Wednesday, 15 June 2016 13:58

Why Board Feet? Hardwood Lumber 101

Why does the hardwood lumber industry operate on board feet? 

Unlike softwoods which are primarily used in the construction trade where most items have to be created in standard sizes, hardwood lumber has had a history of being used to make items such as flooring, cabinetry and furniture.  These are items that woodworkers required materials in all different shapes and sizes to make their finished products. So from a buyer perspective their was a great deal of variety.

In addition, from the hardwood sawmill perspective, the sawyer would generally look to maximize the value of each hardwood log. This meant that they would often saw each log with a unique pattern and cut boards of varying widths and thicknesses rather that one specific dimension. This is why the norm of developing hardwood lumber in random widths and lengths came about. It was because of this practice that the industry standard became measuring hardwoods by the board foot to trade on a a fair and consistent measurement.

board feetAnyone familiar with the industry is not surprised by the board foot measurement and how it is calculated. However, those new to the industry might be. So a basic way to think of a board foot is to think of it as a measurement of volume. It is a piece of lumber that is the equivalent of 1 square foot, (12” X 12”), and 1 inch thick.

Board Foot (BF) = 1 foot long X 1 foot wide X 1 inch thick.

However, hardwood lumber is really not sold that way. Hardwood boards come in all shapes and sizes so a formula to use can use to help you calculate it would be:

Board Footage =


width in inches x length in feet x thickness in inches




- or -


width in inches x length in inches x thickness in inches




With that in mind, it helps you understand why all of these measurements are equal to one board foot.

  • 4/4 X 12" x 12"
  • 6/4 X   4” X 24”
  • 8/4 X   6" x 12"

Luckily, today we don’t have to manually calculate board feet. There are plenty of tools and resources available to help us do that. 

If you have any questions on hardwood lumber board footage contact us and we would be happy to help you.

American Lumber
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Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 14:32

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