How To Find And Buy Rough Cut Lumber

Rough cut lumber is lumber that is untreated and cut into planks. This type of lumber is different than treated lumber and not often sold at hardware stores. Like any building material, rough-cut lumber has both pros and cons. 

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To get rough-sawn lumber, you usually need to visit a lumberyard or other supplier. Rough sawn lumber is cut from full logs and sold shortly after. They don’t have a long process before they make it to you.

What Is Rough Cut Lumber?

Rough cut lumber is lumber that is primarily just cut and not treated. It is stronger than treated lumber but it also has a higher moisture content. Rough cut lumber is lumber that skips a step in the process. 

There are many reasons to buy rough-cut lumber. Some woodworkers buy it because they want to self-treat it while others buy it because it is cheaper than treated lumber. Then there are other people who just like the look

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.

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

So, you use LxWxH, however, use L(in feet) x W(in inches) x H(in inches)  ÷ 12 = Board Feet. So if a board is 6 inches wide by 4 inches thick and 6 feet long. You just multiply these numbers without converting the feet to inches.

Then you divide the answer by 12. So the answer would be 12 because 6x4x6 is 144. Then 144 divided by 12 is 12. This is much more complicated than finding the area, volume, or linear foot, but it’s worth learning.

How Much Does Rough Cut Lumber Cost?

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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 vary depending on the season, year, and where you live, the price is usually about double for treated lumber. Yes, that’s correct, the price is often double the price if you buy treated lumber.

This is the main reason that people often get rough-sawn lumber. Because rough-cut lumber is so much cheaper. That said, treated lumber will last a lot longer than untreated lumber and it is highly preferable for building houses.

The Extra Cut: Accounting For Imperfections

Whenever 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 only 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 normally done at the sawmill or lumberyard. But that’s because they are the ones that usually treat the lumber. So if you’re buying rough-cut lumber then there’s a good chance that the ends haven’t been cut yet. 

Checking For Imperfections In Rough Cut Lumber

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There are a few things that happen to boards due to the way they were cut, the moisture content, and the way the tree grew. These things can hardly be prevented but what you can do is avoid buying them. 


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.


Twists are probably the hardest type of imperfection to deal with in a board. That’s because they are twisted like a candy cane. They may look cool but unless you’re an established worker, you can’t save them.

If you are an experienced woodworker with the appropriate tools, you may be able to salvage it. But if you aren’t, then it won’t happen. So avoid any boards with twists unless you want a lot of issues with your project. 


Cups are also quite 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, in more cases, the easier the cup is to deal with. This is because you can flatten out the cup if it isn’t too distinct. But with narrow boards this is nearly impossible, especially if the board is thick.

How to Find A Rough Cut Lumber Mill Near Me

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If you’ve already asked, “where can I find rough cut lumber near me,” and didn’t find an answer, don’t worry. Finding a lumber mill to buy rough-cut boards from near you isn’t all that difficult. Just keep a few things in mind.

Check Lumber Mill Maps

If you can find a sawyer search where you can search sawmills by state, then you’re lucky. There are a few options to do this but it is best if you can find one that only searches mills in your own state so you’re not overwhelmed. 

This is also better because even the small mills will be listed if you find local search engines rather than a map. However, maps can be great, which leads us to our next point.

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.

Otherwise, use a location search as it will have more results than searching in a different area. Search for sawyers, sawmills, and lumberyards. Try different names like this to find all of the mills in your area.

Check The 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. 

Look At 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 will have social media pages but it can be great for research and for seeing how they interact with their customers. Check the comments for this. If they always reply to questions, that’s perfect. 

Make Sure They Aren’t Commercial Mills

Commercial mills are great and cheap, but they don’t sell to individuals. You have to be a company before they will sell to you. So this isn’t great if you are looking for lumber for personal use but is perfect if you are a company. 

Commercial mills often want to make contracts though. So even if you’re a company, make sure you read the fine print because they will try to trap you into a contract that only allows you to buy from them.

Look For 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.

Should I Use Rough-Cut Lumber?

Finding and buying rough-cut lumber the first time is quite a hassle. But after you get into the groove of things, you can save a lot of money. If you’re a woodworker, rough-cut lumber is necessary at times.

So finding a good supplier is something that will happen eventually. The answer is, “yes,” you should use rough-cut lumber if you want to save money and, “no” you shouldn’t use it if you want to go the easy route.

There’s no shame in either. So your best bet is to do whatever works for you. If you can find good rough-sawn lumber then perfect. But if not, then go ahead and use treated lumber. There’s nothing wrong with that!