What is a Common Board? — Uses, Wood Types, and Cost

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If you’re on the hunt for budget-friendly wood materials for your project, common boards might have crossed your mind. But hold on, not all common boards are a one-size-fits-all solution for your project or wallet.

In this article, let me demystify what common boards are all about. We’ll delve into the various types and how they can be used, helping you determine if they’re a wise investment for your project.

What are Common Boards?

Standard boards are typically crafted from softwoods, such as pine trees. These woods are a top choice for both construction and a variety of do-it-yourself woodworking tasks. 

They’re favored by beginners and DIY enthusiasts alike because they’re easy to find, easy to work with, and more budget-friendly compared to their hardwood counterparts.

What Does it Look Like?

Texture

The texture varies depending on the type of wood and the preparation. Those that underwent sanding and finishing have a smooth texture. 

Bass lumber

Some boards may have rough surfaces if cut with a saw and not sanded. Meanwhile, some boards were brushed with wires to remove the softer fibers, leaving the wood surface textured or rough. 

Shape

The shape of common boards differs according to how they were cut for their intended use. However, some cheaper common boards are warped due to many factors, such as moisture content, storage, drying, manufacturing, and natural defects.  

To prevent the boards from warping, they should be stored in a dry and cool place, stacked flatly, and apply a seal or finish to avoid moisture absorption. 

Size

The typical size of common boards used for DIY projects and constructions are 2×4 inches and 4×4 inches. However, you can avail of common boards with the following sizes:

stacking lumber

What Wood Type is Common Board?

Maple

Maple is one of the most popular choices for common boards due to its durability, strength, and beautiful patterns. It’s hard and highly wear-resistant, commonly used for flooring, furniture, and cabinetry. There are two types of maple boards: hard maple and soft maple. 

Hard maple boards cost higher due to their toughness and density, while soft maple boards are more common and cheaper—but they’re also durable and robust.

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir boards are commonly used for sheathing, framing, and decking due to their remarkable stiffness, strength, and excellent ability to support heavier loads. 

Douglas Fir

They’re highly resistant to rot and decay, making them ideal for outdoor applications, such as fences, decks, and siding. They also come in various sizes and are readily available from your nearest wood suppliers. 

Red Oak

Red Oak boards are a popular choice among DIYers for various applications due to their affordability compared to other hardwoods. They are commonly used for paneling, molding, and trim due to their remarkable machining properties, durability, and natural beauty. 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that red oak boards are susceptible to warping and splitting if they are not adequately dried and stored under appropriate conditions. Proper drying techniques, such as air-drying or kiln-drying, are crucial to minimize the risk of these issues.

Mahogany

Mahogany boards are known for their durability and longevity. Professional woodworkers commonly use them for furniture, doors, and decorative items due to their aesthetic appeal.

stained Mahogany boards

However, mahogany boards are hard to find due to scarcity of supply, making them very expensive hardwood. 

Poplar

Poplar wood boards are widely used for various woodworking projects due to their uniform texture and straight grains, which make them easier to work with. 

There is an abundant supply of poplar boards in the market, making them less expensive than other hardwoods. However, they are not as strong and durable as hardwoods like oak and maple, but they can still last long. 

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Where Do You Use Common Boards?

Below are some of the projects where you can use common boards: 

various types and sizes of lumber

Cost of Common Boards

Costs may vary depending on the type of wood, sizes, and availability. But essentially, they’re less expensive than other hardwoods and readily available in different sizes. Below are the estimated prices per piece of the common board:

Pine wood

Where to Source Common Boards

Lowe’s

You can purchase various types of common boards in different sizes from Lowe’s. Aside from their lower prices, they always offer significant discounts and promos on their wood products. They also deliver for free.

Home Depot

You can find common boards at Home Depot for an affordable price. This store is known for its great discount offerings. They have wide selections of wood types, even those hard-to-find hardwoods like mahogany and oak. 

Home Depot store

Common Board vs Plywood vs MDF

Common boards are made of solid wood pieces glued together. They’re less expensive than plywood and MDF. But they’re less durable and prone to split or warp. 

Meanwhile, plywood is made of thin wood veneer glued together, creating a stable and durable board. They are more expensive than common boards but are not prone to damage and can last longer.

On the other hand, MDF is made of wood fibers compressed and bonded together with resin. It’s smoother and more consistent, making it easier to work with. It’s more expensive than common boards but more versatile. 

Advantages of Common Boards

Simple to Cut

You will only need basic tools like a handsaw and circular saw to cut common boards. With the use of appropriate tools, you can prevent it from splitting or splintering. 

lumber at a Home Depot
Powerful

They are versatile construction materials due to their remarkable strength. We suggest you use common boards from hardwoods for a stronger performance.

Can Hold More

They can provide stronger structural support and hold heavier loads, making them ideal for heavyweight projects.

MDF and Plywood Advantages

Strong

MDF and plywood [1] are strong and durable woodworking materials. Although plywood is stronger than MDF, both are suitable for construction and other applications that need stability and strength. 

Affordable

MDF and plywood are cheaper and readily available for your projects compared to other solid hardwoods.

Common Board Grades

Standard Grade

These boards are the most commonly used in construction, typically less finished with lower prices. 

lumber selection

Finish Grade

These boards are of higher quality and cost more than standard grade due to their smooth finish. 

Premium Grade

These boards are of the highest quality with a smoother finish and hidden knots–very aesthetically appealing. They have the highest price among other grades.

Industrial Grade

These boards may have unfinished and often damaged surfaces, but they’re still durably suitable for structural support.

Common Board Pros & Cons

Pros

Decent Quality

Common boards have decent quality and are suitable for many applications. Although they’re not as durable as solid hardwoods, they’re strong enough and can last longer.

Cherry wood lumber
Affordable

Common boards are less expensive and widely available. Since they’re mass-produced in standard sizes, the production cost is cheaper. This allows the wood suppliers to sell them at lower prices compared to other specialized wood.

Workable

Common boards are easy to work with, even if you’re a beginner. If you use proper tools and basic techniques, common boards can be versatile and manageable for your projects.

Cons

Limited Size (Cutting Needed)

Common boards are cut in standard size. Therefore, if you need smaller pieces, you must cut them accordingly.

Limited Material Option

Although common boards are readily available, the type of wood can be limited depending on what the manufacturer produces.

common boards at Menards
Prone to Defects

Some common boards may have defects, especially if they’re unfinished. Since they’re not solid hardwoods, they’re susceptible to defects caused by harsh elements. 

Conclusion

Now that you’re familiar with common boards, let’s consider if they’re the right fit for your project and budget. Common boards are known for their affordability and versatility, making them a popular choice for a wide range of tasks.

These boards come in a variety of sizes, which makes them convenient and adaptable for your specific needs. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that the quality and suitability of common boards can differ based on the type of wood and the specific demands of your project. To make the best decision, it’s crucial to consider these factors carefully.

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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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