Stop Your House From Wasting Your Money

4 Imperfections To Watch Out When Choosing Lumber

When using lumber for your interior or exterior home remodel, it's important to take the time to handpick each piece. After all, the finished project can only look as good as the material you use to build it. Whether you obtain a whole shipment of lumber at your doorstep or go to the hardware store yourself to pick out each board, you must cast away pieces with any of the following faults. Using lumber with rot, pith, knots or contours may result in premature material failures or poor construction results. Read on to learn more about this topic.


When lumber is exposed to high humidity levels or direct moisture, it will start to rot. Although moisture causes the rot to develop and spread, the official name for this process is dry rot. The dry rot often starts on the outside surface, so it is easy to detect with a visual inspection. Furthermore, rotten wood often feels crumbly or spongy to the touch. You should wipe the surface mold or mildew off the lumber and look at the area underneath to check for rotten spots. Sometimes, the surface just develops a small amount of discoloration that has not yet started to affect the strength of the wood.


As small branches begin to grow on trees, the center of their circular mass is filled with pith. The soft, open pith cells allow water and nutrients to travel deep into the branches to facilitate growth. Unfortunately, upon turning the tree into lumber, some of the boards may end up with pith channels extending across the grain. The presence of pith can drastically weaken the strength of the board, leading to breakage upon adding external pressure or stress to that piece of wood. Unless you are planning to cut the board down to size, and remove the pith completely, it is best to set the defective board to the side and pick a different piece of lumber.


As small branches grow and harden, they create a tight, solid knot that you can see once the tree is broken down into pieces of lumber. Small, seamless knots often blend into the grain of the wood and do not pose a problem during the building process. Large knots, on the other hand, often develop their own grain that can break apart from the rest of the board when put into use. Dark, discolored knots or ones with possible rotten areas can also pop apart while completing your construction project. If possible, it makes sense to avoid boards with large, disjointed knots.


During the drying process, lumber can start to warp, or develop contours, along its length. The warped areas may not catch your attention at first glance. To spot warped boards, you should stand each piece of lumber on its end and look down the length of the board. If you see that the surface looks somewhat curved or wavy, the board may be going through the warping process. If the lumber continues to dry out after purchase, the contours will slowly worsen, often making that piece unusable. Although you can predict the grain movement fairly easily, it's not often worth the hassle when you can just pick a different board altogether.

Returning Faulty Lumber

If you did select a straight shipment to your home, place all of the defective lumber pieces to the side if you spot any of the above issues. Contact your lumber supplier and ask for a refund for the defective pieces. Many lumber companies will send out replacement boards or simply credit your account for the pieces you could not use.

Alternatively, if you pick up the boards yourself, be sure to let the hardware store know about the imperfect pieces in the stack. The hardware company will likely trim away the damaged areas or just sell the lumber at a discount to people using it for smaller projects.