Tools & Workshop

Radio: Lumber Grades

If you feel a bit confused when you walk down the lumber aisle in your local home store, you're not alone. For a basic DIY project, it can be tough to know exactly what the names and grades are all about. Here's a primer on different grades of lumber.

Listen to ON LUMBER GRADES or read the text below:

The first thing to know is that no piece of lumber is perfect. That being the case, lumber grades are based on the number of defects in a board. The highest grade is called FAS, for “firsts and seconds.” After that comes “select.” Both FAS and select grades are good choices for architectural framing, molding, and other uses that call for long lengths of wood with few defects. What constitutes a defect? A number of things, including knots, bark pockets, decay, splits or holes.

After select comes “common,” which is suitable for uses that require shorter lengths of clear wood. Number 1 common is often called cabinet grade, since it provides clear boards in the lengths and widths needed for kitchen cabinets. Meanwhile, Number 2A common is an economy grade, so expect shorter lengths without defects. For smaller projects, where long lengths of clear, straight boards are not necessary, number 2A common is typically more than adequate.

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