Straight construction lumber

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 05-10-2010 06:02 PM 2576 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 3462 days

05-10-2010 06:02 PM

I much prefer woodworking to carpentry but I recently built a closet and I am about to build another.

Is it just my imagination or is it really getting harder to find good straight construction lumber at HD and Lowes? I picked up the construction lumber for my upcoming project today and I think I rejected 5 out of every 6 2×4s I looked at and the ones I accepted were only borderline acceptable.

When I really need a straight 2×4 I have recently been buying 2×12s and ripping them. However, that is not cost justified on the upcoming closet project and perfect 2×4s are not essential.

Still, it seems like it was easier to get good, straight 2×4s a few years ago.

For the ambitious entrepreneur out there – - I think there would be a great market for a man made 2×4 that is reliably straight and priced competitively (like an OSB 2×4).

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

17 replies so far

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3346 days

#1 posted 05-10-2010 06:15 PM

I agree Rich. I live near many mills here in NW Oregon, they cut trees like mad and service them in the same manner. It’s all money, I guess I can’t blame them. They cut and dry them in a big hurry, and that’s if they keep them; many trains full of log laden cars roll alongside the highway on the way to the ship yards where they are sent away to other countries. It’s a huge business, huge being a small word. Construction is also big business, they want the building up “right now” and will use twisted or warped wood if that is what they buy. They don’t need to care, they aren’t going to live there. So those of us who do indeed want high quality lumber are now forced to go thru the lumber pile and pick out the 1 in 10 boards that look like they might work. It’s quality vs quantity, you know who wins. Currently I’m operating a bandsaw cutting hardwoods, but I own a circular saw I am setting up with the intention of someday offering hi quality fir lumber and beams; I have faith people will buy it for the reasons you give. Maybe someone around you can do the same? Ah, someday…

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4149 days

#2 posted 05-10-2010 06:16 PM


I too sort and sort again, and then have to “compromise”. I’m not in the construction business, but i suspect that 2×4’s made out of some composite material would have to undergo a battery of testing and evaluation before being accepted by building codes.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3524 days

#3 posted 05-10-2010 06:37 PM

A full service lumber yard might give you some additional options to choose from. There is a world of difference between #2 pressure treated at the box stores and #1 pressure treated at my local lumber yard. Funny thing is my local lumber yard doesn’t carry #1 2×4s except pressure treated. Instead my lumber guy suggested #2 fir studs (from Oregon, Nomad62) might be more stable than the far more common (here in the south) yellow pine. A bit better, but still had to pick-and-choose.

Then there are sheet metal studs, but I haven’t tried them myself.

-- Greg D.

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3472 days

#4 posted 05-10-2010 06:39 PM

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3462 days

#5 posted 05-10-2010 06:50 PM

JAGWAH – I didn’t know there was such a product. Do you know how it is priced and do you know where one can buy it?

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4116 days

#6 posted 05-10-2010 07:07 PM

My HD carries 2 or 3 grades of 8’ 2×4 studs. I’m not sure if you looked around extra, but the cheapest 2×4’s are at the endcap of the aisle because of the low price. for $.50 to $1.00 more I can get better one in the aisle itself. Again, you might be talking about this, but I thought you might not haven noticed. Good Luck!

View AaronK's profile


1508 posts in 3852 days

#7 posted 05-10-2010 07:42 PM

I know what you mean. Another option in between real lumber yards (can be hard to find, ugh!) and the big box is a place like 84 Lumber. Not sure if there is one near you, but it’s basically a construction supplies store that caters to contractors, but you dont have to buy in bulk. They appear to have better dimensional lumber than HD/lowes. I have to remember to check out their fir ply as well.

View TheDane's profile


5644 posts in 4051 days

#8 posted 05-10-2010 08:59 PM

Rich—You’re right about the poor quality of lumber at places like Home Depot and Menards.

I did find a decent alternate source that is competitive on price … there is a builder supply up the road a couple of miles that is also a truss manufacturer. Lumber I have bought from them has been as close to perfect as you would expect a 2×4 to be. I don’t if it has to do with their truss business or the fact that they deal mostly with building contractors, but I get better material from them for the same money I would spend at the big box.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Scott's profile


153 posts in 3360 days

#9 posted 05-10-2010 10:00 PM

I did okay recently at HD with their regular 2×4’s. The PT 2×4’s were horrible and the few that I brought home twisted and cupped in about 4 different directions within a week.

View childress's profile


841 posts in 3930 days

#10 posted 05-10-2010 10:40 PM

Whitecap carries the engineered lumber….Not too cheap if I remember right.

-- Childress Woodworks

View CampD's profile


1774 posts in 3874 days

#11 posted 05-11-2010 12:05 AM

If you can get to a Lumber yard that the local contractors go, thats the place to by 2x’s. They sell-um so fast they dont have a chance to warp, besides if they were crappy the contracators would go elsewhere.
Local HD/Lowes dont sell them fast enough and as soon as they cut the bands, thats it,,, warpage!
Most of HD’s lumber comes from over sea’s and sits in a container for who knows how long. I noticed a label on some birch ply at HD “Made in New Zealand” Geez,Thats half way around the world!

-- Doug...

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3496 days

#12 posted 05-11-2010 12:12 AM

a jointer and planer were low on my list since there is no source of raw lumber around here, I had no choice but to buy dimensioned lumber from the big box stores, but the quality is getting so bad that i’m bumping them back up the list, its getting to be I’ll have to buy oversize and trim them down to get good straight stock out of it. Such is life.

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

405 posts in 3470 days

#13 posted 05-11-2010 12:29 AM

I agree that the quality seems to be slipping. Then the pile is usually so picked over that it’s just not worth trying to find the few remaining good ones. Sometimes, you just get lucky and find a fresh pallet that has not been picked through yet.

I have better luck with the kiln dried 2×4s. They are only about 10-15 cents more expensive than the green wood, but seem to be better quality. The KD wood is always hemlock instead of doug fir, so it is not quite as strong. And sometimes it appears to have a really high moisture content, like it has been sitting out in the rain for a LONG time. I have never had KD wood from the borg that bleeds sap, so it is usually easier to build with. At least 1/4 of the green DF lumber from the borg will have pitch buildup on the outside as it dries.

-- Steve

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4061 days

#14 posted 05-11-2010 03:05 AM

Home Depot and Lowes really dont have a great lumber mostly just left overs.

View dmoney's profile


191 posts in 3467 days

#15 posted 05-11-2010 05:07 AM

my local small town lumberyard has much better quality than the big box stores. They don’t allow you to pick thru the pile unless you want to pay more but their pile is almost all decent, acceptable boards. I’d visit some smaller lumberyards and ask to see their piles.

-- Derek, Iowa

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