Are you in need of some lumber for your new woodworking project, but live outside the range that would make a trip to a traditional lumber or hardware store in the realm of reasonable possibility? Well, these days, you can still purchase the lumber you need for your new woodworking project without ever leaving your house. If you have been looking for a guide for buying lumber online, then look no further.
This article will serve as your necessary guide of where and how to buy your lumber online, and what to expect from three credible online lumber retailers in terms of pricing, shipping cost, and return policies.
Many people don’t realize that buying lumber from a big box store is not only very expensive, but the product selection is also very poor. If you go to a big box store on Sunday afternoon or Monday, you will most likely be forced to sift through piles of twisted and cracked boards to find one that you might be able to use.
Before we get into the places to buy lumber online, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the terminology that is used. Buying lumber from wood supply companies or sawmills has a few differences than the big box locations.
This is an abbreviated way of saying boards of lumber that are 1 inch thick, or four quarter inches thick. This is probably the most common thickness of boards of lumber that are purchased, and therefore we will focus on 4/4 boards when listing pricing on the online lumber purchasing sites we will be reviewing.
If you are wanting boards that are 2″ thick, you would look for wood that is 8/4. Boards 1.5″ thick are represented as 6/4.
Easy to figure out, but certainly different if you’ve never searched for wood in this format before.
This is a common abbreviation that you will find on an online lumber retailer’s website. BF stands for Board Foot, or more precisely, per board foot, as in price per board foot.
Board foot, is basically just looking at the volume of the wood that are you purchasing. Big box stores offer a limited number of options when it comes to sizes and dimensions. Lumber companies have more availability, therefore it’s easier to calculate sale price in board feet.
Typically you will see the description of a board, or a pack of boards called aptly, a “board pack,” written out on one of these online lumber retailer websites like this- Red Oak 4/4 – $6.99/bf
This means that the online lumber retailer is selling a inch thick board of Red Oak at a price of $6.99 per 1’ (one foot) board.
Okay, lumber buying terminology lesson over. Let’s take a look at some of the online lumber retailers that you should consider buying your lumber from
This is an awesome, straightforward online lumber retailer that offers a very friendly, easy-to-use website, ordering process, and is very customer-centric. They explain the online lumber buying process in plain english, as well as what to expect as far as board selection, how long it will take, and why it takes that long, as well as what to expect from their shipping process (which is pretty darn fast by the way), and how to buy lumber online in the most economical way.
WoodWorkers Source offers no minimum order quantity, but they explain that it is usually in the customer’s best economic interest to place an order that is over 70 lbs, as that is where the best shipping rates per pound come in.
They explain that while they do not markup any parcel shipping or freight cost, shipping lumber is still an awkward process given the rather awkwardness of lumber boards in terms of the amount of space they tend to take up in a delivery truck, and therefore they recommend ordering in quantities of 70 lbs or more, as this is typically the minimum amount of space able to be reserved on a delivery truck, even if you are shipping just one board of just a few pounds.
Another reason that WoodWorkers Source is so awesome is the sheer depth of information on each wood that they provide on their website. It can be quite an informative lesson on the wood we are so used to working with.
Each type of wood that they sell is retrofitted with it’s own profile page, where they list specs such as color ranges, other names the wood may be referred to as, typical uses of the wood, and what the harvesting tree is like in terms of hardness, and where it is found.
They also provide incredibly in-depth information on what the precise weight of each wood is in lbs per board foot (bf), the hardness according to the Janka test – which is the measure of the amount of pressure that is required to embed a steel bar halfway inside the center of a board – and density according to the water test, which is the a comparison between the density of the wood, and the density of water.
This online lumber retailer also offers a membership called the Rosewood Club and it can work out to be very dealworthy for the active woodworker. All that is required to join the Rosewood Club is a one-time $20 fee that grants life-time membership for the joining woodworker. After that, all that is required to keep your membership active is one purchase per year with no minimum amount required. Membership to the Rosewood Club comes with a couple perks. The first is a high end woodworking tape measure that is sent to every new Rosewood Club member, as well as points based rebates that offer a $50 rebate for every 1000 points, with $1 being equal to one point.
WoodWorkers Source ships fairly quickly, with every order shipping from their warehouse in 72 hours. They have three warehouses in Arizona, and therefore deliveries to anywhere in the Southwest will get there in one to four days, anywhere west of the East Coast can expect delivery inside a week, with the East Coast having a delivery range of five to eight days. Even Hawaii can expect delivery within only eight to eleven days!
As far as pricing goes, WoodWorkersSource offers 4/4 of Red Oak for $4.99/bf, and 4/4 of High Character Walnut for $8.99/bf
Should you need to send your order back, you can expect your return or refund to be processed in two business days, and return shipping will be paid for by WoodWorkers Source on errors caused by the warehouse. Simply fill out the return form and submit it through email or fax with accompanying pictures.
Rockler is a great general online retailer for lumber, as well as all things woodworking. They sell everything from hardware like screws, nuts, and bolts, to workshop gear, finishing products, power and hand tools, in addition to their wide selection of lumber.
They website is filled with customer reviews which can serve as real insight on the quality of their products, including lumber. These reviews can also offer inspiration for great woodworking ideas as many customers upload pictures of what they used the wood for with their reviews. So as you are deciding which wood, and which variety and quantity you need to order, make sure to take a minute to peruse the comments and reviews.
Rockler offers an email newsletter that they sometimes offer promotions for subscribing to, including free shipping on low order minimums. Rockler offers no minimum order quantities, but signing up for their email newsletter might be a great way to score even sweeter deals.
To give you general pricing feel for Rockler, you can expect to pay $7.99/bf of 4/4 Walnut, and as much as $24.99/bf of 4/4 Red Oak.
If you are looking for some exotic woods, then Bell Forest is the online lumber retailer you should buy from. They offer wood cut from over 100 species of exotic wood, and they even offer you the ability to hand pick your own boards. They do this by keeping an updated and easy to use online inventory index of every single board, across every individual species of wood, in the entire warehouse from which they are able to cut. This index is complete with unique pictures of each board, as well as such as weight, height, width, length, and thickness dimensions. They even offer SKU’s which are the individual product description warehouses use for inventory, so you can have the best possible reference point if you need to call them.
Bell Forest offers free shipping on orders over $250, and no minimum order is required. They also offer several different shipping options including Economy, Standard, and Expedited. For Expedited shipments you can expect your order to ship the same day, if placed before 1 pm EST. For Standard shipments, you can expect your order to ship within five business days.
As frs delivery windows go you can expect to receive your order within two days if you are in the Midwest, three days to the East Coast, three days to the Western Mountain states, and four days anywhere under the PST umbrella. You should allow two weeks for Economy shipments.
It is important to note that Bell Forest offers discounted FedEx shipping rates, but this discount comes with a waiving of the FedEx Money Back Guarantee, which can mean you might not get any credits for product damaged through shipping.
For pricing reference, you can expect to pay some pretty great prices on less exotic wood like Red Oak, and Walnut with pricing for 4/4 Red Oak at $2.25/bf, and 4/4 of Walnut at $2.25/bf.