Categorizing Lumber

If you usually think of timber as a standing or fallen tree instead of term for sawn wood products, you aren’t alone. Colloquially in the states and Canada, timber usually used to refer to trees or wood that hasn’t been processed. However, where we tend to use the word “lumber” for the milled boards and sawn products and “timber” for the fallen tree, the rest of the English speaking world uses “timber” for both definitions. This includes the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Lumber can be sorted a few different ways. One distinction is whether the lumber is hardwood or softwood. It may seem counterintuitive, but whether a wood is “hard’ or “soft” has nothing to do with it’s actual hardness.

Hardwood refers to timber coming from flowering or fruit trees known to the science world as dicot angiosperms – stay with me. “Dicot” simply refers to the number of leaves that the tree will have when it sprouts from its seed. “Di” like “bi” means that these sorts of trees grow two leaves in their seed. Angiosperm is biology jargon for produces seeds that are protected by fruits or flowers.

Softwood don’t flower or have fruit, and they are known as gymnosperms. Gymnosperms are often what we’d refer to as evergreens or “coniferous.” Instead of flowers or fruits, gymnosperms often produce cones.

Another way lumber is sorted is by how processed it is. Rough sawn lumber is one of the earliest stages in wood processing. The trees have been cut, but they have not been planed nor dried. Rough sawn lumber is also known as “green” lumber – meaning neither dried nor cured – but it’s rarely actually a different colour than finished wood. Rough lumber will shrink when it is dried and takes more work, but if you have the room to dry and plane this may be the most economic option.

Finished lumber is what happens when the rough lumber continues through all the stages of wood processing. This lumber has been milled smooth and can be used on a variety of products. Since finished lumber has already been dried, it is a bit shorter than the rough variety.

Of course these aren’t the only ways to sort through lumber. It comes in a variety of grades which differ depending on where you’re buying the wood and each different tree produces wood with a unique set of characteristics. If you’re interested or have any questions about which type of lumber is best for your project, come into Timbertown today! We’ll also be happy to answer any of you questions over the phone: (403) 243-6500.