Quick way to calculate volume of properly-stickered lumber?

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Forum topic by Rob posted 01-14-2015 07:39 PM 1016 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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704 posts in 3094 days

01-14-2015 07:39 PM

I sometimes see people clearing out lumber on craigslist fairly cheap but they require you to buy it all, on short notice, and usually it seems to be 2000+ board feet. I probably don’t have enough space, but I have no grasp of how much that should take up. Is there a good rule of thumb to calculate the rough volume if it’s properly stickered?

By the way, I realize stickers may be different sizes, and that 2000bf of 4/4 lumber is going to require more stickers than 2000bf of 6/4 or 8/4, but I’m just looking for a general guideline to know [a] how many trips I’ll have to make with my trailer, [b] how much I can reasonably store while I try to give or sell some of it to other woodworker friends., and [ c ] whether it potentially makes sense to rent a storage unit to buy a lot of lumber cheap and store it vs. just continuing to drive 1-1/2 hrs round-trip to buy what I need, as I need it.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

6 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


5137 posts in 1744 days

#1 posted 01-14-2015 07:56 PM

Most of what I’ve seen is rough 1x that’s pretty close to right at 1 inch. If it’s not been kiln dried or air dried for a long time then every board will have to be stickered, I usually use 1/4” strips. 1 bdft. is 144” cubed, you can take the dimensions of your potential storage area (length, width and however brave you’re willing to stack it high) and figure out the volume. When stacking the lumber (especially if it’s variable widths) you’ll loose space beyond the required air space for drying/acclimating that would need to be accounted for. Given all of the variables involved, it would be difficult to give a percentage or approximation. If I had to take a total shot in the dark, I’d guess of the available space you’d only be able to fill it 35% with wood.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3010 days

#2 posted 01-14-2015 09:11 PM

I usually just figure the board feet in one layer and multiply by the number of layers.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2097 days

#3 posted 01-14-2015 11:55 PM

|A board foot is 144 (1 foot x 1 foot) square inches 1” thick. not cubed. cubed it would be 144 board feet. lol

Down and dirty: take the area of roughly one layer in feet example 50 inches long and 42 inches wide =2100 square inches. divide by 144 for square feet. about 14.58 square feet. multiply by the thickness of the boards and you get board feet per layer. count the layers.

View AandCstyle's profile


3069 posts in 2280 days

#4 posted 01-15-2015 01:47 AM

Rob, here is another consideration: If the wood needs to be stickered, I would suggest NOT storing it in a storage unit. First, there would be no air flow and second, it could get really hot on a sunny day and might cause checking. If the wood is truly dry, i.e. 6-8% it can be dead stacked like you see at lumber yards. Get a moisture meter so you will have a better idea of what you need to do with the stock if you decide to purchase it.

-- Art

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1544 days

#5 posted 01-15-2015 02:42 AM

If it’s a neat stack, it’s pretty easy to get a good estimate. Say the stack is 6’ high X 4’ wide X 8’ long. First, measure the thickness of a couple of boards to see if they’re usable for you (if they’re much less than 1” it may only be good for drawers or special projects. Then write that number down as a decimal (like, .875 or 1.5).

Now look at the spacing, side to side, between boards within the layers. If they’re fairly tightly packed, you may want to multiply the width (in feet) by .95 or, if there are great gaps between boards, you may multiply by, say, .75).

Multiply that by the number of layers in the stack and the length of the stack, in feet. Then multiply by the decimal number you wrote down indicating the thickness of the boards.

It may sound complicated, but here’s the calculation for the hypothetical stack noted above. : Say the board thicknesses are 1” and the width of the stack is 4’, with spacing between boards you gauge at .85 (an average pack) and there are 37 levels.

That’s .85 X 4 X 37 X 8 X 1 = ~ 1000 bf. The weight of such an amount of wood, to determine how to carry it, depends on several factors, such as species and how dry the wood is. Roughly speaking, I usually estimate about 2500 ~ 3500 lbs, depending on the pertinent factors. I, normally, could carry 1000 bf in three trips with my 1/2 ton pick-up truck.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3094 days

#6 posted 01-15-2015 09:05 PM

Everyone, thanks for all the suggestions and feedback! I hadn’t thought of the issue of the storage unit having inadequate circulation.

Yonak, thanks for the additional formula and practical example.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

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