Wood refers to the raw material that comes from a tree. Lumber refers to boards, timbers and other building products produced from wood.
A stick is wood, but a 2 x 4 is lumber.
The distinction, which I learned recently in my first trimester of construction school, came in handy after the recent removal of our family’s beloved sugar maple tree. Without knowing the difference between wood and lumber, I might have tried willy-nilly to build a tiny house from the massive branches lying across the lawn.
(Instead, we saved three discs from septuagenarian tree. See photo above, and if you have any recommendations for how we could use them, please add them in the comments. Thank you!)
Here are a few other timely tidbits about wood and lumber:
1. Deciduous, or leaf-bearing, trees—such as sugar maples—produce hardwood lumber. This has nothing to do with the hardness of the wood. Conifers—such as pines and firs— produce softwood lumber, which can be really hard, despite the rather tender title.
2. Trees contain a lot of water, so the process of turning wood into building lumber involves drying. Wood can be dried in a kiln for a few days or air-dried for up to three months.
3. A newly cut 10-foot length of 2 x 10 lumber can contain more than four gallons of water.
4. Building with lumber that has not been properly dried can result in all kinds of problems, including squeaky floors and cracked ceilings.
5. A house can lose 3,200 gallons of water in the first year.
And, of course, my favorite fact about lumber…
6. A 2 x 4 actually measures 1.5 x 3.5. Go figure.