Your Complete Guide To Rough Cut Lumber

Rough cut lumber is untreated and cut into planks. It’s different than treated lumber and isn’t sold at hardware stores. Like any type of wood material, rough cut lumber has advantages and disadvantages.

rough cut lumber

As one sawmill owner in South Dakota explained, rough cut lumber is freshly-milled and usually air dried. There is no smoothing of the surface after it comes out of the saw. The lack of preparation means rough cut lumber is thicker, and about 20 to 30 percent less expensive than traditional siding from the lumber yard.

If you want rough sawn lumber, you’ll need to buy it at a lumber yard or wood supplier. Rough sawn lumber is cut from full logs and sold shortly after. 

What Is Rough Cut Lumber?

Rough lumber is untreated. It is stronger than treated lumber but it also absorbs more moisture. Rough lumber skips a step in the process. 

Some woodworkers prefer untreated lumber because they want to treat it themselves. Then again, there are those who just like the way it looks.

Rough Cut Lumber By The Board Foot

Lumber isn’t sold by the linear foot like other building materials are. Lumber, including rough-sawn lumber, is sold by the board foot. A board foot is a unique measurement only used to measure boards.

A board foot is the volume of the board. Multiply the length times the width and the height. However, you don’t use the same measuring unit for the length, width, and height. Then divide the answer by 12.  

The formula to use is LxWxH, however, use L (in feet) x W (in inches) x H (in inches)  ÷ 12 = the board foot. If a board is six inches wide by four inches thick and 6 feet long. You just multiply these numbers without converting the feet to inches.

Divide the answer by 12. So, with this example, the answer is 12 because 6x4x6 is 144. Then, 144 divided by 12 equals 12. 

How Much Does Rough Cut Lumber Cost?

How Much Does Rough Sawn Lumber Cost

Rough cut lumber is known to be cheaper than treated lumber. However, it is quite a bit more to haul and deliver because it is heavier than treated lumber. But if you are picking the lumber up yourself, it will almost always be cheaper.

Although the prices depend on the season, year, and where you live, the price is about double for treated lumber. 

People choose rough sawn lumber because it’s cheaper. That said, treated lumber will last a lot longer than untreated lumber and it is highly preferable for building houses.

Extra Cut: Accounting For Imperfections

When you calculate how much lumber you need, don’t forget to add an extra few inches. Depending on how big the boards are, you can add 2-12 inches more. So if you need 6-inch boards, get 8-inch boards.

This is true for rough-cut lumber because treated lumber is usually smooth and free of large imperfections on the ends. But rough-cut lumber often has cracks and holes on the ends that need to be sawn off.

This is completed at the sawmill or lumberyard. But that’s because they are the ones that usually treat the lumber. With rough-cut lumber, there’s a good chance the ends haven’t been cut yet. 

Rough Cut Lumber Imperfections

Checking For Bows And More

There are a few things that happen to boards depending on how they’re cut. They can’t be prevented, but you should know what to look for before making a purchase. 


A bow in the board is fairly self-explanatory. It makes the board look like a bow. The board will be bent and arched. A slight bow is hard to spot at first but can be seen by looking down the end of the board.

You’ll notice a hump in the center lengthwise and on the flat side of the board. On one side, you won’t be able to see all the way across, and on the other side, you won’t be able to see the center of the board.


Crooks are like bows but they affect the ends of the board, not the smooth, flat side. Imagine you’re standing up straight and then cock your hip to the side. That’s what a crook in a board looks like.

Crooks are even harder to deal with than bows. Because you won’t be screwing the affected side down. It’s best to leave crooked boards alone even if you go ahead and buy a few discounted bowed boards.

Twisted Boards

Twists are the cancer tumors of wood. They are the hardest imperfection to resolve or hide in building material. Each twist is shaped like a candy cane. Their appearance may look cool, but unless you’re an experienced worker, you won’t be able to save them.

Cupped Board

Cups are self-explanatory. They look like cups or bowls on the board. As if someone tried to fold the board in two lengthwise while it was pliable. Cups are not great. They are better than twists but worse than bows.

The wider the board the easier the cup is to deal with. This is because you can flatten out the cup if it isn’t too distinct. Narrow boards are almost impossible if the board is thick.

How To Find A Rough Cut Lumber Mill Near Me

How to Find A Lumber Mill Near Me

If you’ve searched for “find rough cut lumber near me,” and didn’t find anything, don’t worry. Finding a lumber mill that sells rough-cut boards isn’t difficult.

Check Lumber Mill Maps

Search sawmills by state. There are options but it’s best to find local mills. It’s better because even the small mills listed would be better than anything else you’d find. 

Search Google Maps

Google maps can be a lifesaver for local stuff, even sawmills. Just make sure you turn your GPS or location on before searching unless you’re searching in an area that you aren’t currently residing in.

Company Website

After you find a sawmill you’re interested in, check out their site if they have one. Hopefully, they have a good site that lists prices. If they don’t, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. Some mills only let you visit in person.

But you should be able to call and get all of the info that you want. Not being able to get info over the phone isn’t a good sign unless all of the info is already on the site. Just don’t order unless you talk to someone or visit their company. 

Social Media

Social media has become the number one way to market and advertise. So if they have active social media sites, that’s great. They usually keep the social media pages updated with sales and any new items.

Not all sawmills have social media accounts but it can be great for research and for seeing how they interact with their customers.

Commercial Mills

Commercial mills do not sell to individuals. Mills only work with companies. When looking for lumber for personal use, a commercial mill isn’t an option.  Even if you’re a company, make sure you read the fine print of your contract. Most lumberyards only deal with clients who buy strictly from them.  

Minimum Orders

Minimum orders are standard in most lumber mills. But privately-owned mills or smaller mills won’t have them. So that’s another reason to make sure that the mill is the right size for your needs, rather than oversized.

Minimum orders shouldn’t deter you if you are getting a lot of lumber. Because after all, this will be cheaper per board. But if you don’t want to waste money on more lumber than you need, don’t buy more than you need.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Where Do I Buy Rough-Cut Lumber Near Me?

There are two primary ways to find a sawmill that sells rough-cut lumber near you. You can do a quick Google search or you can trust word of mouth. If you are new to the area then a Google search will likely prove more profitable. 

Can You Use Rough-Cut Lumber To Build A House?

Yes. You can use rough-sawn lumber to build a house. Take things slow and pick your boards one by one. Avoid buying in bulk without personally checking the boards. It is beneficial to hire a contractor to help you pick boards for your home.

How Long Does Rough-Cut Lumber Need To Dry?

Rough-cut lumber needs to dry for about one year for each inch of thickness. This process will be done at the lumber mill. You do not need to dry the lumber yourself, but you can ask how long it has dried. 

Can you Hand Plane Rough-Cut Lumber?

It is possible to hand plane rough-cut lumber but it is difficult. You need a jointer, surface planer, and table saw for most rough-sawn lumber. The time it takes to hand plane is not worth the money saved. 

Does Rough Cut Lumber Need To Be Sanded?

You do not need to sand rough-cut lumber at any time. Sanding the lumber can take away from its natural beauty. If you want to sand the lumber then you may be interested in a different type of lumber.

Rough Cut Lumber Wrap Up

When it comes down to it, rough cut lumber is about appearance and grain direction. If you’re set on the rough cut style,l you’ll need to buy wood from milling services.

Hardwood lumberyards are reliable rough lumber resources for building material. The money savings part will happen once you’re up and running. If you’re a woodworker, rough cut lumber is necessary.