Tips on Measuring for Lumber
Lumber is sold in lineal feet – the total length of the lumber you are buying – or in board feet. Lumberyards normally deal in board feet, particularly on large orders, but they work in lineal feet equally well.
For many homeowner projects, lineal feet are the easiest way to calculate your needs. For instance, if building a deck out of 2-by-6 lumber, you would use your plans to first measure the total length of decking boards you need. Then you call a lumberyard and ask the price per foot on that size and species of lumber, such as 2-by-6 construction heart redwood. When the lumberyard gives you the price, enter it and the lineal feet you want, and there’s your decking price.
If ordering a large amount by board feet, just enter the total board feet needed and the price per board foot for the total price. As a quick reminder, a board foot is 12 inches long by 12 inches wide by 1 inch thick. A 2-by-6 that is 1 foot long also equals 1 board foot (think of the 1-by-12-by-12 board folded in half).
Also, if you are not experienced in buying lumber, remember that all lumber is identified by its nominal size, which is different than the actual size. As an example, a 2-by-4 is actually 1 1/2 inches thick by 3 1/2 inches wide. A 2-by-8 is actually 1 1/2 inches thick by 7 1/4 inches wide.