Many homeowners today tackle their own home renovation and remodeling projects or are eager to build their own furniture, as you can usually find instructional videos online and even rent heavy-duty tools that are needed. Handling your own projects often means picking out your own timber supplies, but this can be more complicated than you might realize. It's easy to think that timber is virtually all the same and you should opt for the cheapest thing you can find when at the lumberyard, but note a few factors you don't want to overlook when you're ready to shop.

Look at the grain on the end

The way the grain on the end of a board is directed will tell you how the wood was cut. Grain that goes vertically is quarter sawn wood. If the grain curves, this is flat sawn wood. 

Flat sawn is the least stable of wood cuts, and the one most likely to absorb moisture and humidity and then expand and contract. Quarter sawn wood is more stable and less likely to change shape over the years. You might opt for flat sawn boards for floorboards as these can often expand and simply press against each other without causing damage, but for doors and windows, you need a stable wood that won't pull away from the frame. Choose quarter sawn wood for these projects.


Most timber will have some type of defect; this can be knots in the wood, insect holes, or bending that is called twisting and cupping. Defects often mean a cheaper piece of timber. Very small defects such as insect holes might be filled in with epoxy or wood putty, and knots might actually be desirable for items like tables, doors, and cabinets where you want to preserve the look of natural wood. You might also be able to plane down slight twisting and cupping with boards. Be cautious about buying timber with extreme defects but if you know you can work around these slight problems, this can mean saving money on your timber supplies.

Consider replacement pieces

You might want to invest in very expensive cherry, mahogany, or a rare species of timber for items like furniture, cabinets, and the like. However, note if you can easily and affordably get replacement pieces when needed. If a furniture leg should break or a cabinet door get scratched beyond repair, you don't want to find that a rare species of timber you choose is no longer on the market, or wind up paying more than you expected for replacement pieces. Keep that in mind when shopping for your original materials and choose something you can easily find and replace as needed.