Lumberyard board-foot calculation - is this typical?

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Forum topic by JeffeVerde posted 09-09-2012 11:59 PM 5616 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 3196 days

09-09-2012 11:59 PM

I’ve always felt like I was getting overcharged by my local hardwood yard, but never spent too much thought on it, figuring “it is what it is”. But when my last order ran almost 150% of what I’d guess-timated, I dug into their pricing, and here’s what I came up with.

-Their lumber is all S2S-SLR1E (straight-lined one edge).
-The “raw” edge is ALWAYS tapered, typically 1-2” across a 10-12’ board.
-They measure the board at it’s largest width, regardless of taper
-They round up to the next full inch, regardless of how small a fraction over

Here’s an example— An 8’ x 4/4×6” piece – nominally 4 board feet. The board I got was 8’-1”-ish (they don’t charge for the fractional over in length), with width tapering from 7-1/4” to 6-1/4”. The guy slapped his board-foot scale on the board, and said “8 inches by 8 feet—- 5-1/3 board feet”. Then they add 10% for straight-lining, making it 5.867 board feet?!

Is this kind of heavy-thumbed measuring typical, or are these guys really over the line? My only other local supplier is a commercial lumber yard that only carries a small selection of hardwoods (poplar, red & white oak, maybe some maple). They’re about 30% more per board foot—but it’s all S4S, and a 6” wide board is charged at 1/2 a board foot per lineal foot—which I’ve just realized is actually cheaper when you figure in the measuring shenanigans the other shop does. There’s a really large hardwood lumber yard about an hour away, but I don’t know if I should expect the same fuzzy measuring as my current supplier.

19 replies so far

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 2970 days

#1 posted 09-10-2012 12:18 AM

sounds a bit extreme to me. An average of the boards width sounds more appropriate. And if they only sell SLR1E, then why are they charging for it? I say its worth the drive just to see if they are more straight about it. If they are not, you have only lost a couple hour drive.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2866 days

#2 posted 09-10-2012 12:56 AM

Unfortunately, when the need is only for enough wood for a project, let’s say 10-15 boards, and availability is limited, the customer has little say over the price. I live within a couple hours of at least a dozen sources of domestic and exotic woods, so I decide where to shop on more than just price and how the seller calculates board feet. If there’s no alternative for the amount and quality of what you want, I’d say as you first said: “it is what it is.” I’ve been doing some work where there’s only one source within a hundred miles, and that’s the attitude I’ve adopted.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 3617 days

#3 posted 09-10-2012 02:56 AM

This may be kind of “out there” but you might consider a complaint to your state’s equivalent of a department of weights and measures. This type of thing might vary by state, and I can’t say I even know what the rules for hardwood sales are here in Arkansas. What I do know though is that there are rules here for how firewood is measured and sold, and they have even had TV ads in the fall and winter at times to inform people about how it is supposed to be measured/sold, and they do encourage complaints if sellers aren’t doing it correctly.

Seems to me, if they are that picky about firewood, there is at least a chance that some states might take up the cause of making sure a hardwood dealer is being honest in their measurements.

Another thing to consider though is that if the dealer is forced to change how they measure, they could easily just up the price per BF to make up the difference.

View bruc101's profile


1364 posts in 4046 days

#4 posted 09-10-2012 05:07 AM

Most hardwood lumber company’s also take a percentage of the total brd ft off for shrinkage.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 4051 days

#5 posted 09-10-2012 06:26 AM

May not seem fair but it seems a fairly common practice. I figure I am purchasing anything from alder/cherry at 1.40/1.50 hr and calico hickory and nice looking walnut for 2.25/2.75, well the alternative would be to buy fas and pay 4 times what I currently pay. I have been able to somehow utilize all our boards down to just tossing out maybe a small sliver from all my boards so basically nothing of my boards go to waste. I figure I am getting the better end of the deal in the end. I could be paying HD prices :)

-- .

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3526 days

#6 posted 09-10-2012 07:38 AM

I guess I am lucky because my local lumber supplier always comes up with numbers that are real close to what I calculate for a stick of lumber. In some markets you don’t have a lot of choice about who you go to, but I am not shy about telling vendors who are using the “heavy thumb” that I will not be back if they are fudging the numbers and that I will tell every woodworker that will listen to me me that they are a rip-off joint that is not to be trusted.

I also disagree with the practice of adding a percentage for shrinkage or anything else. I understand that there is a material loss in the milling and storage process; however, that should be factored into their price/bf. Adding a markup on top of their advertised price for lumber is the same BS as airlines advertising a low price then doubling it with fees.

I may not change their behavior but I certainly won’t reward it.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30439 posts in 2842 days

#7 posted 09-10-2012 09:02 AM

In my opinion, you’re getting screwed. Somewhere they need to balance their equation. There are formulas for figuring the taper as well. When calculating board feet in a tree, you never measure at the base. I would check other suppliers if possible.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3474 days

#8 posted 09-10-2012 12:17 PM

-They round up to the next full inch, regardless of how small a fraction over

That’s just being greedy.

Everyone I go to to rounds down below 1/2” and rounds up over the 1/2”.

If you think you’re getting screwed with your S2S, why not buy rough and plane it yourself.

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3665 days

#9 posted 09-10-2012 02:52 PM

It seems excessive. Shrinkage is their problem, not yours. You are buying the board in front of you, not as it stood in the forrest. Regardless, if you don’t like the prices, you go elsewhere, but you let them know why. Prices should be marked on the boards. I could care less how they ‘calculate’ their prices, I just want to know what they are asking per board foot. Shrinkage sminkage, taper smaper. They are trying to pull the wool over their customer’s eyes.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3789 days

#10 posted 09-10-2012 03:40 PM

I used to order from a number of the larger Hardwood suppliers because when I looked at their price list, their price per board ft. seemed lower then some of their competition. Once I questioned how they came up with the total board ft. that I was charged for versus what the actual board ft. I received, I realized they added all kinds of little charges on, like shrinkage, the width of the board before it was straight lined, etc. Even if I ordered my lumber rough sawn, they added their shrinkage. I finally found a hardwood supplier that figured their lumber by what you actually received and even though their price seemed higher per board foot, I found out they where very competitive with their pricing, in fact, most of the time they were actually cheaper then the big suppliers. Get to know your hardwood suppliers and shop around. I also found even though we are suppose to have a grading system for lumber, I’ve seen some huge differences from one mill to another.

-- John @

View poopiekat's profile


4527 posts in 4239 days

#11 posted 09-10-2012 04:37 PM

I used to go to a hardwood supplier who stapled a little tag to the end-grain of each board, indicating the calculated board-footage, and the price. I could never really pick a board from a pile without knowing beforehand what the price was. It would be like buying a car without knowing what it was going to cost…until you’ve already committted yourself to it.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4225 days

#12 posted 09-10-2012 05:49 PM

Seems like they are intimidating their customers and rounding up when they should not. Buy elsewhere.

If they can’t be honest with customers, they will be going out of business anyhow.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View hhhopks's profile


659 posts in 2882 days

#13 posted 09-10-2012 06:05 PM

The guys that I have purchased lumber from (walnut, oak…...etc) seem to be on the generous side. They more or less take what is perceived as the usable dimension and basically round down to the nearest inch. Sounds like your dealer may be low on board ft but he makes it up on the board ft calculation.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9303 posts in 2833 days

#14 posted 09-10-2012 07:41 PM

My understanding is that you pay for the volume of the board as it is rough cut off of the saw mill….

That means that when buying S4S, you pay for the volume of wood b4 it goes through the 4 sided planer.

So an S4S board that is 2×6x12’ will be billed as 12 BF of lumber, even though the board actually measures 1-1/2” x 5-1/2” x 12’. That’s why they call it 2×6 nom. You pay for the volume of chips coming out of the planer, and you pay for the labor to plane the board.

We buy our rough hardwood green, so I don’t see the 10% “shrinkage” factor….. but if they’re selling the board as KD, it makes sense that you would pay for the size of the board off of the rough cut mill, before it was kiln dried, as well as the labor and energy cost of operating the kiln.

Note that on the lumber rule, the scale is graduated to the nearest 1/2 BF.

You could always ask the guy in a non-confrontational way…. “can you show me how you determing the BF”

If you don’t like his answer, be thankful that you live in a free country and have the liberty to vote with your feet.

If it’s any consolation, I doubt these guys are getting rich selling lumber.

But then again, if there are no lumber yards in your area, it’s likely that they all went under.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View ChuckV's profile


3237 posts in 4032 days

#15 posted 09-10-2012 07:47 PM

It sounds like they are really skewing things in their favor.

I am fortunate that there are many lumberyard choices in my area. If anything, I come out ahead.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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