Home Improvement Month – Week 4 Tips – Buying Quality Lumber and Panels

In honor of May being Home Improvement Month, Angeles Millwork and Hartnagels will publish weekly blog posts to highlight important tips to know when tackling projects around your home.

Dimensional Lumber and Panels

Dimensional lumber and panels are graded and used for all kinds of applications, from framing homes to building pallets and crates.  Everywhere along the way, these grades signify capabilities and limitations of the lumber and panels.  By understanding your application and the grades, you can help make sure you are buying the quality you need.

Most of the lumber commonly available in our market falls within the light structural grades.  Whether you are buying Douglas Fir, as we stock in our yards or Hemlock from a competitor, they still meet the same code requirements, but they do not carry the same strength or span ratings and it is up to you and your designer to know what is right for you.  Not all #2 & Better is going to be the same.

Structural panels commonly use an A, B, C, and D grading system with the higher the grade, the better the panel.  Sheathing and roofing panels are typically graded in the C-D range because they are used for strength rather than appearance.  An A-C rated panel will have one good side and is most commonly used in cabinet making or similar visual applications.  OSB panels are rated for sheathing, siding, or flooring and the grade stamp will tell you which.

No matter what product you buy, it should include a grade stamp that tells you where the product was made and what it is made of.  This should also be an assurance that it is compliant with our building codes and material standards through third-party verification.  Unless it really does not matter to you, we advise staying away from products that use “mill certification” as the testing standard.  The “mill cert” means that the mill claims it to be within their own grading system, and your guess is as good as ours, if that is the same as the third-party standards the rest of the industry is using.

With a little bit of knowledge and some confidence that you are buying the right product for your new home or deck, you are sure to get the most out of your lumber purchase.

Quality Lumber

Several grades of lumber exist to meet structural and non-structural needs.  Even though the grade is the standard, the quality can be very different because mills are tuned to separating any lumber that has a higher market value.  This added sort of the #2 & Better grade allows us to sell what is known as a “Premium #2 & Better”.

A “premium” product will have all the same strength characteristics of the grade, but will be separated based on the visual characteristics of the board.  Wane, the bark on the edge, is limited or excluded in this grade to make sure that the lumber you buy has four square edges.  The second part of the sort is to look for slope and grain in the board that will be indicative of future twist.  The end goal is to give you a straight and square piece of lumber.

If the lumber is just as strong and only graded for enhanced visuals, why should you insist on premium lumber?  The quality is about making sure your framing stays straight and true for as long as you are in your home or well beyond the builder’s warranty period.  We think that walls that remain flat or homes built square, plumb, and level are important to owners and builders alike.

On a typical new home in our area, using standard lumber might save a customer $1,500.  That savings is then passed right onto the framer who has to spend the extra time sorting and leveling the studs after install to get things ready for sheet rock.  For a $300,000 build, the premium lumber will mean an additional $6.91 in your monthly mortgage payment if no other variables change.

While others may sell some assorted boards in a premium grade, we carry premium grade all the way through our yards so that we don’t waste your time and energy sorting the lumber.  We choose “premium” lumber because we believe your house is worth it. 

For an in-depth overview and understanding of lumber grading, we encourage you to read our blog post from October by clicking HERE.   This post is designed to help you get past the uncertainty by giving you the knowledge of what the grades allow and how to achieve an apple to apple comparison of what you see.

We understand that the above suggestions for panels and quality lumber cannot answer all your questions. We encourage you to come talk with one of our customer service pros and see our lumber and panel offerings in person at either Angeles Millwork or Hartnagel Building Supply.

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