Going to a DIY store, you face being bombarded by products for all manner of projects, ranging from plumbing & heating, through to decorating and in fact right the way to plants for your garden! When you visit a timber merchant, the variety of timber in the yard is likely to be far greater than that which is found in a DIY store. The range of mouldings (architraves, skirting, etc.), the species of timber, the widths, the lengths and the overall variety of products completely overshadows many chain style superstores.
Sawn timber describes timber when it is still rough. Generally it’s used where you can’t see it, under floors, in the roof etc. and it’s cheap. If your requirement is to use it outside for fences / gates etc. then you can get sawn and treated, in which case it will be rough but also green or brown.
Planed timber is sawn timber which has been planed down until it’s smooth. If you see the initials PAR used to describe timber, it means Planed All Round. This type of timber is primarily used where it is visible.
Over and above this there are sheet materials which is processed wood formed into sheets, with each type of sheet having a different use.
Plywood is quite rough and can be used for covering flat roofs or moulding concrete (shuttering). However laminated plywood is somewhat different as this is quite thin and can have a nice finish to it, therefore can be used for doors. The laminate is available in many types of wood from oak to mahogany, offering a range of finishes and allowing the product to be used in many areas.
MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) is a highly popular sheet material and has a wide range of uses internally, from shelving through to skirting boards.
Chipboard is an alternative to MDF, albeit a poor one, and is more often used where it’s not visible, under flooring for example. Having said that, laminated chipboard looks much the same as laminated plywood but is generally thicker and can be used for kitchen cupboard doors etc.
So once you know what product you require you then need to establish how much you need. Whilst modern times tell us to measure in millimetres, you may face the prospect of having to revert back to the measurements of yesteryear, the old fashioned inch! You may already be familiar with phrases such as 4 by 2, 6 by 2 and these relate to the cross sections so expect such terms to be bandied about frequently!
However once you move on to discussing the length you will find yourself swiftly back in modern times! You can revert to talking in metres but be aware that generally timber is sold in lengths, increasing by increments of 300 millimetres. The shortest length is 1.8 (One metre 800mm) and then rising 2.1, 2.4, 2.7 and so on.
To complicate things a little further, planed timber doesn’t come in the same sizes as sawn, due to having been planed down from the sawn timber size. So a length of 4 by 2 (4”x 2“) PAR it will no longer be 102 mm x 51mm but will measure approximately 95 mm x 45mm.
Sheet timber and plasterboard reverts back again to “ye olde” measurements as it comes in 8 by 4’s, which is 8 feet by 4 feet. The metric equivalent is approximately 2.4 x 1.2 but be aware that it’s not always an exact science so measure the board you get before building frames etc.
You will find the staff at most timber yards, particularly Forestrall we like to think, are knowledgeable and helpful so don’t be afraid to ask. Plus you can benefit from a great delivery service rather than having to consider how to lug your products back from the local DIY shop.