Lumber Dimensions - Contruction

Lumber sizes in the United States are given as nominal dimensions in inches,  such as 1 x 2 (one by two), 2 x 10, and so on. At one time, sawn lumber may have approached these actual dimensions. Today however, subsequent to sawing, seasoning, and surfacing,  true sizes are less. By the time a kilndried 2 10 reaches the lumberyard, its actual dimensions are close to 1½ by 9¼ inches (38 by 235 mm). The relationship between nominal lumber  dimensions (which are always written without inch marks) and actual dimensions (which are written with inch marks) is given in simplified form in Figure 3.22 and in more complete  form in Figure 3.23. Anyone who designs or constructs wooden buildings soon commits the simpler of these  relationships to memory. Because of  changing moisture content and manufacturing tolerances, however, it is  never wise to assume that a piece of  lumber will conform precisely to its  expected dimensions. Wood members vary in size seasonally with changes in  humidity and temperature. In hot, dry  locations such as attics, wood framing  may shrink to dimensions substantially below its original measurements.

Figure 3.22 The relationship between nominal and
actual dimensions for the most common
sizes of kiln-dried lumber is given in this
simplifi ed chart, which is extracted from
the complete chart in Figure 3.23.
A complete chart of nominal and actual dimensions for both framing lumber and fi  nish lumber.
Figure 3.23 A complete chart of nominal and actual dimensions for both framing lumber and fi  nish

Members in older buildings may have been manufactured to full nominal  dimensions or to earlier standards of  actual dimensions such as 15/ 8 inches or 1¾ inches (41 or 44 mm) for a  nominal 2-inch member.

Pieces of lumber less than 2 inches in nominal thickness (38 mm  actual thickness) are called  boards.
Pieces ranging from 2 to 4 inches  in nominal thickness (38 to 89 mm  actual thickness) are referred to collectively as  dimension lumber. Pieces  nominally 5 inches (actual size 114  mm) and more in thickness are  termed timbers.  Dimension lumber is usually supplied in 2-foot (610-mm) increments  of length. The most commonly used  lengths are 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 feet  (2.44, 3.05, 3.66, 4.27, and 4.88 m),  but retailers frequently stock rafter  material in lengths to 24 feet (7.32 m).

Actual lengths are usually a fraction of  an inch longer than nominal lengths.

Lumber in the United States is  priced by the  board foot. Board foot measurement is based on nominal  dimensions, not actual dimensions.

A board foot of lumber is deÞ  ned as  a solid volume 12 square inches in  nominal cross-sectional area and 1  foot long. A 1 x 12 or 2 x 6 10 feet long contains 10 board feet. A 2 x  4 10 feet long contains [(2 x 4)/12] 10 6.67 board feet, and so on. Prices of dimension lumber and timbers  in the United States are usually quoted on the basis of dollars per thou- sand board feet. In other parts of the world, lumber is sold by the cubic meter. Because the board foot is based on lumber nominal dimensions and  metric sizes use actual dimensions,  there is no direct conversion between  board feet and cubic meters.

The architect and engineer specify lumber for a particular construction use by designating its species, grade,
seasoning, surfacing, nominal size, and chemical treatment, if any. When ordering lumber, the contractor must additionally give the required lengths of pieces and the required number of pieces of each length.

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