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Lumber Sizes Demystified

Apr 13, 2015Tips

Lumber Boards

Dimensional Lumber Sizes Nominal vs. Actual


Did you know that a 2 x 4 (when purchased) does not actually measure 2″ by 4″?

Indeed, it’s true! But the reason is simple…


Let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all!

The nominal measurement used to classify or “name” the lumber is made before it is surfaced or planed smooth on four sides. 

The actual, or “dressed” dimensions when finished are always slightly smaller. So the “nominal” name 2 x 4 is used to easily reference a commonly used piece of lumber, but the actual or “dressed” dimension of a 2 x 4 is 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.

Below is a chart with the most common examples in the industry:


Dimensional Lumber Sizes: Nominal vs. Actual

The lumber in the chart indicated with a * we do not normally stock, but we can always special order.

We stock one-by (1X) lumber in Pine, Poplar, and Red Oak in lengths of 8′ and 10′ that can be cut down to any length.


DIY Floating Shelves


These hardwoods (pine, poplar, and red oak) are all popular options for custom shelving and floating shelf designs like the one below! Completed recently for their new work from home office by one of our clients in Jersey City, NJ.

DIY Floating Shelf

Also a great option – 5/4″ x 12″


We also stock 5/4″ (that’s five-quarter) x 12″ hardwoods that are a popular option for DIY shelving design because of it’s thickness.

Here is a piece of poplar we cut and finished with a smooth rounded edge detail. The customizing options are endless especially when you complete your custom cut piece with any stain or bracket you want!

5/4" x 12" poplar


Two-by (2X) and Four-by (4x) Lumber


We stock two-by (2X) lumber in several width and can special order anything for your project. We also stock 4″ x 4″  in store which is usually  douglas fir, but depends what is available in the market. Here are some 2 x 4’s:

Stack of 2 x 4

So, what’s the big deal? 

The difference is slight, so in building everyday structures (and in the construction industry) this size difference does not usually matter. 

However, when working on something that requires EXACT measurements it is very important to keep this in mind.  

Contact us to have your lumber cut to any size for your next project!


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