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Board Foot: Lumber Lingo
Tue Jul 21 1998

Bullet If you buy wood in large quantity, you might pay by the board foot, a century-old measuring method. A single board foot is equivalent to a 1-ft.-sq. piece of wood 1 in. thick.
So, one board foot can be a 1-ft.-long 1x12; a 2-ft.-long 1x6; a 1-ft.-long 2x6; or a 6-ft.-long 1x2.

Board-foot measurements are based on nominal lumber sizes, not actual sizes. The measurements don't take into account drying and surfacing of lumber, which reduces both the width and thickness of a board by about 1/2 in. That's why a 2x4 only measures 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 in.

To convert a piece of lumber into board feet, multiply the thickness by width (in inches) by length (in feet), then divide by 12. Although board-foot pricing might seem odd, lumber dealers like it because it lets them group boards of varying dimensions under one price schedule.

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