Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy Lumber?

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Selecting lumber for your projects can be budget-friendly due to its broad accessibility and competitive pricing. Nevertheless, the cost of lumber can escalate if not purchased thoughtfully, as prices, potential discounts, and stock levels fluctuate across various retailers and suppliers. 

To ensure you get the best deal, it’s wise to shop around and compare options before making a purchase. So, after exploring the market, let me share with you the cheapest place to buy lumber.

1. Local Sawmills

milling spruce log

If you’re looking for affordable lumber, particularly in large quantities, heading straight to your local source, such as sawmills, is usually the best choice. 

These are specialized facilities where timber logs are processed into boards, lumber, and other wood products for furniture making, construction, and various other applications. 

Pros

Rough-Cut Lumber Options

Local sawmills can accommodate your specific lumber cut needs. If you require rough cuts for your project, they can customize it accordingly.

Cheap Lumber Prices

Local sawmills offer affordable lumber, particularly in bulk purchases. By cutting out intermediaries and transportation costs, they can provide lower prices.

Extra Lumber Sizes/Dimensions

If your project has dimensional requirements that are non-standard sizes, local sawmills can provide the exact dimensions you need.

milling Red Oak

Cons

Not for Small Projects

Buying timber from local sawmills for small projects is not ideal because they often have minimum order quantities, and smaller quantities cost higher compared to retail stores.

Shipment Waiting Times

Buying lumber at local sawmills involves longer wait times due to their production schedules and processing times, which may not be ideal if you have time constraints for your project and need materials quickly.

Requires Lumber Grading Knowledge

Buying lumber at local sawmills can be challenging if you’re not knowledgeable in lumber grading as you may have difficulty assessing the quality and characteristics of the wood.

2. Lumber Yards

Cottonwood mill

These are retail establishments that specialize in selling lumber and other wood products. Typically, they offer various wood types, sizes, and grades to meet your different project needs.

Generally, lumber yards serve as a middle ground between local sawmills and retail stores. They cater to bigger constructions or basic DIY needs. Also, lumber yards provide additional services such as cutting, milling, and delivery.

Pros

Lumber Varieties

Lumber yards cater both to your small and big project requirements, providing more options and a wider selection of different wood varieties and grades. Check out the lumber yards near you

Get Expert Advice Regarding Wood

When you buy wood at lumber yards, you can typically get expert advice from their knowledgeable staff. They can assist you in selecting the right materials for your project and provide guidance on various aspects of working with lumber.

Good Lumber Prices

Lumber yards offer a wide selection of wood at affordable prices due to their direct sourcing and bulk purchasing, making them a great choice for buying cost-effective lumber.

treated lumber

Custom Cuts

Lumber yards are an ideal option for buying custom-cut wood as they have the equipment and expertise to provide accurate and tailored cuts. It ensures you get the precise lumber dimensions you need for your project.

Cons

No Bulk Discounts

While lumber yards offer cheaper prices, it can be difficult to get discounts as they have a pricing structure where you need a certain quantity to qualify for bulk discounts.

Pricey for Small Projects

Lumber yards often cater to larger-scale orders and have minimum quantity requirements. They don’t usually prioritize competitive pricing for smaller quantities.

3. Big Box Stores

shopping for wood at Lowe's

These are large retail stores with a wide variety of products, such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Menards. Typically, these stores have dedicated sections or departments for home improvement and construction materials, including lumber. 

They often stock a variety of lumber types, such as dimensional lumber, plywood, and specialty boards. Generally, purchasing lumber at big box shops can be a convenient option for your woodworking projects.

Pros

Timber & Tools

Buying lumber at a big box shop is ideal when you also need tools because it offers the convenience of a one-stop shop. This saves you time and effort in getting all the essential materials for your woodworking projects.

Discounts

Big box shops often provide discounts and deals on lumber, particularly when buying larger quantities. Bulk purchases can offer you opportunities to avail of significant discounts.

Menards' lumber selection

Cons

Costly for Large Projects

Buying lumber at big box shops can be costly for large projects as they don’t have specialized bulk pricing options typically available at lumberyards or sawmills.

Hard-to-Find Quality Lumbers

The quality and selection of lumber at big box shops can be limited and not as comprehensive or tailored to the specific requirements of your project.

4. Local Mom-and-Pop Hardware

Local Mom-and-Pop Hardware

This is typically a small, independently-owned hardware store and is often operated by a family or a small group of individuals within a local community. 

Generally, they offer a more personalized and community-oriented shopping experience compared to larger chain retailers. These stores often carry common lumber types such as dimensional lumber, plywood, and specialty boards.

Pros

Personalized Services

These local hardware stores typically provide more personalized assistance, expert advice, and a more hands-on approach to customer service.

Good for Small Projects

Purchasing lumber at a local hardware store for small projects is ideal since they are open to price negotiation and more willing to offer discounts to loyal customers.

spraying flex seal on woodworking project

Saves Fuel (If You Buy Locally)

Purchasing lumber from a nearby hardware store can cut down on transportation expenses and spare you lengthy trips, offering both convenience and additional savings.

Cons

No Custom Cuts

Local hardware stores do not offer custom cuts for lumber due to their limitations in equipment and resources. They typically carry standard-sized lumber options. For alternatives, check out these places that can cut wood for you

Product Selection Limitations

Local hardware stores typically carry a more modest assortment of lumber because of their smaller clientele and constrained storage capacity. 

This limitation hinders their ability to offer as extensive a variety of lumber types and sizes as you might find at larger retailers or dedicated lumberyards.

Lowe’s vs Lumber Yards: Where to Buy Cheap Lumber?

For big projects, buying lumber from a lumber yard is cheaper and has better quality. You can also avail of discounts if you’re buying in large quantities. 

Meanwhile, buying lumber at Lowe’s can be more convenient and saves on transportation costs because it’s available in many locations.  

Lumber Yard

Below are the typical prices of common lumber sizes at retailers:

Board SizeStud2.4 m (8’)3m (10’)3.7 m (12’)4.3 m (14’)
2×6$7.75$7.22$9.68$11.12$13.57
2×4$3.35$5.68$6.75$8.98$11.02

When is Lumber Cheaper, Winter or Summer?

Lumber prices often dip during the summer due to the uptick in construction and outdoor projects, which bolsters the supply. Conversely, the challenges of harvesting and transporting lumber during winter often lead to a decreased supply and a corresponding hike in prices.

Can You Save Money If You Buy Lumber in Bulk?

Purchasing lumber in bulk can result in significant savings, as many suppliers offer discounts for large-volume purchases. However, it’s important to assess your project’s needs to determine the appropriate amount to buy to qualify for these bulk discounts.

Larch logs in a lumber yard

How Much Can You Save if Buy Rough Cut Lumber?

Choosing rough-cut lumber over finished lumber can lead to savings of about 20% or greater. Rough-cut lumber is more cost-effective since it bypasses the processes of milling and finishing, allowing you to sidestep the extra costs tied to these steps.

Will Lumber Prices Drop Soon? + Factor Affecting Lumber Prices

The lumber prices typically fluctuate over the year. In fact, the prices can increase or decrease without notice. But in past years, lumber prices trended upwards. The lumber prices trend can be attributed to several factors, including the following:

Limited Market Competition

It reduces price competition, allowing suppliers to have more control over pricing and charge higher prices.

Beetle Attacks Timberlands

Pest infestations reduce tree availability, leading to a decrease in lumber supply and price increases.

Wildfire Outbreaks

The wildfire outbreaks [1] reduce the availability of timber, creating a scarcity that can drive up lumber prices.

Pine timber

Weather Conditions

Extreme weather conditions disrupt the harvesting and transportation of timber, leading to supply shortages and price fluctuations.

Housing Industry Trends

The increased demand for new construction or housing projects can drive up the demand for lumber, resulting in higher prices.

Conclusion

Lumber proves to be an outstanding choice for a multitude of woodworking projects, given its ready availability, adaptability, and cost-effectiveness.

In essence, locating the most economical source for purchasing lumber can lead to significant savings and the potential to capitalize on discounts. This approach allows you to maintain your budget and divert resources to other critical components of your project.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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