Best 2x4s

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Forum topic by drpdrp posted 03-09-2014 08:58 AM 15734 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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150 posts in 2069 days

03-09-2014 08:58 AM

I am in the Bay Area in CA and am getting ready to buy some wood for a couple of projects for the house. Coffee table, pub table, tall chairs for pub table. I will be using construction lumber because… well I am poor and not that good.

I’ve got Home Depot and Lowes and a place called Southern Lumber that is a fair bit more expensive- but carries more variety of course.

Any suggestions on what boards to get (multiple types of 2×4 at all of these places)? And out of curiosity- what do they cost where you are?

11 replies so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29385 posts in 2361 days

#1 posted 03-09-2014 01:13 PM

Get the best quality you can, but only as much as you can use up quickly. If left setting unused too long they will warp. As for where, they will all be about the same for pine.

I am in South Dakota and an 8’ 2×4 here is about $2.75

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View fuigb's profile


491 posts in 2981 days

#2 posted 03-09-2014 01:40 PM

Home Depot by me has loads of “fir” in 2×4 for under three bucks. For me they’ve become a guilty pleasure.
Use by selecting with care you can find clean, knot-free pieces among the pile. It’s cheap, machines well, and the heft reminds me of hard maple. The absence of grain is a bit of a let down, but then I use this stuff for my utilitarian projects as well as for things that I make with kids: cheap enough that if they ruin a piece that I don’t want to kill them.

What I especially enjoy is taking a 2x down to 4/4 or just a hair above. The result is a beefier loom that contrasrs well when used as legs anx support members in a project also utilizing stand 3/4 dimensions.

Just be selective so that. You don’t end up with a knot farm. I visit the Depot on a weekday evening when the pros are home. I take my time. And then take care to restore the pile to original condition. I’m happy. Store’s happy. Mynon-showpiece projects turn out better. And I’ve saved money that eventually goes to the hippy or the rustic sawmills for my nicer projects.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View djwong's profile


176 posts in 3243 days

#3 posted 03-09-2014 05:12 PM

For construction lumber, you can try Pine cone Lumber, in Sunnyvale. Much better quality than HD, unfortunately more expensive also. You can get kiln dried there as well. Downside is that you cannot pick your own lumber. You place your order in the office, then drive to the yard where they load for you.

For hardwoods, you can try Macbeaths and Aura, in San Jose near Southern Lumber. Global Wood Source is great for really exotic and figured woods. In Watsonville, Jackel Enterprise has a great selection of furniture grade softwoods and some hardwoods. They are very friendly there as well.

-- David W. Cupertino, CA

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

377 posts in 3106 days

#4 posted 03-09-2014 05:32 PM

If you buy 2×4s from the big box stores, make sure to buy kiln dried lumber.

The normal lumber in CA is going to be green douglas fir. It is fairly strong, but loaded with sap and will warp like crazy as it dries. You won’t want to build furniture with it.

Kiln dried 2×4s are a different species and will be a bit softer and lighter in color than the green douglas fir. I don’t believe that it is truly kiln dried down to a 6-8% moisture content , but it is reasonably dry. It will be a lot more stable then DF. The quality varies from really nice looking wood to random pieces of picked over rejects. You may need to go to a couple of different stores before finding some good wood. Stock up when you find it. The cost should be around $2-3. One unfortunate aspect is that it is only available in 8’ 2×4s, whereas green DF is available in many sizes and lengths. You can get pine in multiple sizes, but only 1” thick.

-- Steve

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3827 days

#5 posted 03-09-2014 05:37 PM

If you have any capacity to rip, you will get better results if you use wider stock. The lumber is inherently more clear in order to produce that size. It will be a little more expensive between price and higher wastage, but for fir in particular you can get some very nice quality that way.

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2207 days

#6 posted 03-09-2014 06:05 PM

In addition to the good advice on here about finding decent construction-grade lumber, I’d take a look at Craigslist and see what comes up. You can find good reclaimed lumber sometimes, or small sawyers selling hardwood, or just someone clearing out their stack for other reasons (moving, estate sale, etc.). You have to be resourceful and patient, but you’ll end up with nicer wood than just 2×4s from Lowes.

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

View HerbC's profile


1763 posts in 2883 days

#7 posted 03-09-2014 08:53 PM

I think you’ll find that construction(framing) lumber sold at normal retail outlets has been “kiln dried”, typically to 19%. The lumber manufacturers do this to minimize the losses due to mold and mildew.

Typically wider boards (2×6, 2×8 etc…) will have better quality wood than 2×4s.

Once you get your lumber home to the shop, stack it neatly in a stack with “stickers” between each layer to allow the air to circulate and dry the wood further to the acclimatize it to your shop environment. Use 3/4” thick strips for stickers and place them 12 – 18” apart. If you have more than two layers be sure to line the stickers up vertically so provide support evenly through the stack.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View TheGermanJoiner's profile


847 posts in 1661 days

#8 posted 03-09-2014 08:59 PM

Lowes has two grades of 2×4 here on the east coast. There premium lumber is CONSIDERABLY better. If you do a big box store pick through the lumber and stay away from the pith (center of the tree). Pay attention to the grain on the end of the board. And as was mentioned before get kiln dried. Good luck buddy

-- Greg - Ferdinand and Son Construction: Do it right the first time. Like us on Facebook

View drpdrp's profile


150 posts in 2069 days

#9 posted 03-09-2014 10:00 PM

DJWong- are you local? I’ve been to someplace in Santa Clara that had some exotics and a billion pen blanks, but I was never able to find it again. And I didn’t know Aura had a storefront- I will check out Macbeaths too!

I can rip- so I will take the ripping advice! Are the larger boards generally dried?

View djwong's profile


176 posts in 3243 days

#10 posted 03-09-2014 10:32 PM

Drpdrp – I am located in Cupertino. The place in Santa Clara was likely. Global Wood Source.

Both Macbeaths and Aura are more geared towards pro shops, but you can buy retail there as well.

-- David W. Cupertino, CA

View drpdrp's profile


150 posts in 2069 days

#11 posted 03-11-2014 12:20 PM

Yesterday was run around and indulge myself day. First I drove to Macbeath- wait. No. First I drove to REAMWOOD in Santa Clara thinking that was where Macbeath was… THEN I drove to RINGWOOD in San Jose and learned that the San Jose location is pickup only- no show room. There is a showroom in Berkeley- a road trip will be scheduled.

Then I went to Aura. Showroom- but nothing priced. You need to interact with a human to get any prices. They are moving to a new location though- so lots of good clearance deals. I didn’t buy anythihng- but might go back today.

Then Southern Lumber where I walked around doing the math to compare prices of 2xX stock vs 2×4 stock. Honestly the savings are trivial, but it is probably easier to get quality wood. BUT DAMN THE PRICES! The least expensive 2x there is .59 a foot which is almost twice as much as the box stores. I want to give these guys my money soooo bad- but that is a tough differential to ignore.

Then I hit Home Depot and confirmed their prices as being about what I remembered.

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