Board Foot Measurement System

Measuring tape on a wooden boardReclaimed wood is normally sold in the Board Foot measurement rather than by the lineal foot. This measuring system is not commonly understood and can be complicated for those with little or no knowledge. Additionally, reclaimed wood is generally sold one of two ways, further adding to the complexity of the purchase: nominal size (original size before any planing) or net size (finished size after planing). If a beam for example, is 6″ x 12″, but has been planed to 5½” x 11½”, you could pay a substantially different amount based on if the beam is sold based by nominal or net size.

Because of this, understanding how wood is measured is very important. A board foot is simply 144 cubic inches, no matter the shape of the wood. A lineal foot, is just what it is…the actual length of the piece of wood.

A 2” x 6” x 12” long board is 1 board foot
(2 x 6 x 12/144 = 1 board foot)

A 1” x 12” x 12” long board is also 1 board foot
(1 x 12 x 12/144 = 1 board foot)

A beam measuring 6” x 12” x 12” long equals 6 board feet
(6 x 12 x 12/144 = 6 board feet)

So if we look at the same 6″ x 12″ beam above, which was planed to 5½” x 11½” and we calculate the two different ways it can be sold, you can see the difference it makes per lineal foot.

Original size: 6″ x 12″ x 12″/144 = 6 board feet x $2.00/board foot = $12.00 per lineal foot
Net size: 5½” x 11½” x 12”/144 = 5.27 board feet x $2.00/board foot = $10.54 per lineal foot

Now the difference isn’t a lot for a one foot long beam but if you were buying 2000 lineal feet of material to make flooring for your home, the difference would be about $3000.00.

Be sure to ask how the material you are buying is being measured. In our opinion, if you can, it is best to make your deal on the price per lineal foot so you know exactly what you are paying per running foot of the material you need.

Below are some helpful links for calculating board feet from lineal feet. Check them out next time you’re stuck scratching your head…

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