Is It Cheaper To Buy Wood At A Lumber Yard?

Acquiring wood is really the first step for any woodworking project you want to start; sometimes, you might be lucky enough to have extra lumber left over from your last project that happens to be exactly what you need for your next woodworking endeavor. But, it is much more likely that you will need to do a bit of ‘shopping’ for whatever lumber you need to build with – oftentimes, this means shelling out lots of money because wood is expensive.

Now, obviously, the price you pay for lumber will vary drastically depending on where you live, what wood you need, how much of it you need, what stores are in your area, how far you are willing to travel, and a bunch more factors that may be out of your control. All things considered, it usually comes to two options as to where you can buy lumber; 1) from a hardware store such as Home Depot and Lowes, or 2) a local lumber yard. So, which ones cheaper to buy wood from?

Although you can typically get a large variety of wood types for decent prices from big box stores such as Lowes and Home Depot, you will almost always get better prices from your local lumber yard. This is because they have less overhead costs and can give you direct-to-consumer prices which big box stores cannot (they need to pay for employees, corporation fees, etc.)

Although lumber yards are usually better prices for wood, sometimes it is better to go to a big box store – you may not have one near to you, although the same can be true for big box stores as well… it truly depends on where you are located.

All things considered, lumber yards are the better option for when you need to buy wood and you want better prices. In this article, we will look at reasons why a lumber yard is better for buying lumber than from big box stores and also look at when it might be smarter to visit a real store instead.

Is It Cheaper To Buy Wood At A Lumber Yard
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Why You Should Buy Wood From Lumber Yards

If you have a local lumber yard and have yet to purchase your lumber from there, what are you waiting for? There are plenty of reasons why it’s worth buying from them at least once.

These reasons include:

Local Support

This is arguably the most obvious reason as to why it is worth supporting your local lumber yard – because they need it more than Home Depot or Lowes does.

If you are the type of person who feels strongly about buying from local businesses and wants to support your community, then buying you wood from a local lumber yard is an easy way to do your part – trust me, the big box stores are doing fine by themselves… it’s the smaller lumber yard that could use your business.

Now, it’s fully reasonable to believe that not everyone can make buying decisions simply based on the effect it has on others – if that was so, stores like Walmart wouldn’t be as successful as they are today. We buy based on selection and price, which are actually two things that are not sacrificed when buying wood from lumber yards.

Cheaper Lumber

Yes, the lumber at lumber yards usually tends to be cheaper than from big box stores – although this is not necessarily always true, it is more often than not.

As mentioned previously, local lumber yards tend to have cheaper wood prices than stores like Home Depot. This is because of factors such as:

  • less expenses means lower pricing – big box stores have a lot of business expenses which means they have to charge higher prices to make a profit.
  • lumber yards usually know wood better than big corporations, therefore they know where to buy lumber at the lowest price possible – this means you are getting a lower price as well.
  • they know they need to compete with the big box stores, so a major selling point they offer is lower prices.

Obviously, prices vary greatly, and sometimes certain types of wood may be cheaper at big box stores over lumber yards, and vice versa. That said, it is almost certain that the local lumber yard can offer you very competitive prices that the big box stores cannot.

Better Selection

Probably the most important difference (second only to price) for woodworkers between big box stores and lumber yards is selection.

It is a myth not only that lumber yards are more expensive but have worse selection than the big box stores – it makes sense that this is a misconception as you might assume that a corporation like Home Depot would have a wider variety of wood material, but this is not true.

Lumber yards tend to have more uncommon, specific types of lumber that you won’t find at the big box stores; not only that but the employees at your local lumber yard can (usually) help you find the wood you need for your project much better than a big box store can.

Customized Cutting

Quite often you will need your lumber to be cut to certain custom specifications for whatever project you are working on – although you can do this at home (assuming you have the equipment to do so) it is usually much easier to get it done from wherever you are purchasing the wood in the first place.

Although the big box stores will cut your wood to your specifications, if you need any type of ‘customization’ or unusual requests, they will usually refuse to do so. This is because they have a surplus of customers to help and it is not always worth their time to help you make custom cuts – the same is not true when it comes to lumber yards.

Your local lumber yard will usually be able to cut your wood to whatever width, length, or style you need – all it takes is a simple request.


Lumber yards just so happen to be incredibly eco-conscious. If the environment is something you care about or a factor that influences your buying decisions, then the lumber yard is a great place to help do your part.

Not only is lumber recyclable, organic, and free from emissions, but many lumber yards have almost no waste at all – often they have absolutely nothing that goes unused. Every material is used for something, right down to the sawdust… obviously, the same is not true for any big box stores, so keep this in mind the next time you need to buy lumber.

Customer Service

This can be argued, but generally, you will find better customer service at lumber yards than from big box stores – this is not because corporations like Lowes or Home Depot have poor customer care, it is simply because lumber yards are almost always much smaller and personable, therefore allowing for a more personalized and one-on-one buying experience.

Not only that, but when it comes to lumber yards, they are great places to get referrals for other services; since they are in the business of woodworking, they will usually ‘know a guy’ for whatever other contracting services you may require. Not only that, but they can often get you friend-only deals and discounts… this is just what happens when you are dealing with people who are ‘in’ the industry.

Wood Care

Your local hardware store likely takes much better care of their lumber than your local big box store does.

This is because they have a general ‘respect’ for wood, probably in the same way you do. At the big corporation stores, the lumber is roughed up by employees and the hundreds of customers that pass through each and every day; the wood is then picked up often and treated very poorly.

When it comes to lumber yards, the wood is one of the only products they sell, and they treat it as such; you will often find that the lumber at lumber yards is not only handled better but stored with greater care.

Now, in some events you might be better suited for a big box store as opposed to a lumber yard.

When Not To Buy From A Lumber Yard

Although lumber yards are ideal for most situations where you need to purchase wood, there are some situations when a big box store like Lowes or Home Depot are ideal.

These unique situations include:

Lack Of Lumber Yards In Area

Unfortunately, lumber yards are not necessarily in every single city, town, or community – if you don’t have the privilege of being able to travel far and wide, then sometimes the lack of a lumber yard in your area means you need to shop at a big box store for your lumber needs.

Remember, lumber yards are not Home Depot – they might not always be listed on Google or Yelp. Do some research before you settle for shopping at a big box store for wood in case you do have a local lumber yard that you were previously unaware of.

Needing Other Equipment/Products

If you are also purchasing other equipment or products besides wood, it may be worth your time to make one trip instead of two and visit a big box store instead.

Most lumber yards sell only lumber – if you are buying a saw, hammer, nails, or anything else that isn’t wood, then you may decide going to Home Depot is easier than having to visit a lumber yard as well.

Before going to your big box store for lumber, it may be worth it to call your lumber yard and see the difference in price to determine whether two trips is worth it or not.

Whatever the case, lumber yards are better than big box stores for purchasing wood – not only for the cheaper lumber prices, but many other reasons as well.

Paul Smith

Hi, I am Paul Smith. I am the man behind this blog. I am a passionate woodworker. I would like to share with you guys the experience of learning woodworking.

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