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I live in the central part of the United States. When I go to a local hardware store (such as Menards or Lowes) there are wooden boards of different thicknesses and length just labeled "Untreated Lumber".

When I go to the hardware store and purchase an untreated 2"x4", what sort of wood type am I purchasing?

  • So far, I haven't found any hardware store employee that actually knows what type of wood they are selling in their own store. :-/ – IQAndreas Apr 28 '16 at 1:55
  • Often you won't be able to find out exactly what species, and unless you can learn to ID softwoods for yourself using books and/or some online sources you'll never know for sure. The Answer from Steven gives the basics, it's SPF. Although spruce, pine and fir can be considered quite different in their ways they're similar enough that for most applications it doesn't matter which you use. – Graphus Apr 28 '16 at 10:54
  • In the UK it is often just called whitewood, the exact species is unknown, but is pine, or pine-like softwood. – Kris Apr 30 '16 at 19:06
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Dimensional framing lumber is often referred to as SPF which stands for Spruce, Pine and Fir.

You will likely also find cedar and pressure treated lumber in the green or brown variants

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    SPF is also sometimes referred to generically as "white wood". Some stores may also stock hardwoods such as oak or maple, but use will be properly labelled. – keshlam Apr 28 '16 at 12:44
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@Steven has it correct that it's most likely SPF for generic dimensional lumber.

In the central US, you can also find dimensional lumber in Douglas Fir (DF) and Southern Yellow Pine (SYP). Usually SYP is used for pressure-treated lumber, but you can find it non-treated as well. Both are a higher-grade material than SPF and are generally used for members that resist bending (joists and rafters, for example).

Since DF and SYP carry a premium over SPF, they're usually labelled pretty clearly.


Not that this will apply for your case, but on the west coast you can also find redwood in dimensional lumber. I haven't seen too much of it east of the Rockies, but hopefully someone over on the west coast finds this useful.

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  • I'm not doubting you, it just strikes me as odd to think that a house could be framed with 2x4 redwood... – FreeMan Apr 29 '16 at 13:37
  • @FreeMan, a large part of the reason that the redwood forest is only at a small fraction of its historic acreage is because of all the rebuilding that occurred after the San Francisco earthquake/fire of 1906. – grfrazee Apr 29 '16 at 19:27

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