Lumber Pricing - what gives?

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Forum topic by PurpLev posted 06-30-2008 03:56 PM 2846 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8541 posts in 3824 days

06-30-2008 03:56 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple milling purchasing buying dealer lumber hardwood yard

So my past experience is mostly based on working with plywood which I always got from the lower big-box store (hate that fact… but availability dictated that).

I have recently started working with solid wood (maple) building a bed for my daughter, so I went to shop for lumber. the local big-box-store had the 1×4 maple priced at $2.20 LF. so I figured that lumber yards would be priced better so I went to check, and they are priced at $3.40 – almost double the price!!! at first I thought maybe it’s not for Length Foot, but for Square foot which will make it half the price of the big-box-store, but no – it’s actually at Length foot making it double the price?? I don’t understand how they compete with the bigger stores – unless I happen to find a very expansive dealer?

are prices usually better at the lumber yards compare to the big-box-stores? I dont like shopping at those, but if the price difference is that significant, what choice do I have?

out of curiosity – what do you guys pay for 1×4 hard maple? and where do you get it from?

Thanx for reading, and thank you in advance for any reply, and insight.

(I have a bunch of projects lined up, and getting lumber at a reasonable price is a priority now)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

22 replies so far

View Greg Wurst's profile

Greg Wurst

795 posts in 4008 days

#1 posted 06-30-2008 04:16 PM

I assume you are looking at Finsihed 4 Sides lumber? The big box stores will almost always be cheaper. If you’re looking for rough cut lumber it is usually sold by the bd. ft. instead of the linear foot, and you will save $$ there if you can joint and plane your own lumber.

-- You're a unique and special person, just like everyone else.

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4114 days

#2 posted 06-30-2008 04:17 PM

In my experience, lumber yards are rarely cheaper than big box stores for typical woods (pine, oak, maple, poplar). In that market they are more of a boutique business. What you do generally get there however is a broader selection and a wider variety. For me, I’ve started looking for small mills and buying in slightly larger quantities (50 bft at a time). I found I get more wood for my money and the effort it takes to mill it is well worth the savings.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4197 days

#3 posted 06-30-2008 05:09 PM

I am hearing that the bottom of the market is falling out for species like Oak for instance and the trend now is to darker wood. The Chinese bought ship loads since the early 90’s but now they are looking for walnut and cherry. They roll most of it into veneers for plywood.
Lumber is a real commodity and it often depends on the supplier and how good his stock is . (knots, sapwood, grain, biorad widths, drying etc)
Like Russel says, try to line up a mill you can deal with and if possible buy a decent load at a time.
My personal expereince with Borgs is that they don’t have much in the way of matched lumber and the prices are not normally competitive.
Flooring is another matter.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4244 days

#4 posted 06-30-2008 05:28 PM

Are you sure that the lumber yard was not giving you $3.40 a board foot ? If your not familiar with a board foot that is basically a piece of wood 1” thick by 12”x12” you have to know your board footage you need .There is a formula -Thickness x width x lenght then the total of that divided by 144 (or look up board ft calculator on lumber sites) Rarely have I found that the “box” stores are cheaper in solid wood.The maple you stated from there would be $6.60 a board foot which is high.My last maple I paid like 3.50 bdft .there is some decent web sites that have good prices even with shipping try a web search.

-- Scott NM,

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3824 days

#5 posted 06-30-2008 05:37 PM

Scott - Yes I know what board foot is, and what Length Foot is, and they were charging by the Length-Foot just like the big-box-stores do.

I do not have a bandsaw/jointer/planer to mill my own lumber, so I have to rely on the S4S lumber for the time being, and I guess like you all mentioned – in that type of lumber the big box have the upper hand (it is sold at $2.20 where I live) so I guess I’ll have to bitch and buy the S4S from them for now until I can mill my own lumber. I just don’t have the space for a jointer and bandsaw right now… but hopefully in the future I will.

Thank you all for your responses, it just concurred what I was thinking already. the local lumber yard does have a wider selection of sizes and species, but at those prices for S4S I’d rather wait till I can mill it myself, and get the lumber from the big-box.

Thank you all for the info.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4244 days

#6 posted 06-30-2008 05:49 PM

Didn’t mean to offend PurpLev. I guess the stores do things diffently out here in the WEST!!!Too much heat and not enough rain I guess!!

-- Scott NM,

View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3824 days

#7 posted 06-30-2008 06:07 PM

Scott- none taken, just wanted to clarify the matter. I actually used to live on the west coast, and when I moved to the east coast I noticed that plywood here is significantly more expansive (as in almost double priced), I wonder how that works… and if it’s the same or reversed when it comes to hardwoods.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3803 days

#8 posted 06-30-2008 06:08 PM

That lumber yard price is about what our local yard charges. I think 2×2 squares were $3/lf, about the same amount of lumber and surface prep.

The biggest thing I noticed at the hardwood dealer vs. HD/Lowe’s is that the majority of the wood is flat so I don’t have to dig through a pile for straightness. Also mentioned was board matching. It was much easier to find close to matching boards at the HW dealer.

I think the HW dealer is more expensive, but justifiably so. They have better wood and more selection in terms of furniture quality hardwoods.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3997 days

#9 posted 06-30-2008 06:46 PM

Independent dealers and small sawmills may have the capacity to prepare lumber for you and should be cheaper than the box stores or big lumber yards. Here I pay 2.50 a bf for rough FAS maple and I believe that I can get it dressed for 0.50 a foot. But, being cheap, I would rather do it myself.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4300 days

#10 posted 06-30-2008 07:22 PM

I can’t speak for hardwoods, the big box stores don’t carry the stuff I’m interested in, but in utility woods, like fir and pine, I’ve found that the stuff at the lumber yards tends to be a lot dryer, and, as Doug observed, it tends to be straighter.

$3.40 a linear foot for 1×4 works out to, what, $10.20 a board foot? that seems excessive for maple, something’s still wrong here.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View barlow's profile


129 posts in 3915 days

#11 posted 07-01-2008 02:00 AM

The problem with big box stores such as home depot and lowes is that they buy in such a volume, from only a few mills, the mills will stick in some stock that is not to speck, my mill used to make S4S Aspen hobby boards for H.D., we were allowed 1 in 10 to be subject not to grade, We would buy Select and Better Aspen by the semi load for approx. 850 a thousand, rip, chop to lenght, mould it 4 sides, sand one face, package and ship, these are a lot of steps, thus resulting in the final product being over $2 a bd ft, thus translated into lineal ft at the store with the brokers percentage added on and not to mention the stores. The general rule in the lumber business for S4S board is 2-3 times the cost of the lumber to pay for machining, and waste thus resulting in these high prices. These stores can take advantage of there size and notariaty to charge these high prices and still have people come in and buy there stock because they dont know where else to go, or the certain species in certain areas are hard to come by, require extensive trucking. Bob #2 is correct the the market bottom has fell out on oak, but currently the bottom on every specie is falling out, including maple. I have usually 5,000 ft of h.m in stock and i have S4S capabilities, if interested let me know what sizes you are looking for and i can give you a quote with shipping included per bd. ft. and see if im cheaper with it delivered to your door.

-- barlow

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4071 days

#12 posted 07-01-2008 02:07 AM

I’ve never had luck finding cheaper hardwood at the big boxes compared to my local yards. And as the others said, generally the lumber yards have better stock and my time in having to go through a lot of lumber to find some good stuff is worth something to me. I just recently bought cherry at $5/bf S2S and was able to get all the cherry I needed off the top of the pile. What I generally have a hard time finding at the different yards is good pine. As a result, I find myself digging through bunks of lumber at the box stores to find enough good pine to build anything at all.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3943 days

#13 posted 07-01-2008 02:22 AM

even though lumber yard may be more expensive for common woods they are much better. you get a better selection, better service, and better wood. i like them much better and you can get some good deals. i have found that at specialty lumber dealers you can get really good prices. hope this helps.

View WoodenCreations's profile


44 posts in 3794 days

#14 posted 07-01-2008 02:40 AM

I would rather pay your prices than what we pay for maple & walnut around here. $7.31bf for Maple and $7.42bf for Walnut. That is why I order mine from the internet.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3912 days

#15 posted 07-01-2008 04:19 AM

My lumber suppliers are always cheaper than the big box stores. I usually buy in large enough quantities to get a good price break.
My suppliers also let me select out the lumber. Color and grain matching is quite important in order to get a good result.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

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