Hardwood Lumber Tallies

Are you being shorted on a lumber delivery? The answer could depend on the fine points of board-foot calculations. April 19, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I was just wondering if this situation is typical: I received an order today that was tallied at 263 BF of 4/4 lumber. The little bundle is max 48" wide x 10' long and there are exactly six layers. Is this not 240 BF? Is each individual stick rounded up or something?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor O:
Are you confusing net vs. gross tallies? The difference is typically 5-10% (which would explain your difference).

From contributor D:
Do you get your material straight lined? Vendors could care less how much goes into the grinder.

From the original questioner:
No straight lining. I looked up net vs gross tallies. Gross is wet dimension before kiln drying and net is post drying after lumber has shrunk. If I'm buying from a wholesale lumber supplier, not a mill, I should be getting a net tally already, right? I generally don't double check tallies like this, but it was a fast and easy bundle for mental math. Now I'm paranoid that I've been under-delivered by 10% from this vendor for who knows how long.

From the original questioner:
I talked to my rep and I was calculating it correctly. They are crediting me the difference on this order.

From contributor B:
It's nice they credited you, but in answer to your initial question, I think they do in fact round up - at least my supplier does. If you watch them tally it, they just read their scaling stick for each board and add it up in their head. I'm sure they're not adding in their heads to two decimal places, and you can be sure that the rounding is going to be generally up, not down! I've just always kind of accepted it as just the way it is - I'm not big enough to get them to change their practice.

From contributor R:
Does it make you wonder how many times they sold you air? I have a supplier that Iím always double checking and more times than not they are over on tally.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
On July 21, 1977 the National Conference on Weights and Measures adopted the statement, and the NHLA subscribes to as well, that "Sales of hardwood lumber measured after kiln drying shall be...on the basis of net board footage with no additional footage for kiln drying shrinkage."

It is interesting that this add back was 6% years ago, but I have seen it as high as 9% today. The 6% number is closer to the amount of shrinkage. Fewer and fewer mills use this gross footage (net + 8%). It certainly is similar to buying a gallon of gas at the pump and getting only 92% of a gallon because 8% was lost in evaporation during manufacturing. Basically, the regulation and law is that you have to sell a quantity that is the actual quantity at the time of measurement. So, maybe you did indeed get the shrinkage added back.

However, I will bet that you did indeed get 263 BF. Here is why: Hardwood lumber is sold on the basis of board feet without any fractions. For example, with your 10' pieces, a piece that is between 6-5/8" to 7-3/4" wide is 6 BF. So, if in a layer I gave you 6 pieces that were 7-3/4" for a total width of just under 48", you would have 36 BF of lumber in a layer and not 40 BF. Or if I gave you 7 skinny pieces, you would have 42 BF in a layer. So, it is possible that you did indeed get 263 BF of lumber if each piece was measured separately and then summed up to get the footage.

For this reason, you should in the future specify if the footage is based on the individual pieces or if it is a block tally, which is 48" x 10' / 12 = 40.

From Contributor H:
All the lumber I purchase in the rough from Northeast US suppliers is tallied on a per stick basis. A 5 1/2" wide board is usually tallied as 6" wide. A layer in the unit could typically be 44" wide with 8 boards at 5 1/2" wide but sold to me at 48" worth of width for board footage calculations because each board was calculated individually. To be fair though a 5 1/2" board might also be rounded down to 5", and a 5 1/4" wide board is pretty much always tallied at 5". As such I've never concerned myself to much over the system.

From contributor D:
I'm pretty sure that if you buy in high enough volumes, your vendors will block tally at your request. That includes subtracting a couple of inches for empty space in a layer. There should never be any question that you got your money's worth.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
When a piece of lumber is right on the dividing between one BF value and the next one (such as a piece 5-1/2" exactly x 12' length, then the rule is that the first piece goes up in footage and the next one goes down, then up, then down, etc.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
In practice, block tallies are seldom done with larger orders, because many large-order buyers want to check the grade, as well as the footage, and this grade check requires looking and measuring each piece separately.