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Trying to find the right type of wood for your project can be overwhelming. Lumberyards tend to have a lot going on around you, from a wide selection of products, to workers loading and unloading people. It can be very overstimulating, which is why we want to give you a guide to shopping in a lumberyard. This guide will go through the different types of wood that are typically sold in a lumberyard, as well as things to look out for. Let’s get into it!

First, let’s talk about different kinds of wood. There are softwoods and there are hardwoods.It is vital that you pay attention to this and what kind of wood you are buying. Each type is specific for certain jobs and if you don’t buy the right kind, your project could not turn out the way you want it.

Shopping in A Lumber Yard – What is the difference?

Softwood is usually cheaper and comes from Conifer trees. This type of wood is typically used in construction, such as framing for structural buildings, decks and fences. If you are wanting to do a DIY project, this is the type of wood to work with because it is much easier to cut and maneuver.

Hardwood is more expensive and comes from trees such as Oak, Maple, Walnut, Hickory, and Walnut. These woods are much harder to work with, which is why they are typically used for things such as furniture or more high-class items.

Moisture Content

When purchasing any lumber, especially softwoods, you want to make sure to check the moisture content at the time of manufacturing. Most woods should have grades with markings that let you know what the content of moisture was. This is important for softwoods, because the drier a board is, it will shrink. This can affect your project if not accounted for. 

Here is a key for all the different grades:

  • S-GRN means that it is surfaced in green condition
  • S-Dry means it is surfaced dry and moisture content is less than 19 percent after it has been manufactured.
  • MC15 and KD15 mean the moisture at the time it was manufactured was 15 percent or less.
  • KD HT means it was kiln dried and heat treated, which means there is less than 19 percent of moisture was dried. The heat treatment is to prevent bugs and fungus from spreading, most boards are heat treated.

You will also notice a stamp with additional information on it. This is a grading stamp and the symbols mean the following:

  • STAND AND BTR mean it was graded by a certified firm and is qualified to be used in construction.
  • D-FIR is to let you know that the piece of lumber was from a Douglas Fir, which is a type of tree.


Some lumberyards sell plywood, and some don’t. It all depends on what type of material they focus on and if the sales for plywood are in demand or not. Plywood is classified in four different sections:

  • Exterior – This type of plywood is waterproof and can be used outdoors and will withstand weather and moisture exposure.
  • Exposure 1 – This is plywood that is waterproof, but not classified as being able to be exposed to weather and moisture.
  • Exposure 2 – This is an interior type of plywood and is intended to be used where there is little to no moisture.
  • Interior – This type can only be used indoors and will not withhold in the outdoors.

You can also find Plywood classified like this, that will determine the surface condition of the plywood.

  • A – This plywood is smooth and paintable, which makes it ideal for projects that require painting
  • B – This plywood has a minor splitting
  • C- This plywood may have some tight knots and can have some defects in coloration.
  • D – There will be large knots and holes in this grade.

This is just the introduction to products you could come across when shopping at a lumberyard. These products are the basis of construction and DIY needs. Check out Part Two for information on fencing, decking, siding and much more!