Selecting Lumber for Best Results


We all know to avoid lumber with large, loose knots, and twisted, warped, split, cupped or checked lumber... but how do you tell which boards will most likely do those bad things AFTER you buy them and use them? Here are some photos to show you what to look for and what to avoid. The pieces on the left are desirable and those on the right side of the photos are to be avoided. This is based on how wood behaves depending on ring shape, density and orientation. The last photo shows you what the pith looks like on the face rather than end of the board.

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1 question
  • Jackie
    on Apr 20, 2016

    I am thinking about buying a swing set for my grandson. The wood used in this swing set is made of cedar from the center of the tree. The company said that cedar is a very strong wood and if it checks (splits) it only occurs at the end of a 4x4 or circular 4x4 and that it would not affect the strength of the wood. What are your thoughts on this?

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3 of 39 comments
  • Christine Dwyer
    on Jul 9, 2017

    The red typing on top of the picture makes it very difficult to read
  • Jere Howard
    on Jan 30, 2018

    Brian, I’m saving and passing info to my family also. Does this apply to molding also? We wanted to do an extensive molding projects through out a basic builders home. As I was sent off to Home Depot to buy molding, my husbands last words, (make sure the boards are straight) The great HD employee and I laid board after board in the aisle to get straight board. I was astounded at how crooked a lot of the boards were.
    • Aiokersonalicea1
      on Feb 10, 2019

      As you will find, a lot of boards are messed up.

      You must see if they are selling what they call first or seconds to determine the type of wood that you're going to have.

      Part of that is due to the fact they dry it too quickly. Another part is the fact that they do not stack the wood properly and it is not covered from the weather before it gets to HD or Lowes. Plus both these companies may have excess pallets that are stored outside in the weather without proper cover.

      And sometimes your hometown hardware stores where you pick up your wood from are even worse, like mine is. When you tell them that you want to select certain boards they'll tell you you cannot. They sell only seconds so that is why there would is so messed up.

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