This guide explores the best places to buy lumber for cost-saving and top-quality. You’ll also discover the various maneuvers to cut the costs of lumber purchases.
The cheapest places to buy lumber are local sawmills and lumber yards. You may also access deals and discounts at big box retailers to save money on timber purchases. Mom-and-pop hardware stores can save money if you have a small project.
The rest of the article will include more details about the best locations and give specifics on the pricing you can expect to pay.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Lumber From Lowe’s or a Lumber Yard?
It’s cheaper to buy lumber from a lumber yard than from Lowe’s and other big-box if you have a large project, like building a house. Lumber yards generally offer more generous quantity discounts and better timber quality than big box retailers.
You may want to stop at Lowe’s instead if you only want to buy a small volume of lumber and you don’t mind the quality. Moreover, Lowe’s may be a convenient place to buy wood if the nearest lumber yard is far off, which may increase the transport cost.
Here’re the typical dimensional lumber prices at retailers. Lower prices than these should be a good deal.
|8’ (2.4 m)
|10’ (3 m)
|12’ (3.7 m)
|14’ (4.3 m)
1. Go to the Source With Local Sawmills
The timber you buy at lumber yards or home improvement centers comes from sawmills. These businesses go to the forest to obtain trees, cut them down, and process the wood into lumber for various applications.
The lumber flows to the market through distributors that take it to lumber yards, big box stores, and local hardware. Each of these supply chain participants increases the lumber’s cost for their share of the profit.
Going direct to sawmills allows you to bypass the middlemen, which can unlock a huge cost-saving. Therefore, the sawmill is the cheapest place to buy lumber if you can access it.
- Cheap lumber prices: Buying from the source allows you to pay the best price possible along the supply chain.
- Access to rough-cut lumber: The sawmill is the best place to go if you want rough-cut timber freshly out of the mill. Rough-cut timber is ideal for certain projects since it comes thicker.
- Extra lumber dimension: The timber dimension shrinks as it goes through the processing stages. Sawmills are an excellent place to obtain thicker lumber if your project requires such.
- Long wait time for shipment: Sawmills can get busy, resulting in long order backlogs. As a result, you may have to wait a long time before you receive your lumber shipment.
- Unsuitable for small projects: Sawmills typically fulfill large orders. It may be uneconomic to buy from sawmills if you only need a tiny amount of timber for a DIY project.
- Requires knowledge of lumber grading: Timber is sorted into grade groups after milling. If you aren’t conversant with lumber grading, picking the right lumber at the sawmill may be challenging.
If you have your own trees, you may hire a portable sawmill service to churn out lumber for your project on-site. This arrangement can also yield significant cost savings.
Click here to search for sawmills near you.
2. Survey the Lumber Yard
Lumber yards supply building materials, and timber is their main product. They obtain their supplies from distributors in large volumes, yielding substantial wholesale discounts.
Moreover, yards stock a wide variety of lumber across species and sizes. You mostly get processed lumber here, but you may also obtain rough-cut timber.
The lumber yard is one of the cheapest places to buy lumber for large projects. They offer generous discounts on bulk purchases.
Besides their mostly favorable pricing, lumber yards are also highly knowledgeable about wood products. Therefore, they can provide excellent advice to help you select suitable lumber for your project.
Although lumber yards generally offer competitive timber prices, they typically have minimum quantity requirements. As a result, you may not see the cost-saving if your order is below the minimum threshold.
There are ways you may get over this challenge to unlock lumber yard discounts. If you regularly work on small projects, consider making a one-time bulk purchase to cover several projects.
You may also team up with others to meet the lumber yard’s minimum sale volume requirement for bulk discounts.
- Competitive lumber prices: Lumber yards are the next cheapest place to buy timber after sawmills. They offer attractive prices on large projects.
- Broad lumber variety: Lumber yards source supplies from various distributors, making them rich with timber of various types for every project.
- Offer custom cuts: If the standard lumber measurement doesn’t suit your need, the lumber yard can cut it to your requirement.
- Expert advice on wood: Some types of wood work best for certain projects than others. Lumber yards have some of the most knowledgeable people on timber matters. They can help you make the right purchase decision.
- Expensive for small projects: Many lumber yards have minimum sale volumes. As a result, taking a small project to a lumber yard may cost you more rather than save you money.
- Bulk discounts don’t come easy: While lumber yards have some of the most attractive quantity discounts on timber, the discounts don’t come easy. You may have to increase your order dramatically to access discounts.
3. Check Out Big Box Stores
Home improvement centers such as Home Depot, Menards, Lowe’s, and McCoys are worth checking if you’re in the market for cheap lumber.
Big box stores can offer competitive lumber prices to entice you, hoping you’ll buy their other products.
Big box retailers mainly obtain their lumber supplies from distributors that supply lumber yards. As a result, they also offer a reasonably wide variety of timber, though at a smaller scale than yards.
- Access to timber and tools: Home improvement stores sell lumber and the tools you may need to work on your project. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for timber and tools that go with it, a big box retailer fits the bill.
- Discount opportunity: Big box stores typically fill smaller orders than lumber yards. If you surprise them with big business, you may get an attractive quantity discount.
- Quality lumber doesn’t come easy: You may access great lumber quality at the big box store just when fresh stock has arrived. Otherwise, buying lumber at these stores involves much sifting for acceptable quality.
- Expensive for large projects: If you have a large project, the discounts that big box stores offer may not match the competitive prices of lumber yards.
4. Go to the Local Mom-and-Pop Hardware
The best place to buy lumber for small projects is often your local hardware store. Apart from potentially getting attractive prices on common lumber cuts for small quantities, you can also save time and fuel when you buy from the local hardware.
- Ideal for small projects: Small projects won’t earn you quantity discounts at the big box stores, much less the lumber yards and sawmills. The local hardware might be more open to negotiating its prices.
- Personalized service: The local hardware can offer unmatched customer service. It’s easy to build rapport with mom-and-pop outlets that could yield benefits down the road.
- Save on fuel if you buy locally: While the discount may be unavailable or insignificant at the local hardware store, you can spare yourself a long drive and save fuel by shopping locally.
- Limited product selection: The mom-and-pop hardware can only offer a modest quantity and variety of lumber. You may have to visit several outlets to get everything you want.
- Custom cuts aren’t easy: Some local hardware may cut your lumber to the custom size you want. However, most mom-and-pop stores have limited equipment to process timber for customers.
Are Lumber Prices Expected To Drop?
Lumber prices can fluctuate over seasons and years. The prices can rise or fall without notice. As a result, you can accurately predict whether lumber prices will spike or dip this year or the next. In recent years, though, lumber prices have trended upward.
Several factors impact wood prices. If you understand how these factors cause lumber price fluctuation, you may time your purchase for the best prices.
- Housing construction industry trends: The housing construction industry is a major driver of lumber demand. As a result, lumber prices largely track housing demand.
- Weather conditions impact wood harvesting: Logging is easier in some weather conditions than others. Sawmills may experience log shortages in wet weather, resulting in a limited lumber supply.
- Wildfire outbreaks disrupt lumber supplies and affect prices: Trees are defenseless against the fire. When fires break out in forests, they can wipe out thousands of acres of trees in the blink of an eye.
- Beetle attacks on timberlands: Beetles are lethal to trees when they attack. They’ve attacked timberlands more forcefully in recent years. Climate change is a reason for the devastating beetle infestation of timberlands.
- Limited market competition: Canada supplies about one-third of the US lumber demand. The curbs on Canadian lumber entering the US have limited competition and contributed to the high lumber prices.
Who Buys Rough Cut Lumber?
Many pros and DIYers go for rough-cut lumber to save money because it costs less than finished lumber. Since hardwood is usually expensive, there may be significant savings if you buy the rough boards and finish them yourself.
The rough lumber also offers an additional dimension to work with. As a result, you can finish the lumber and still have it thicker than what you can get from lumber yards and home improvement centers.
Because of the extra dimension, you may also resaw the rough lumber to make two pieces, saving you money.
Moreover, others buy rough lumber for aesthetic reasons. It can provide an excellent finish to projects that require a rough finishing look. Go to the sawmill if you want the rough-cut lumber.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Lumber in Bulk?
It is cheaper to buy lumber in bulk because many suppliers offer quantity discounts. As a result, purchasing in bulk is one of the smarter ways to obtain lumber cheaply. You should note that while lumber suppliers generally offer bulk discounts, many have minimum sale volume requirements.
Although your current project may only require a small amount of lumber, you may buy in bulk to save money and keep the remaining materials for future projects. Lumber yards may offer better discounts than big box stores and mom-and-pop hardware on large-volume purchases.
Is Lumber Cheaper in Winter or Summer?
Lumber is usually cheaper in summer than in winter, considering the operating conditions for sawmills. The wet conditions in winter can make harvesting and milling wood challenging, consequently limiting lumber supply and driving up prices.
There may be little difference in lumber prices in winter and summer. The reason is that lumber distributors have mastered the supply and demand dynamics and can stock more materials to reduce winter supply disruptions.
How Much Cheaper Is Rough Cut Lumber?
Rough-cut lumber can be more than 20% cheaper than the finished options. Since the sawmill or lumberyard hasn’t incurred processing costs on this material, they will sell it for less than the finished lumber.
Additionally, the extra thickness of rough-cut lumber means you can slice it to obtain two boards for the price of one.
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Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!