Sawing wood for house-framing

The basics of sawing and drying lumber to by used in constructing a house. January 3, 2001

I am considering buying a band saw mill to saw the dimensional lumber to build my new house. What dimension do you cut a 2x4? Do you cut or plane to finish size or does it shrink to finish size? I’m looking at a Nyle DH kiln and am trying to figure out how big a building is needed for the 50 or 200 models.

Forum Responses
I sawed a house and used all yellow poplar. We sawed all the structural lumber at full dimension, meaning 2 x 6's, 2 x 8's, and 2 x 12's. We cut the lumber in the spring and stacked/stickered it in an enclosed pole shed with fans and dehumidifier going for specified periods. You will need some time each week to keep an eye on the drying lumber. We came back a year later and double edged all the lumber to make it straight.

I would recommend cutting all your stuff full and dressing later if you want. You may find that you won't want to dress a lot of it. Cutting dressed sizes is possible and is done but leaves you no leeway if something goes awry.

I purchased an old circular mill ($450.00) and sawed the lumber for my house and barns. All the lumber was sawed at full dimensions and air dried for several years. Rafters, ceiling and floor joists were not planed, unless visible. The studs were dressed on the thick side. Boards and batten strips were not planed for the outside. Interior paneling boards were planed.

I think the building code is the most limiting factor you need to address. If your local municipality requires code compliance inspection at various points in the construction cycle, your house will be flagged due to lack of grade-stamped lumber.

If you have your building plans looked over (or designed) and stamped by a licensed professional engineer in your state, his stamp overrides the authority of the building inspector.

It's very expensive to have your own grade stamp, most people don't do it. If you can, get a grader from a mill close by to come out and grade your lumber.

As far as cutting full dimension, this is a waste of valuable lumber and none of the fancy hardware or standard door jambs will fit it. I cut dimension lumber at 1 5/8 by 3 5/8 for 2x4 and 1 5/8 by 5 5/8 for 2x6, giving 1/8 inch for shrinkage.

It depends on the mill you’re using and the end product you desire as to whether you plane the lumber. No portable mill can match what a planer can do.

We hired a local grading service. In one morning two people graded around 7000 bd. ft. of lumber on our site. The service minimum fee was $250 for a half day. They will grade from 10,000 to 15,000 bd. ft. in a day depending on the lumber and set up at the site.

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Comment from contributor S:
Lumber is cut dimentionally to the indicated size. Milling to straighten and smooth the final stock is what generally reduces the piece to the nominal size that you puchase at the lumber yard, so cut your initial size to the given measurement, eg 2x4, 2x6, 4x4, etc. Then joint and plane the size normally purchased - 1.4x3.5, 1.5x5.5, 3.5x3.5, etc.