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Timber and Board Buying Guide UK 

By  The Saw Guy

Thanks for taking your time to read our information on our timber and board buying guide for people in the United Kingdom. Anyone who is interested in DIY or who does DIY jobs around the home should find this guide really handy and act as a good reference point. If you have ever walked into a builder's yard or DIY store and felt confused or bewildered by the many different types of wood, then this guide will also help you out.

3 Types of Timber

There are two types of wood and these are known as softwoods or hardwoods. We explain the key differences just below. In addition to those 2 types, there is also man made boards, and these are known as fibre boards.

Hardwoods

  • Comes from angiosperm trees that are not monocots and known as deciduous trees such as oak, ash, walnut, maple, beech teak and mahogany
  • Tends to be more expensive to buy
  • Almost always harder, stronger and durable
  • They have a dark colour
  • They are heavy and easier to repair
  • They have a tight close wood grain
  • They have low sap
  • These last longer than softwood
  • More fire resistant

Softwoods

  • Comes from gymnosperm trees known as evergreen trees and tend to have needles and cones such as fir, spruce, pine, cedar and redwood
  • Softwoods tend to be cheaper to buy than hardwoods
  • Will generally speaking be softer than hardwoods
  • They have a light colour
  • They are light in weight when compared to soft wood
  • They have a loose grain
  • They have a high sap
  • Softwood doesn't last as long as hardwood
  • Poor fire resistance

Almost all wood that is sold will be softwoods which account for around 80% of all wood sold in the UK and throughout the world. If you would like to know more detail about these wood types, then read our article on soft woods vs hard woods by clicking here.

Fibre Boards

 In addition to that, there are also many man made boards such as MDF, HDF, OSB, Hardboard, Chipboard, Plywood and Plasterboard. These are not natural wood from trees and are a combination of saw chippings, sawdust and some form of bonding resin. Quite often these are covered with some type of laminate to make them look nicer.

When doing any DIY job it is important to know what these are used for and when you should use them.

3 Main Uses of Timber

  1. Construction Timber - This type of timber is used for most construction work such as stud walls, roofing battens, framing fences, posts, etc
  2. Finishing Timber - This is used for furniture, floor boards or for anywhere that woodwork can be seen
  3. Decorative Timber - This is used for skirting boards, dado, picture rails and cladding

Construction Timber

Construction timber is any type of timber that is used for building. It comes in different lengths, widths and thicknesses. The size of those determines what jobs it is used for. Softwoods are by far the most popular for construction work as it is easier to saw, nail into and screw into than hardwood. Softwood is also a great deal cheaper than hardwood.

Carcassing timber

This collective term is used for timbers used in structural applications, e.g. roof battens, floor joists and studwork for partitioned walls. In some cases, this timber is treated when it is used for roof rafters, ceiling joists, timber framing, floor joists, deck joists and other garden buildings. When treated it can be used outside. It comes in different grades such as C16 and C24.

  • It comes in widths of 70, 95 and 145 mm 
  • It is mainly sold in either a 2.4 or 3 metre lengths.
  • In most cases either Redwood pine or Whitewood Spruce are the two options. 

Studwork Timber

This can be sold as treated or untreated.

  • It comes in widths of 38, 63, 89 and 140 mm
  • It is mainly sold in 2.4 metre lengths.
  • In most cases either Redwood pine or Whitewood Spruce are the two options. some buyers also call this stick timber. The edges are slightly rounded for easier handling.

Treated Sawn Kiln Dried

This wood is treated with a copper based preservative so as it can be used outside if required. Most manufacturers use Tanalith E for the treatment, and gives a green tint to the timber.

  • It comes in widths of 38, 50, 60, 70 and 75 mm 
  • It is mainly sold in 1.8, 2.4, 3.0, 3.6 and 4.8 metre lengths. 
  • In most cases either Spruce or Whitewood Spruce are the two options.

Finishing Timber

Finishing timber splits down into a few different types and some buyers also call this stick timber:

Whitewood planed smooth

This wood will have an engineered smooth surface and best suited for indoor use. It can be used outside if properly treated. There are three different options, timber, stripwood and stick timber.

Stick Timber

  • This is sold in widths of 32, 34, 38, 44 and 70 mm. 
  • There are 5 thicknesses of 12, 18, 27, 34 and 38 mm.
  • Usually sold in either 2.1 or 2.4 metre lengths 
  • This is almost always Whitewood Spruce.

Stripwood

  • This is sold in widths of 25, 34, 36, 44 and 46mm. 
  • There are 5 thicknesses of 4,9,12,15 and 18 mm. 
  • Usually sold in either 0.9 or 2.4 metre lengths 
  • This is either made from MDF or redwood pine.

Finishing Timber

  • This is sold in widths of 34, 44, 70, 94 and 96mm. 
  • There are 5 thicknesses of 12, 18, 27, 34 and 44 mm. 
  • Usually sold in either 1.8, 2.1 or 2.4 metre lengths 
  • This is almost always Spruce.

Floorboards

Floorboards - These are tongue and groove boards suitable for flooring.

  • They are sold in widths of 119 and 140 mm 
  • They are sold in 2, 2.1 and 3 metre lengths 
  • There are two thicknesses 18 and 21 mm 
  • In most cases either Spruce, Whitewood Spruce or Maritime Pine are the options.

Decorative Timber

Decorative timber also has a few categories:

Skirting Boards

These come with different edge profiles and can be bullnose, chamfered, dual profile, Ogee or Ovolo.

  • These are sold in widths of 69, 94, 119, 120 and 144mm. 
  • There are 5 thicknesses of 12, 14, 15, 16 and 18 mm. 
  • Usually sold in either 2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 3 and 3.6 metre lengths
  • These are usually available in MDF, Pine and Oak with various surface finishes such as planed, primed or smooth.

Dado & Picture Rails

  • These come with different edge profiles and can be Ogee or Torus.
  • These are sold in widths of 44,45 and 58mm. 
  • There are 2 thicknesses of 18 and 20 mm. 
  • Usually sold in either 2.4 metre lengths These are usually available in MDF, or Pine.

Dowel Mouldings

These are also referred to as dowel rods and are almost always cylindrical in shape. Primarily these are cut to size and used for making dowel joints when joining wood. A dowel joint is usually glued and makes a strong hidden joint without the need for nails or screws.

  • They have 3 different edge profiles; dowel, fluted dowel and half dowel
  • They come in thicknesses of 6,8,9,12 and 14 mm
  • They come in widths of 6,8,9,12 and 14 mm
  • They come in lengths of 160, 900, 1000 and 2400 mm
  • They are available in oak, pine, metal plastic or as brass

Architraves

Architraves are strips of moulding that are used to fit around your house's doors and windows. Skirting boards seal the gap between the walls and floors, whereas architraves seal gaps around windows and doors to leave a very neat finish. They are really just for decorative purposes as they don't form part of door frame or window frame structure. Ideally the width of the architrave should match the width of your skirting board.

  • There are different profiles such as square edge, ogee, torus, chamfered, bull nose and rounded
  • They come in widths of 32,44,45, 58 and 69 mm
  • They come in lengths of 2100, 2150, 2180, 2400 and 1497 mm
  • They can be made from natural pine or white MDF

Bead Mouldings

These are better known as beadings. Typically these will be used as a means of decoration between two panes of glass. They are usually a rounded shape but cut into a square edge to prevent splitting. Prices will vary depending on size, material and style and can be between £2-£10 per piece

  • There are different profiles such as barrel, cove, End bead, glass bead or a parting bead
  • You can buy these in uPVC, MDF or Pine
  • They come in various thicknesses that include 8, 8.5, 9, 12 and 15 mm
  • They come in various widths that include 9,5, 15, 18,20 and 20.5 mm

Corner Mouldings

These are also known as L-shaped mouldings and are very popular to make a smooth edge between two rough edged boards. Their purpose is to leave a nice neat finish.

  • There are different profiles such as angled, angled edge, corner bead, cove or L-Shaped
  • You can buy these in PVC, uPVC, Oak or Pine
  • They come in various thicknesses that include 5, 9, 10, 12 and 13 mm
  • They come in various widths that include 10,13, 15, 16 and 18 mm

Finishing Trims

As the name would suggest these are used for creating neat finishes on flooring or between the walls and the floor. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes using different materials.

  • There are different profiles such as chamfered, D-shape, Hockey Stick, Ogee and rounded
  • You can buy these in MDF, Oak or Pine
  • They come in various thicknesses that include 4, 4.5, 8, and 10 mm
  • They come in various widths that include 13, 20, 21, 23 and 26 mm

Quadrant Mouldings

These are a convex moulding that has a cross-section in the form of a quarter circle. They can be used to cover gaps or uneven edges between skirting and flooring. They will have a very smooth finish and are usually made from wood that is knot free.

  • There are a couple of different profiles namely quadrant and ovolo
  • You can buy these in PVC, uPVC, Oak or Pine
  • They come in various thicknesses that include 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12 mm
  • They come in various widths that include 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12 mm

Decorative Mouldings

These come in a range of styles and are an affordable way of adding decoration to your home. They can be painted or varnished so versatile in their use and applications.

  • There are a few different profiles namely angled shape, Astragel, Barrel, D-shape and Ogee
  • You can buy these in Hardwood or Pine
  • They come in various thicknesses that include 4.5, 7.5, 8.5, 9 and 12 mm
  • They come in various widths that include 15,20, 21, 22 and 23 mm

Man-made Boards

Man made boards splits down into a few different types which we have listed below. These are not natural woods from trees. In most cases there is a process of using wood chips and sawdust and then combining these with a resin or glue to stick them altogether. In some cases this process also uses pressure treating. It does mean that generally speaking these boards are cheaper than real wood. They are also strong boards, and when used, are usually covered with a veneer to make them look more attractive.

MDF Boards

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) is without doubt the most popular of all the man-made boards. MDF is made from wood fibres which are compressed and glued together under a high pressure. MDF comes in a range of lengths, widths and thicknesses. The reason MDF is so popular that you can paint it and it looks good, whereas with other boards, they need to be covered in a veneer to make them look good.

MDF has a smooth surface and very neat finish.

  • You can buy MDF in different thicknesses and includes 6, 9, 12, 18 and 25 mm.
  • You can buy MDF in different lengths and includes 810, 1200, 120, 1830 and 2440 mm
  • You can buy MDF in different widths and includes 405, 600, 610 and 1220 mm

HDF Boards

High Density Fibreboard (HDF) is an engineered board produced from resin bonded wood fibres under high pressure and heat. HDF is a non load-bearing product for interior use in dry conditions. HDF, due to its very fine surface, is suitable for different coatings, veneering, laminating, painting and varnishing.

It is not that popular, even though it is stronger than MDF and slightly more water resistant. That is mainly down to the price. Not that many stores will stock High Density Fibreboard.

OSB Boards

Oriented Strand Board (OSB) is a very strong board used for flooring, roofing and walls. It is a fully engineered board and is suitable for use in humid conditions and similar in type to plywood. It comes in two grades known as Grade 2 and Grade 3 and is ideal for any load bearing construction purpose.

  • You can buy OSB in different thicknesses and includes 9, 11 15, and 18 mm
  • You can buy OSB in different lengths and includes 810, 1220, 1690, 1830 and 2440 mm
  • You can buy OSB in different widths and includes 405, 610, 634 and 1220 mm

Hardboard

Hardboard is made from compressed softwood pulp but has no adhesive or bonding added to it. Hardboard comes in thin sheets so nowhere near as strong as other man-made boards. The beauty of hardboard is that it is really cheap and can be used in drawer bottoms or as an underlay for flooring.

  • You can buy hardboard in different lengths and includes 405, 810, 1220, 1830 and 2440 mm
  • You can buy hardboard in different widths and includes 405, 610, 810, 1220 and 2440 mm

Chipboard

cihpboard uses

Chipboard is a really popular choice, mainly because it is one of the cheapest boards to buy. Some buyers will refer to this as particle board. Chipboard is used a lot to make furniture, headboards, desks and tables and will usually be covered with a veneer to make it look better.

Chipboard (tongue and groove) is also popular for flooring attics (roof spaces) and used inside sheds and many garden buildings.

It can never be used outside as the rain will destroy it very quickly. It is also quite a heavy board. You can buy chipboard in its natural state or covered in a veneer with a white veneer being the most popular.

  • You can buy chipboard in different thicknesses and includes 15, 18 and 22 mm
  • You can buy chipboard in different lengths and includes 2400, 2440 mm
  • You can buy chipboard in different widths and includes 153, 229, 381, 457, 533, 600 mm

Plywood

Plywood is one of the most popular woods used for construction and building in the UK. This is a man made engineered wood that is made up of multiple layers of veneer that are then glued together. The veneer layers are cross grained which means they are laid at 90 degrees to each other to stop the wood from splitting at the ends.

Plywood can either be made from soft woods or hard wood veneers and the quality of the plywood depends mainly on how it is glued and the actual number of layers. It is used heavily in the construction industry and can also be used in furniture making, surface coating of boats and even in some cars.

Veneer plywood (FU) is used for general purpose use such as wall cladding. This type of plywood is strong and durable but isn't bearing any load. Construction veneer plywood (BFU) can be used when load bearing is required.

  • You can buy plywood in different thicknesses and includes 3.6, 5, 8, 9 and 12 mm
  • You can buy plywood in different lengths and includes 35, 700, 810, 900 and 1220 mm
  • You can buy plywood in different widths and includes 53, 405, 610 and 1220 mm

The Saw Guy


We review the different types of powers saws on the UK market. We do a lot of research to make sure we bring you the very latest information and reviews on the full range of mitre, circular, chop, reciprocating and jigsaws.

Enda McLarnon

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