Timber Buying Guide

Timber supplies are an essential part of a wide range of different professions, occupations, and hobbies, and once you are involved in the timber trade, you will find it a stable source of income that never goes out of fashion and is always necessary for a particular group of traders. However, professionals in all kinds of crafts require timber supplies for their everyday use.

Timber can be bought from DIY shops, some hardware stores, ironmongers, builders’ merchants and timber merchants. The smaller shops and many builders’ merchants do not stock the hardwoods, but most towns have at least one timber trader or saw mill selling softwoods and hardwoods.

Timber suppliers are often cheaper than other shops, particularly for large quantities. They tend to know how to use wood and how to treat it. However, the larger ones are often busy supplying the trade and will expect a large order presented in a knowledgeable manner. Standard sizes are widely available in the large DIY superstores.

Small timber traders who rely heavily on DIY customers and builders’ merchants mainly stock the softwoods. The wood varies in quality, so it is essential for you to choose it carefully and not to order it by telephone. However, by careful choice, it is possible to buy small quantities of good quality timber cheaper than that from many large timber dealers. From time to time, small timber traders obtain limited quantities of new or reclaimed hardwoods. If you require hardwoods, it may be worthwhile making frequent visits and to buy materials for future use.

Many DIY shops carry a stock of standard size softwoods and will often cut wood to size though the cost may be high.

Timber prices can vary widely, so it is worth shopping around before you buy. Merchants work out their timber prices by its cost per cubic meter. What this means is that 1.8m length of 50 x 50mm softwood costs twice as much as a 1.8m length of 50 x 25mm. Small sizes (which involve a lot of work for their volume) and gigantic sizes (which may be difficult for the timber merchant to get) often work out more expensive than you would expect. Many timber suppliers price their softwood by the meter but sell it in the standard metric lengths. Hardwoods are sometimes still priced by the foot.

Some Timber merchants use a sliding scale for working out their discounts the more you order, the less expensive it is a meter. Others have a sheer cut-off point quantities up to 100m are one price a meter, quantities over 100m are cheaper, so it can work out less expensive to buy 56 standard 1.8m lengths of softwood (100.8m) than 55 (99m). Most merchants deliver timber, but charges and distances vary.

Traditionally, softwoods are cheap, easily worked timbers used in house construction for flooring, rafters, joists, windows and doors. They are often painted. Hardwoods, on the other hand, are more expensive and considered more durable, and harder to work with. They are used for furniture and sometimes finished with stain and then polished or varnished to bring out their natural decorative features of grain and texture.