thick the lumber is. For example, a nominal piece of wood that has a thickness of one inch or less will usually be listed as board lumber. Nominal wood that is more than is two inches by whatever, and four inches by whatever are referred to as dimension lumber.
  • Measurements. When you look at lumber when in the store, you will usually see the size listed in one of two ways. The first way is something along the lines of 1x6, 2x2, or even 4x4. These measurements refer to the thickness of the wood by the width of the wood. The second method of listing lumber sizes is usually only referred to when you are talking about wood that has been cut to a specific length. For example the dimensions of 1x6x8 refers to a piece of wood that is one inch thick, by six inches wide, and eight inches long. The same type of measurements also apply to dressed wood as well.

Now that you know the basics of what makes up the lumber sizes, you can begin understanding what is offered at the various stores. Keep in mind that the information listed here is for the most commonly used measurements and sizes at lumber yards and home improvement stores. If you still have any questions you can easily ask the clerks on staff at the stores for a bit more information and they will be more than happy to help you out.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

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