Build Your Own House

Lumber Quality

Summary: The lumber quality of all new home framing lumber is controlled by building codes and is pretty much the same quality regardless of the species of the wood. The lumber is all grade marked as to its quality.


1. We are about to start framing our house, however, in talking with two possible framers we have conflicting views on the quality of lumber that is obtainable from some of the available lumberyards. How do we determine the quality of lumber, and how concerned should we be about disparity in quality between suppliers, if any?

2.  What is/are the potential impact of the quality of lumber on a house.

3.  How much does the quality of lumber affect the price?

4. What is your opinion on using 2x6 vs. 2x4 for framing of external walls?

Thanks, R.E.

Hi R.E.,

Lumber grading was done by the government decades ago to avoid just the quandary you are now facing. I’m not a fan of excessive government regulations, but this regulation is a good one.

Shop for the best price for the same exact lumber package and make sure that the return policies of your suppliers are good. You will always have “rejects”. Its how your supplier handles them and treats you that is important.

2x4 vs. 2x6 is more complicated than 1st meets the eye. The cost difference can be calculated by having the lumber supplier figure it both ways. Don’t forget to include deeper trim materials for windows and exterior doors, as well as added insulation costs.

The payback in energy savings is the only reason to go with 2 x 6. Most local utility (gas or electric) companies will look at your plans and give you an analysis of heating and cooling costs using 2x4 vs. 2x 6 framing.

You’ll be surprised to find out that the cost difference between 2x4 vs. 2x6 may be better spent on ceiling insulation and/or better window energy efficiency.

Heat rises and ceilings are the one source of heat loss. The number two source of heat loss is windows and doors.

Good luck in your project, Carl Heldmann