I'm replacing the door casing for our old, small house and plan to do a simple craftsman style using boards, probably 1x3s, possibly 1x4s. I plan to paint them white.

I have a table saw, router, and miter saw.

I did one door in our laundry room, using primed finger-jointed moulding, but was disappointed that I had to sand some of the boards because the primer wasn't smooth. So, buying primed boards isn't important to me at all.

I'm thinking of just buying boards at Lowes or Home Depot, but I don't want to spend a fortune. So, I'm wondering what wood to use that won't be problematic in the future. Does it really matter, other than having straight edges and no holes? Is cheap pine OK, or perhaps whitewood?

I don't really want to use MDF for a few reasons.

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    Is this for indoor doorways? If so, then anything should be fine.
    – TBO
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 18:50
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    One thing to bear in mind is that the wood from HD etc. is often (not always) the worst example of the type, notorious for being dried incompletely. And it is subsequently stored and stacked poorly to compound the problem. You'd be much better served buying your wood from a proper lumber yard, innate quality and all subsequent handling steps should be significantly better.
    – Graphus
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 22:53
  • Yes, it is all indoor wood. I know HD has a lot of crappy stuff, but I think it must vary with location because it seems like many complaints I read about are much worse than what I see. Unfortunately, we don't have much choice in my area. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 5:05
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    Yes quality does vary by location, I meant to include a parenthetical about this but couldn't shoehorn it in. From posts I've read it's generally better in some parts of the country and not others but can vary branch to branch in the same city as bizarre as that sounds. Re. other sources for wood, this is one of those things where it is worth hunting around and you might be surprised what is there once you start looking. It's not that uncommon for woodworkers to consider it worth driving 50+miles to get to a good lumber yard, and not just for the better prices.
    – Graphus
    Commented Sep 8, 2019 at 6:49
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    I generally go with poplar. It machines well and will hold a coarse screw if need be. Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


"White wood" is not a specific species, rather it is whatever is available locally and inexpensive. Typically it will be pine, doug fir, spruce, etc. It should work fine.

If you're doing complex molding profiles you might consider using poplar. It tends to work better, holds fine details well, and shows less grain through paint.

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    I realize what white wood is, and maybe I shouldn't refer to it generically. It seems pretty consistent at my nearby HD, though. My main problem has been that it's so soft that it needs special care when using screws. Early on in my learning curve, I tried to use it for pocket holes, and they basically didn't work because the screw wouldn't tighten enough to pull the boards together. Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 5:09
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    Oh, for door casing I didn't think you'd have any structural requirements. If you're doing something where you need to use screws to hold stuff together then I'd look for something more solid. Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 23:09
  • I've learned that the hard way. I use a Kreg jig for pocket holes a lot, which requires somewhat of a tight connection to pull the boards together. I've used wood in the past that wasn't strong enough to handle it. Live and learn. Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 16:25

If anyone is interested, I've experimented a bit and learned a little about the difference between conventional molding and wood boards.

First, I found that Home Depot has finger-jointed primed pine lumber like 1x3 1x4, etc that is very much like pre-made molding. With a router, it's easy to round over the corners, and cut a shallow channel on the back to prevent rocking if there is old paint present. I had wondered why molding had that channel on the back, but when I asked the salesman, they never knew. The 1x3 boards were a little over $5 for 8 feet, where the similar molding was at least $1/foot.

But I found some plain cheap pine 1x3 boards for about $2 per 8 foot board, and with a little care, found some that were straight without any bad knotholes. Once I primed them, they looked as good as the primed finger-jointed boards Since I didn't need a full 8 feet, I could accept boards that had defects near one end.

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