What you should know about wood

Wood is easily shaped, available in an array of sizes, shapes and colours and satisfying to work with.

Dimension lumber varies in sizes from two-by-fours, two-by-sixes to two-by-eights used for basic frames, headers, joists and beam supports. The choice of material will depend upon the requirements for the structure.

 Wood is sold in nominal sizes — the size when cut at the mill. Shrinkage and planing make the true size smaller. The length, however, is the actual measurement.  

Some lumber yards will cut dimension lumber to the lengths you specify. For example, if you are building a cottage or a rec room, you may choose pine or spruce two-by-four studs.  If you are choosing floor joists for a house, you may want two-by-eight or two-by-10 No. 1 construction fir.  

Two-by-fours in spruce and pine are basically available in two grades: the economy type and the standard common grade.

For fine woodwork and shop work, it is possible to get clear spruce or pine, though in limited quantity and at a premium price.

 I highly recommend that you use kiln-dried good-quality studs for your cottage or rec room. The economy studs are usually not worth the saving, since they contain a lot of waste because of large knots and the material may not be completely dry which causes it to warp.

 Most homes have half-inch plasterboard or drywall on the interior which should be attached with drywall screws.  

If you are installing drywall on the ceiling, where the ceiling joists are 24 inches on-centre and you are installing a lot of insulation in the attic, I would recommend using 5/8-inch fire-guard plasterboard. Although this plasterboard has a fire rating and is used primarily in commercial buildings, it is also of superior strength and may prevent bowing of the ceiling material due to the weight of the insulation.

Material such as wall panels are something different and include inexpensive prints on hardboard or plywood to more exotic woods. The choice of the panel will depend on where it is being installed.  

For example, if you were installing it in a laundry room to make it look neater and cozier, an inexpensive print on wood may be the look you want.

But if you are installing a feature wall in the living room, I would suggest real wood paneling. You may want to choose from teak, walnut, ash, oak or many others.

Plywood specialty stores have a very good selection of wall panels from the very inexpensive to the most exotic.  The wood prints look very authentic.

Top-quality panels are sanded on at least one side and are used for projects that need a finish such as cabinetry.

A material such as sheathing is good for roofs and floors or wherever strength is a factor.

Specialty plywood includes tongue-and-groove panels for floor and roof construction and preservative-treated stock.

Hardwood plywood is used for furniture, wall paneling, vanity cabinets, doors, shelving and recreational equipment and generally cost more than construction plywood. The face is always a hardwood such as ash, birch, maple or oak.

Before shopping for lumber, learn the common sizing and grading terms for your area. Always comparison shop beforehand.  Bring a list of what you need and a sketch of your project when making your purchase.