I was trying to calculate the board feet of lumber for a wall, length 10' x height 10'. If I use a 2 x 6 lumber size, what will be the total board feet required for the wall? And is there any easy way of converting a square feet to board feet? And do estimators usually consider windows when calculating the BF of lumber for a wall?
From contributor A:
For 2 x 6 stock, a board foot = a lineal foot, making the calculations a bit easier.
To go 10' wide, you will need 20 boards. Each board will also be 10' long. So, unless I'm asleep at the wheel, the answer to "how many board feet of 2" thick material to cover a 10' x 10' wall" would be something like 20 x 10 = 200 BF.
Don't forget to figure in for an appropriate scrap factor.
So, a 120" (10') wall will require 22 boards rather than 20 - plus typically about 15% for waste unless you get nice clean 10' long boards for your 10' ceiling and there are no doors or windows to trim around.
A 1 x 12 board is typically 3/4" x 11-1/2", yet one running foot of it is referred to as "one board foot". However, as you can see it is not a full square foot.
One other thing - if you want you could measure it like this, .75 x 11.5 x whatever your length, in inches, and then divide this by 144.
Let's go back to the original post asking how much lumber should be purchased. We can simplify it by saying 1 x 6 is needed rather than 2 x 6.
The 10' x 10' wall is 100 square feet. It would seem that by what you are implying 100 board feed of 1 x 6 is needed. However as you know 1 x 6 at a lumber yard is actually 3/4" x 5-1/2" (the thickness really isn't an issue here though). If just 100 board feet of 5-1/2" wide 1 x 6 in 10' lengths were purchased there wouldn't be enough material to reach the other end of the wall. All the boards would reach the ceiling (assuming vertical placement) but 120" divided by 5-1/2" requires 22 boards whereas 120" divided by 6" requires 20 boards. All this is assuming we are talking square edge material here rather than tongue and groove, which would further increase the number of boards required.
My understanding (and I've been at this over 30 years so if I've been wrong I'd like to know now) is that board feet is a tenuous description of an amount of lumber. In the rough it is, as you say, an accurate description of the amount of material in a given board.
However, as soon as the board is planed and ripped to its retail size it no longer contains that much material. If you go to the lumber yard and order a 10' length of 1 x 12 it will be billed out as 10 board feet even though itís only 7.1875 square feet of 3/4" thick material.
I should add that I was in error when I originally stated your formula equaled 1 square foot rather than one board foot. What I should have said was that it equaled 1 square foot of 1" thick material. I can see that leaving that out led to some confusion in the discussion.
Does this clarify anything? I hope I explained it so that you each see that you're really not at odds with the definition of a BF, but only with the sometimes real world application of the term.
Letís go back to what I had asked contributor B to calculate, .75 x 11.5 x 120 divided by 144 = 7.1875. This is how many board feet are in a retail 1 x 12 x 10', however it is considered to be in most cases 12 lineal feet. The only time that it was 12 board feet was before it was milled to dimension. I donít know of any retail lumber yards, at least here in the Northeast, that are selling lumber by the board foot. Let me clear one thing up - I never suggested that 3/4 of an inch be calculated as 1".
So, I will leave it at this, there are 144 square inches in one board foot.
Certainly a rough board at 12" x 12" x 1" is one board foot and I should have acknowledged that. If you need to cover a square footage area with milled lumber though, you have to add in extra board footage.
Granted most retail lumber yards will sell pine etc. by the lineal foot. Flooring however, is regularly sold by the board foot and one has to calculate how many additional board feet will be need to cover a given square foot area. As such, even though technically one board foot is 12" x 12" x 1", in the real world the term is given a wider use.
I wanted to say something like one board foot always equals one square foot, but not vice versa. However, this has already gone a bit too far to bring in yet another quite arguable absolute.
To contributor C: Is this what you mean?
How many board ft in a cubic foot?
12 x 12 x 12 = 1728 ~ 144 = 12BF.
1 x 12 x 12' = 12 BF , 1 x 6 x12= 6BF.
An easy way to figure BF in a 12' board Ė itís always the same as the width times the thickness of material.
I also thought that the original questioner was trying to cover the wall with a paneling of wood as it would take 100 SF exactly or 100 BF exactly.
To contributor B: I agree 100% with your description, very good details.
When buying flooring you buy it by the SF, not BF- and when buying flooring they are talking about the amount of coverage you are getting not how many board ft. it took to make the SF you are covering.
2. Architects are, more often than not, designers with college degrees. It's my firm opinion that no architect should be issued a pencil until he's done a 2-year apprenticeship out in the real world of construction, carrying materials, installing sinks and grouting tile.
3. The original poster needs to calculate his material needs based on square feet, not board feet, and that based on actual physical dimensions of the material he will be using, i.e. 5-1/2" x 10' long.
To the original questioner: Your wall is 10' x 10', 100 square feet. It doesn't matter how thick the material is that you are using, you still need 100 square feet of material. If you're using dimensioned 2 x 6 material, it's 5-1/2" wide. If you buy 10'-long material, you just divide 5-1/2" into 10', or 120". This yields 22 pieces. If you hand pick them, that should be all you need, and you will have some fall downs from cutting around your window. Adjust as you see fit.
You really should work with this stuff until you feel comfortable with square feet and board feet and related subjects. It's really basic to what we do, and if you don't know this, how can you know you're not getting shorted by your supplier or that you're buying the amount you actually need?
When I check in a pack of 1000' from the lumber yard I measure the length X width X how many courses (4/4) and divide all that by 12.Anything thicker than 4/4, like say 5/4, I would then X everything by 1.25.
I must say if I have a wall to panel I ask for the square footage I need with the waste factor figured in. They give me a price based on the board footage they will need to make what I want and were all happy.
To contributor H: If I sell you 1000 BF rough lumber by a true lumber scale, and you stack it all in a pile letís say 4' wide x 10' long that would = 40 BF per layer or 25 layers high, to give you a true 1000 BF. However, by true scale in hardwood anything that is, letís say 5-1/2" wide, is called out as 6" in true scale and so on, so I am sure that when you do a tally this way you must think that you are short as I am guessing that you only get around 23 layers of lumber or only around 920 BF. Or maybe they ship you more than you asked for.
If you get really picky thereís air space between the boards. There are so many different people who do different things in this industry. It's got to be hard to convince anyone of anything because they just know what they were taught, including me. But, if youíre in the guidelines and make a living, I guess weíre all doing something right. My tallies work with the distributors that send them to us so I know weíre on the same page there. I guess thatís what matters.
There is also a board footage calculator at WOODWEB, which can be found at:
Board Footage Calculator
I would encourage all those who are trying to understand how to calculate board footage to review these resources.
Comment from contributor J:
From contributor C:
Thickness x width x length / 144
IE: 1" thick x 12" wide x 12" long
144 cubic inches = 1 board foot.
144 cubic in = 1 BF.
Yes contributor C is correct except there is a technical typo. We all know what he meant though. 144 cubic inches = 1 board foot not square inches.
So it is extremely important to use your symbols and exponents such as squared or cubed in≥.