Our General Contracting Expert Weighs In With Tips On Buying Wood And The Best Place To Find It

You're standing in the wood aisle at a big home improvement store. You want the fastest way to fix a splintered wood deck that will not cost you a lot of money. Or, you are thinking about building a pergola in the backyard and have no idea where to start. The problem is, as you look at the wood that's present, you really have no idea what is worth buying and whether better option might be out there. House Digest had an exclusive interview with Jason Pietruszka, a general contractor, interior designer, and real estate developer at JJP Construction, to pick up some tips for actually buying worthy wood.

When asked for the best tips for buying wood from a big box store, Pietruszka said, "[A}lways check for lumps or curves. [O]nly buy the light and dry ones. [I]f you are buying more than a quarter of a pallet, you are better off going to a lumber yard." There's certainly a benefit to buying from a big box store instead of a local lumber yard, and that's convenience. But, before you make any purchase, you also need to think about the condition of the wood and how much you'll end up paying per piece.

Lumber yards are often a better alternative

It's so convenient to head to the local big box store, roll a cart down the aisle, and pick up the wood that you need without having to spend a lot of money and even being able to tackle a project on the weekend when you actually have time. However, Jason Pietruszka provided some tips and warnings about buying from big box stores in an exclusive interview with House Digest. "The only benefit to buying lumber at a big box store is the convenience. Going to a lumber yard is much better."

That's a hard decision to make for those who may not think there's a difference other than the price between the local lumber yard and your favorite garden center. Pietruszka encouraged the lumber yard visit for several reasons. "They usually treat their wood better, secure it in places where it can acclimate to the temperatures appropriately, and will help you load the wood into your car or truck." While he didn't share what happens at the bigger stores, most people have seen the stacks of wood sitting behind the buildings.

What about the other factor, though, in cost? If you want to get lumber at rock-bottom prices, think twice about the big box store. "Plus, per piece, they are usually cheaper [at the lumber yard]," he noted. That kind of makes it less beneficial to visit the big box store unless it is late at night or there's a significant price difference due to a discount.

Check the condition of the wood

As you stand in the local Home Depot or Lowe's debating if you should buy what's there and wondering what the real reason is that wood is so expensive, consider searching for a small, even locally owned lumber yard instead. Jason Pietruszka shared a few important reasons why you don't want the wood at big box stores in an exclusive interview with House Digest. "They really don't consider that wood needs to be kept appropriately so that it does not [warp] or crack," he said. "So when buying from them, it is important to check those things."

There's another strange fact about these locations, according to Pietruszka. "Also, I don't know why, but their wood is always wet ... it's not such a deal breaker, but it does make the job more difficult because it makes the process more labor intensive." Any time wood is exposed to water and the proper precautions are not taken, there is a chance of developing wood rot. Therefore, it's important to know how to identify, fix, and prevent wood rot.

Is there ever a reason to buy at the big box stores, then? "If you are going to DIY a project and are buying a bunch of wood, you can definitely buy at the big box stores. I get the convenience," he added. "But if you have the time and energy to make two stops, definitely try going to your local lumber supply. [T]hey will be thrilled to help you!"