10 Mistakes Buying Wood – Don’t Waste Your Money

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When starting a woodworking project, it’s important to know what mistakes to avoid when buying wood. In an article, the author shares ten common mistakes to avoid, including buying warped wood, lumber that is too wet, and wood with defects. The article also offers tips on how to check for moisture content and defects, and how to choose the right wood species for your project.

Key Takeaways

  • Avoid buying warped wood, lumber that is too wet, and wood with defects.
  • Check for moisture content and defects before purchasing wood.
  • Choose the right wood species for your project to achieve the desired look.
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Avoid Buying Warped Wood

When buying lumber for a project, it’s important to avoid buying warped wood. Warping is a common issue that can cause problems during construction and lead to wasted time and money. There are several types of warping to watch out for, including bow, crook or crown, cup, twist, and wet noodle warping.

Identifying Bow Warping

Bow warping is when the face of the board has a warp, but the edge is straight. To identify bow warping, look down the board or sight down the board, and then turn it on its edge 90 degrees and look down the edge. If the board has a bow warp, it will rock back and forth on the face like a little smiley face.

Identifying Crook or Crown Warping

Crook or crown warping is when the face is pretty flat, but when you turn it on the edge, it is up. To identify crook or crown warping, lay the board flat on the ground. If it rocks back and forth, side to side, it has a cup warp.

Identifying Cup Warping

Cup warping is when the board has a kind of straight size, but there is a dish in the middle and then a crown on the other side. To identify cup warping, lay the board flat on the ground. If it rocks back and forth, side to side, it has a cup warp.

Identifying Twist Warping

Twist warping is the worst type of warping, as it requires a lot of machining to get the board flat. To identify twist warping, check if one corner is down and one corner is up. If you push down on it, the opposite corner pops up.

Identifying Wet Noodle Warping

Wet noodle warping is a type of warping that is elusive to see in the wild, but you can best find it in the big box stores at the smallest lumber sizes. It’s characterized by bending and twisting in ways that only a wet noodle could. If you see one of these, run away from it as fast as you can.

By avoiding warped wood, you can save time and money on your construction projects. Remember to check for bow, crook or crown, cup, twist, and wet noodle warping before purchasing lumber.

Avoid Buying Lumber That Is Too Wet

When buying lumber, it is important to avoid purchasing wood that is too wet. Moisture in the wood causes warping and movement, which can be a major problem for your project. There are a few methods to determine the moisture content of the wood before you buy it.

Weight and Feel Method

One way to check for moisture is to use the weight and feel method. If the piece of wood feels heavier than other pieces, it likely has more water content. Additionally, wood with more moisture will feel cooler to the touch than drier pieces.

Using a Moisture Meter

Another way to check for moisture content is to use a moisture meter. These devices have small pads on the back that you can place on top of the wood to get a reading. The moisture content of the wood is displayed on the meter. While there are expensive moisture meters available, a basic model under $50 will suffice.

It is recommended to test the moisture content of a piece of wood in your shop that you know is dry, and then compare it to the wood you are considering purchasing. This will give you an idea of the moisture content of the wood you are buying. The ideal moisture content for lumber is between 6% and 8%.

By using these methods, you can avoid buying lumber that is too wet and prevent warping and movement in your project.

Check Thoroughly for Defects

When buying wood, it is important to check thoroughly for defects to avoid wasting your money. Defects can affect the stability and appearance of the wood, making it difficult to work with. Here are some common defects to look out for:

Exposed Bark

One of the defects that is easy to spot is exposed bark on the edges of the boards. This can be more prevalent in some areas than others. While it may not affect the strength of the wood, it can be unsightly and difficult to work around.


Knots are another common defect to look out for. Some boards may have a lot of knots, especially two by fours. As you move up to larger boards, the knots may be fewer but larger. It is possible to find boards with fewer knots, but it may take some digging.

Sap Pockets

Sap pockets are typically from wood that is cut in the spring or summer when the sap is up in the tree. If you do have some resin in the sap pocket, you can use some shellac-based primer to seal them in. If left untreated, they can bleed through, especially on white paint.


It is important to look for cracks in the wood as well. Cracks can be found in small pieces or large boards. While some cracks may be easy to work around, others can be difficult to fix and may affect the strength and stability of the wood.

By checking thoroughly for defects, you can ensure that the wood you purchase is of good quality and will be easier to work with.

Check the End Grain

When buying wood, it’s important to check the end grain to determine how the wood will look once it’s cut and how stable it will be. The end grain can tell you a lot about the wood’s species, color, and grain pattern.

One common mistake people make when buying wood is not checking the end grain before making a purchase. The end grain can reveal the most unstable part of the tree, known as the pith. It’s important to avoid buying wood with the pith because those boards are prone to twist more than others.

There are two other major types of ingrain: flatsawn and quartersawn. Flatsawn grain gives straight lines on the edge and cathedral grain on the face, while quartersawn grain gives tight, consistent lines on the face. Depending on what you want on the face or edge of the wood, you can choose the right boards by looking at the end grain.

If you’re not going to be painting the wood and want a clear finish, it’s important to buy wood of the same species. Different types of wood species can make up the same size boards, and they can have very different colors. For example, white fir has a pale yellow look, while Southern Yellow Pine has a very yellow hue.

Checking the end grain can save you from buying unstable wood and ensure that you get the look you want for your project.

Ensure Wood of the Same Species

When buying wood for a project that requires a clear finish, it is important to ensure that all the wood is of the same species. Different species of wood can have vastly different colors and grains, which can be noticeable once the project is completed.

For example, spruce, pine, and fir can all be used to make two by fours, but they can have different hues and grain patterns. It is important to inspect the wood and choose pieces that match in color and grain.

Inspecting the end grain can help determine the species of the wood. Different species have distinct patterns on the end grain, such as cathedral grain or straight lines. Choosing pieces with the same end grain pattern can help ensure that they are of the same species.

Using wood of the same species can also help ensure that the wood ages and weathers at the same rate. Different species can have different reactions to sunlight, moisture, and other environmental factors, which can cause the wood to age and weather differently.

In summary, when buying wood for a project with a clear finish, it is important to ensure that all the wood is of the same species. Inspecting the end grain and choosing pieces with matching color and grain can help ensure consistency in the finished project.

Buying Construction Grade When You Need Hardwood

If you’re looking for hardwood for your project, it’s important to know that not all wood sold in construction-grade lumber is hardwood. In fact, most of it is not. Construction-grade lumber is typically made from softwoods like pine, spruce, and fir, which are not as durable or long-lasting as hardwoods.

So, how do you go about buying construction-grade lumber when you need hardwood? One option is to look for specialty lumber yards that carry hardwoods. These yards will have a wider selection of hardwoods available and can help you choose the right wood for your project.

Another option is to look for construction-grade lumber that is made from hardwoods. While this is not as common, it is possible to find construction-grade lumber made from hardwoods like oak, maple, and cherry. However, keep in mind that this wood may not be of the same quality as higher-grade hardwoods and may require more work to get the desired finish.

When buying construction-grade lumber for a hardwood project, it’s important to inspect the wood for defects and warping, just as you would with any other lumber. Look for straight, flat boards with minimal knots and cracks. And, if possible, use a moisture meter to ensure the wood has a moisture content appropriate for your project.

In summary, buying construction-grade lumber when you need hardwood requires some extra research and inspection. Look for specialty lumber yards or construction-grade lumber made from hardwoods, and be sure to thoroughly inspect the wood for defects and warping. With a little extra effort, you can find the right wood for your project without breaking the bank.

Buying Wrong Wood For Outdoor Use

When it comes to choosing the right wood for outdoor use, it’s important to consider certain factors to ensure that the wood you select will withstand the elements and last for a long time. One of the biggest mistakes people make when buying wood for outdoor use is choosing the wrong type of wood.

Some types of wood are better suited for outdoor use than others. For example, softwoods like pine and cedar are popular choices for outdoor projects because they are naturally resistant to rot and decay. Hardwoods like oak and maple, on the other hand, are not as well-suited for outdoor use because they are more susceptible to rot and decay.

Another factor to consider when buying wood for outdoor use is the level of moisture resistance. Wood that is not properly treated or sealed can absorb moisture, which can lead to warping, cracking, and decay. It’s important to choose wood that has been treated with a water-resistant coating or sealant to protect it from the elements.

Additionally, it’s important to choose wood that is the right size and thickness for your project. Thinner boards may not be able to support heavy loads, while thicker boards may be too heavy or bulky for certain projects. It’s important to choose wood that is the right size and thickness for your specific needs.

In conclusion, choosing the right type of wood for outdoor use is crucial to the success and longevity of your project. By considering factors like moisture resistance, size, and type of wood, you can ensure that your project will withstand the elements and last for years to come.

Settling For Only 2X4s

When it comes to buying wood, many people settle for only 2x4s. While these boards are versatile and commonly used, they may not always be the best option for your project. It’s important to consider the specific needs of your project and choose the appropriate wood accordingly.

One of the main drawbacks of using only 2x4s is the limited options in terms of species and quality. Most big box stores only carry a few types of wood, and the quality can vary greatly within each stack. By limiting yourself to 2x4s, you may be sacrificing the overall look and durability of your project.

Additionally, 2x4s may not be suitable for certain projects that require thicker or wider boards. For example, if you’re building a sturdy workbench or bookshelf, you may want to consider using thicker boards to ensure stability and longevity.

While 2x4s can be a cost-effective option, it’s important to weigh the potential drawbacks before settling for them. Consider your project’s specific needs and do some research on different wood types and grades to ensure the best outcome.

Not Searching For The Best Pricing

When buying wood, it’s important to not only look for quality but also to consider the price. However, one mistake to avoid is not searching for the best pricing. Many people assume that all lumber yards and big box stores offer the same prices, but this is not always the case.

It’s important to do your research and compare prices at different stores. You may find that one store offers better deals on certain types of wood or during certain times of the year. Additionally, some stores may offer discounts for buying in bulk or for frequent customers.

Another mistake to avoid is assuming that the cheapest price is always the best option. While it’s important to stay within your budget, buying the cheapest wood may result in lower quality and more defects. This can lead to more time and money spent on repairs and replacements in the long run.

It’s also important to consider the cost of transportation. Buying wood from a store further away may seem cheaper, but the cost of gas and time spent driving may outweigh the savings.

Overall, it’s important to balance quality and price when buying wood. Doing your research and comparing prices can help you find the best deals without sacrificing quality.

Trading Too Much Time For Money

Many people fall into the trap of trading too much time for money when it comes to woodworking. They spend countless hours in their shop, creating beautiful pieces, but end up making very little profit for their efforts. This can be due to a number of factors, such as undercharging for their work, not valuing their time properly, or not being efficient with their processes.

One common mistake is undercharging for work. Many woodworkers don’t take into account the amount of time and effort that goes into creating a piece, and end up charging less than they should. This can lead to burnout, as they are not making enough money to sustain their business or their passion for woodworking.

Another mistake is not valuing their time properly. Woodworking can be a time-consuming process, and it’s important to take into account the time spent on each project when pricing it. This includes not only the time spent in the shop, but also the time spent sourcing materials, communicating with clients, and delivering the final product.

Efficiency is also key when it comes to trading time for money. Woodworkers should be constantly looking for ways to streamline their processes and reduce the amount of time spent on each project. This can include investing in tools that make the job easier, or finding ways to batch similar tasks together to save time.

In conclusion, trading too much time for money can be a common mistake for woodworkers. To avoid this, it’s important to properly value your time and charge accordingly, as well as finding ways to be more efficient in your processes. By doing so, you can create beautiful pieces while also making a sustainable profit.

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