Are you looking to start a woodworking project and need some cheap lumber or just want some extra wood laying around for your DIY project ideas. Lumber prices have soared recently, fortunately though home improvement stores can still be a great place to find cheap wood. In this post, we’ll discuss the most common types of wood used for wood working projects and cheap lumber options available at home improvement stores.
- Why Is Wood Expensive?
- Common Types of Cheap Lumber Used in DIY
- Cheap Wood Alternatives
- Where to Get Cheap Wood and Cheap Lumber
- Tips for Using Cheap Wood
Why Is Wood Expensive?
At your local home improvement stores, you can find a wide range of wood materials all with varying price points, so to find cheap lumber you really have to search. But why is there such a discrepancy in cost? Here are the primary reasons behind the variations in prices.
Certain types of lumber are more expensive due to their long growth period and intensive manufacturing process. Hardwoods such as oak and walnut can be costly when compared to softwoods like pine, which require less processing and grow much quicker than hardwoods. This results in Pine wood typically being a cheaper less expensive wood option.
When looking for wood for your projects, you will also find a wide range of quality within each type of wood. For example, pine can range from knotty pine which is much cheaper and has tons of visible knots (almost making it unusable), to heartwood pine which has fewer knots and a premium grade finish. The higher the quality of the wood, the higher the price point for the wood.
You might notice pricing varies based on the size of the wood board, too. Boards that are very wide tend to be more expensive because there is a smaller selection of trees available that wide boards can be cut from. Similarly, smaller thinner boards may also come with higher associated costs since it requires extra processing just to cut the wood into the thinner strips. This is why it is often cheaper to buy a larger piece of wood and have the pros at the store cut it down to size for you.
Common Types of Cheap Lumber Used in DIY
Pine wood is by far the cheapest wood that you can get on a consumer level, but it is also one of the best wood options when a high strength wood and low cost are needed.
Pine wood is sourced from the dozens of different pine species that grow natively around the world. It is notably resistant to stiffness and change, which makes it an ideal option for wood furniture construction. When looking for cheap lumber people often start looking at Pine wood.
Poplar is another cheap wood option that can be used in place of expensive hardwood when appearance and workability are most important. While poplar is not nearly as strong as maple or oak, poplar is still a decent option cheap lumber option for DIY projects and furniture making.
Poplar is a great option for many projects that will create smaller scraps of wood. The ability to make very small planks of wood with a distinct natural color for custom wood DIY products is a huge benefit of using poplar.
If these options are still too expensive for you I have listed some cheap wood alternatives that I have used at one time or another for various DIY projects around my home.
Cheap Wood Alternatives
Cheap Wood: Furring Strips
Furring strips are the perfect go-to choice for a variety of tasks, both small and large. Their thin, lightweight design makes them an ideal option for framing, construction projects or DIY ventures like making shelves and frames; they can also be painted to create beautiful wooden signs! These affordable pieces of spruce, pine or fir come in different lengths and widths at most home improvement stores – usually costing just $1 to $2 per board. Plus with furring strips being easy to cut with tools you have around the home already, it’s no wonder why these furring strips have become such a popular cheap lumber option!
Cheap Wood: Paint Sticks
Paint sticks are (sometimes) free, thin, and lightweight pieces of wood that are used to stir paint before use. However, they can also be used for various DIY projects, such as making picture frames, small boxes, and other decorative items. Paint sticks are relatively easy to work with and can be painted, stained, or even burned to create a rustic look. You can find paint sticks for free at most home improvement stores, or you can purchase them in bulk for a few dollars. You can also ask your local paint store if they have any extra paint sticks that they’re willing to give away. PRO TIP: When using paint sticks for your next DIY use a saw to cut the grooved handle off so you have a nice and straight piece of cheap wood to work with.
Cheap Wood: Fencing Boards
Fence boards are boards used to build fences, but they can also be used for various DIY projects, such as making furniture or accent walls. Fence boards are made of cedar, pine, or spruce, and are available in different lengths and widths. They’re relatively inexpensive and can be used for projects that require a rustic or weathered look. This is due to the fact that fence boards are not usually processed to be smooth they have rough feel to them making them ideal for farmhouse inspired DIY projects. You can find fence boards at nearly every home improvement store. The cost of fence boards varies depending on the type of wood and the length and width, but they usually cost around $2 to $5 per board. Fence boards can be a great way to get large amount of cheap lumber for your next DIY project. I made a raised garden bed with leftover fence posts and planks
Cheap Wood: MDF
Medium Density Fiberboard, or MDF, is a cost-effective wood choice for those needing a wooden panel. However, unlike solid wood options, it’s an artificial material similar to plywood and other composite woods. Constructed of sawdust combined with adhesive or resin plus wax, the mixture is made into panels comparable in size to plywood before being cut down into standard measurements. When genuine timber isn’t required then MDF makes an ideal option. MDF is always straight, and there are no knots or grain to worry about if you need to cut it down to size. MDF is most often used for closet shelving, bookshelves, and project benches. One of the side benefits of using MDF as a cheap wood alternative is the slightly higher fire resistance it has over solid wood options. I have used MDF extensively in my homes DIY projects.
Cheap Wood: Framing Lumber
Framing lumber is an affordable and useful type of wood for typically used in construction for framing walls, floors, and roofs. This cheap lumber option is available in various sizes to fit your project needs; standard options include 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x8s. You can find this wood at every hardware store. The cost of each board generally ranges from $2 to $4 depending on the size and type – spruce, pine or fir – so you don’t have to break the bank when doing your next DIY. I have used framing lumber for a variety of home projects such as a garage work bench, raised garden beds and a backyard playhouse.
The one huge downside to using framing a a cheap lumber option os that framing lumber is often in rough shape. Often times boards are not straight or filled with imperfections. Its important to remember nobody is supposed to see framing lumber when used as intended it gets hidden behind drywall or other construction material. When searching for cheap wood in the framing lumber pile you will have to be patient as the search for a decent board can be exhausting. In the end it will be worth it though as framing lumber is sometimes half the cost of a traditional wood board.
Plywood is another great cheap wood option. Plywood is a highly versatile option for building furniture or tackling nearly any DIY project. This engineered wood material is crafted by stacking layers of thin veneer that are then glued together and can be purchased in various grades and thicknesses to meet your specific needs. This material can be at any big box home improvement store, with prices ranging from $15-$25 for a large sheet of plywood on average. Its important to remember that plywood is not going to be an ideal cheap lumber alternative for every project. If the project has visible edges plywood might not be a great option for that particular project. As with anything evaluate the material prior to starting any DIY project around the home. I have used plywood for many projects around my home including a kitchen storage bench and my favorite being these custom made bedroom night stands.
So far these options have all been available at home improvement stores. Here are some cheap wood and cheap lumber alternatives they you can source at other locations.
Cheap Wood: Pallet Wood
Pallet wood can be a great cheap lumber option but often times it must be salvaged from other people’s trash. Pallet wood is usually free and readily available so if you don’t mind the occasional nail, pallets are often an ideal choice for a variety of projects. Some people seek out pallet wood for its natural patina. Of course you want to make sure you have permission before sousing pallets from businesses or other locations. I wouldn’t recommend sourcing from a dumpster or the roadside as you want to know what the pallet was used for to make sure it was not hazardous to use.
Recycling furniture may not necessarily be the best option to get free or cheap wood but if you are just going to throw something out anyways. You might as well deconstruct it and get some use out of the discarded furniture.
Always always save scraps. I never ever throw away scrap wood because you just never know what your next project will be and what the scraps from one project can be used for in the next woodworking project. The smaller pieces of wood saved can really add up when it comes to your budget.
Are you still not finding what you are looking for? Here are some options to get cheap lumber or cheap wood.
Where to Get Cheap Wood and Cheap Lumber
In addition to the big box home improvement stores, there are several other locations where you can find cheap wood. Here are a few options that I have found to be helpful when searching for cheap lumber:
You can often find free or cheap wood on Craigslist. Check the “free” section or use the search options and search for “lumber” or “wood” to see whats available in your local area.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
This nonprofit organization sells donated building materials, including wood, at a discounted price. You can search for a ReStore location near you on their website.
Salvage yards often have a large selection of reclaimed wood that can be used for various projects. While prices can certainly vary, you can still find affordable options to use in your next DIY project.
Marketplace is a great way to find cheap wood and cheap lumber for your woodworking projects. Living near military bases people are always coming and going so I can almost always find cheap lumber options on marketplace. It may not be exactly what I am looking for at that particular moment but I can always add it to my stockpile and use it later. Or when its my turn to move list what I have on market place so I don’t have to take it with me.
Tips for Using Cheap Wood
While these cheap wood options can be a great option for your DIY projects, there are a few tips you will want to keep in mind to make sure that the wood you are using is suitable and safe for your project.
Check for Warping or Damage
When selecting wood especially cheap wood, check for any warping, splitting, or other damage that may impact the materials stability or appearance. If you plan on purchasing plywood, check for any gaps and voids or delamination between the individual layers of wood.
Sand and Smooth
Cheap wood almost always has rough edges and may contain splinters, so be sure to sand or plane the surface before using it for your project.
Paint or Stain
If you plan on using furring strips, fence panels or some other low-grade wood material, consider painting or staining the wood to improve its appearance. Cheap wood is cheap for a reason so prep work is almost always necessary.
Check for Hazards
When using cheap wood or cheap lumber its extremely important to check for nails or pother metal fragments that may be left over. This is especially true if you are getting used lumber. Not only is there a rick of you inadvertently cutting yourself on an exposed nail but you can also damage your saw if you accidentally cut through a metal fragment.
When working with cheap wood, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure to measure carefully to ensure that there is enough of the wood for your project. It may be necessary to use cheap wood or cheap lumber for the hidden parts of the wood project and use more expensive lumber for the more visible parts of the project.
To sum up, your local home improvement store is a superb way to purchase inexpensive wood for all of your DIY projects. Furring strips, paint sticks, framing lumber and plywood are just some economical options you can use for multiple types of builds. When selecting the right pieces remember to inspect it thoroughly looking out for any warping or damage; sanding down the surface will also help with achieving better results while planning ahead ensures that you have enough materials on hand when completing your next project.