Softwood Lumber Types At the Big Stores

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 07-21-2013 10:43 PM 1030 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1925 days

07-21-2013 10:43 PM

I’m told that in the big box stores, their lumber sections can sell lots of types of softwoods all under the banner term of pine…

I’ve looked around the net and can’t find any reliable resource on helping me identify softwood grains.

Can any one recommend any good tips on spotting what’s pine, spruce, doug fir, hemlock etc etc?



-- Ben, England.

6 replies so far

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2481 days

#1 posted 07-21-2013 11:11 PM

You don’t really need to.
It will be marked, “SPF” meaning “Spruce, Pine, Fir” or “SYP” for Southern Yellow Pine.
I try not to buy any of the farm raised SYP. Much of it is cut from the core of the log and is worthless, plus it warps like my sense of humor after a few adult beverages.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2177 days

#2 posted 07-21-2013 11:27 PM

Are you asking about this in England? If so, it’s probably labeled quite differently than in the US.

The wood marked spruce/pine/fir that Dallas mentioned is all pretty interchangable, and what you get is influenced by the region. Here on the west coast, we don’t see much eastern white pine and no southern yellow pine. Douglas fir rules the day, with some ponderosa pine. “Knotty pine” could be anything, and is crappy wood.

Apart from plywood sheets occasionally and construction grade 2×4s, I don’t buy any wood from the box stores.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8515 posts in 1976 days

#3 posted 07-21-2013 11:38 PM

plus it warps like my sense of humor after a few adult beverages

LOL. Almost made me spit out my beer.

SYP joists from building centers can be decent wood. Gotta pick through and find the good ones.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View theoldfart's profile


9694 posts in 2445 days

#4 posted 07-21-2013 11:48 PM

Big box in the northeast US have “hem fir” or “whitewood”. kind of wide open description!

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View bondogaposis's profile


4717 posts in 2345 days

#5 posted 07-22-2013 12:42 AM

It is difficult unless your used to them. All I can say is that DF has a reddish heartwood and usually sold as dimension lumber, it is denser than pine. The pines smell piney, spruce doesn’t smell much, DF has a resinous smell but it is not piney. The white firs are often lumped into this group as well, some folks claim they smell like cat pee.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 1892 days

#6 posted 07-22-2013 01:50 AM

I am certain you can go to a hardwood supplier and get better wood for the money than the home improvement stores have. I wouldn’t touch any of the aforementioned species to make something. I began using sugar pine when my first project with ponderosa pine left my sawblade pitchy and the stain blotched like a pinto bean. Sugar pine is very straightgrained, nearly knot free, and a pleasure to work with. In addition to the syrupy fragrance, the stain (I would use gel stain) goes on with much less blotching. I’m a big fan of sugar pine for Shaker reproductions.

Don’t do business with any store that won’t let you pick through their stacks for the boards you want.

If you’re going to invest in tools and then in the time taken to make something, do you really want to use construction grade lumber? If it’s not construction grade at the home center, it’s so overpriced that you shouldn’t even consider buying it.

Just my opinions, of course.

Attached photo is New Mexico territorial “banco.” It’s the same idea as a New England settle. There is no plywood anywhere, just solid sugar pine. It took over 30 mortise and tenon joints to build it. The seat is hinged to provide storage for lap quilts, etc.

-- --Dale Page

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