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OK This may be a stupid question for the experienced one's here but bear with me, and you can laugh that's fine also. All I ask is when you done laughing share some wisdom.

Q; I may be interpreting this right but when a price say 2.00 per board feet that only means for the length right? So say at $2 a board foot, a 8 ft board would cost me $16?  They don't do some tricky math and play with width times length + board feet and here is your price. I ask because except for recycled wood I have always bought what I need at the big box stores. I have found a couple of local yards and want to see if price is comparable, as well as keep my money more local.



Told you it was a stupid question, you may now laugh, just don't ban me to the stupid question of the week club!  :-)


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There is no such thing as a stupid  question  on this site , if you do not ask you do not learn  !!!   You are correct at $16.00  , we don,t laugh , we just try to help other wood worker,s , keep on building , have  fun and be safe , JIM !!!

From what I understand you do take into account the length, width AND thickness.

No it isn't a stupid question because board feet throws me for a loop. I purchased a piece of oak from an urban sawmill last week. I can't tell you how many board feet or even the price per board foot. I trust him and I know I got a better deal than Home Depot or Lowes.

Al this my not be what you what to here but you would be batter off getting a good planer and get your rough lumber for a 1.50 to a 1.75 a board foot from a cabinet shop or a sawmill these guys a the big box store's well kill you with there prices.


Home or lumber centers "selling cost" includes "wholesale costs" plus "shipping, handling and storage costs" that are factored in their ''cost of goods sold".

Therefore, you'll get better pricing at a sawmill. 

R. E. Woods said:

>>>... I know I got a better deal than Home Depot or Lowes./p>

From what I read a "board foot" is defined as a volume of wood that is 12 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. 

Board Feet = (nominal thickness x nominal width x actual length)/144  ... where the dimensions are all in inches!!

So, an 8 foot long 2x4 is calculated as Board Feet = (4" x 2" x (8'*12"))/144 = 5.33

Yep, hardwood is sold by VOLUME, not length.  It's one of those concepts that's simple in theory then easy to confuse yourself with when you try to do it under the gun at the dealer's.  But since the calculation matters (it translates into REAL MONEY), it's worth your while to do what I did and download a free smartphone app.  I have one for Android called "Woodworking Utilities."  It has some other great tools by the way -- like a spacing calculator for when you want to know how to fill up a given space with four shelves, it will calculate the proper spacing between them.  Anyway, you take your handy app with you to the dealer, find the boards you want, plug in the dimensions and the price and double check to make sure you are being charged the right amount.  The real trick is knowing what thickness and lengths your dealer usually carries and using that information to lay out a cut list ahead of time so you know what you're looking for and how much it is likely to cost.  It gets tricky when you get there and you don't find anything exactly like what you're looking for and you have to adjust your cut list on the fly.  Always buy a little extra because you're guaranteed to find a knot, check, or some other imperfection that you'll have to cut around.  As an example, here's a cut digram I took with me to buy some 4/4 x 8" maple for a medicine cabinet project I'm working on.  Plan, plan, plan -- never go into the hardwod dealer without a clear mission (and your smartphone app).  Good luck.

Actual 2x4 measures " 1.5 x 3.5"  and  96" (8ft) long = 3.5 board ft.

When one says they're getting, or, pay for 5.33 board ft (2x4x96"), 

you're only getting 3.5 board ft.

The only dumb question is the one that you don't ask when looking for the answer. A board foot is calculated by taking the length of the board multiplied by the width of the board multiplied by the thickness of the board divided by 144, an 8ft board that is 8'' wide and 1'' thick would be 96'''x8''x1 divided by 144 = 5.33bdft. so @ 2.00 a bdft. that would come out to 10.66 for that board.

Board feet is generally calculated by using the ''nominal'' sizes.


When I calculate board feet, I use the ‘’actual” (measured) material sizes, for an accurate dollar amount I’m paying for lumber material.

A 1x8x96 actually measures .75 x 7.5 x 96”, which equates to 3.75 board feet.

A 1x8x8ft (rough cut size) equates  to 5.33 board feet.

(Note: some suppliers stock 1x8 boards that measure 7.25” wide.  I’ve found some material that measured 7.12” wide).

Also note---there's a difference from actual vs nominal for softwoods and hardwoods, as well a plywoods.


When the seller prices the material at “board foot” price,

3.75BF at $18/board ft = $67.50.

At 5.33BF at $18 = $95.94.


It's important to verify the price per board when you buy lumber, because some yards like to adjust to round numbers.

This seemingly minor adjustment would end up costing you additional $$$ over the actual BF prices.


When going to buy hardwoods, don't be afraid to challenge their measurements. It doesn't hurt to keep a small calculator in your pocket and calculate the prices to check their figures. Some lumberyards will calculate it properly, but as you can see, just a small rounding can end up costing you quite a bit in the long run.


While the numbers may seem logical, they can be a bit deceiving, as you'll soon discover.

Ken is right, The yard I get my rough cut lumber from always calculates the boards to the exact size of the board but if they do round off any of the sizes it's always to the lower size. if a board is 8 1/4'' they calculate it as if it was 8''.

I like my wood jobber, they figure BF by surface only. 

I know a guy who knew a guy, who figured that way, and then he learned he was paying more!

Ken Rupkalvis said:

I like my wood jobber, they figure BF by surface only. 

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