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Calculating Board Footage Help + Ordering Tips

Need help figuring how much wood you’ll need for your next project?

Hardwood lumber is sold differently than pine and other softwoods from big box stores.

It arrives out of the kiln in set thickness, but random widths and lengths, rather than the homogenized, more standardized dimensions you may be used to purchasing.

You’ll have to change gears mentally, but once you’re used to it, thinking about your project in terms of individual components and board footage will become second nature.

To start, make a list of each individual piece (or component) you’ll need to build…

We call this our “cut list.”  You’ll want to have a clear idea of the actual size of each component you’ll need. If you’re following a plan out of a magazine or web page you can use the one provided, however you’ll be focusing on the component sizes themselves, rather than the list of “1x6”s or “2x4”s, etc…

For a simple project, your list might look something like this:


(8) Pieces: 3/4” x 3.5” x 9’

(5) Pieces: 3/4” x 6.25” x 6’


(6) Pieces: 1.5” x 4” x 32”

To calculate the ‘NET’ or total board footage, use the following formula:

Thickness(in inches) x Width(in inches) x Length(in inches) / divided by 144.

The ¾” material you’ll need will have been milled from 1” thick, or 4/4 lumber, so:

For this project, you’ll multiply 1 x 3.5 x 108 (9’x12=108”), which gives you 378.

Divide that number by 144, which gives you 2.625 Board Feet.

Since you need 8 of those boards, you’re looking at 21 Board Feet of 4/4 Maple.

Continue on down the list...

The 1.5” thick material you’ll need will have been milled from 2” thick, or 8/4 lumber, so:

2 x 4 x 32 = 256. Divided by 144 = 1.8 Board Feet.

Since you need 6 of those pieces, that equals 10.8 BF.

Add up all of your material, separated by thickness, and then add an overage or “waste factor”

to make sure you have enough extra material to account for saw-kerf cuts and areas you were not able to use. A general guideline most experienced woodworkers use is around 30%.

Your list, or order sheet should look something like this:


(8) Pieces: (21 BF) (5) Pieces: (15.6 BF) = 36.6 BF (x 30% Overage = 11 BF)


MAPLE LEGS: (6) Pieces: (10.8 BF) (x 30% Overage = 3.2 BF)


This is a great starting point and a general guideline of what to order.

Your actual waste factor may be lower, or possibly considerably higher depending upon what your list calls for in relation to the lengths and widths available.


At Anchor Hardwoods, there is a very nice selection of close to 40 kiln-dried species.

We try to keep at least 50 BF (or more) in stock of each. Everyone is encouraged to come in and hand-select their favorite boards, and find ones which work best for their particular project. Widths will typically vary from 3”-10” wide and lengths start at around 6’- 8’ all the way up to 12.’

On projects where you need deep/wide dimensions (shelves, tables, etc...) it is often required necessary to glue up one or more boards to achieve desired depth. If you have an order of 25 BF or more, some prefer to call in ahead of time and have us bring in a fresh batch from the kiln. 

Do keep in mind, the kiln pulls wood according to grade and thickness, you cannot specify widths,  you’ll receive a nice mix. 


*We also carry Live-Edge Slabs, some of which are easily 2’- 4’ WIDE and up to 12’ Long.

Once your board footage arrives, have your cut list in hand and lay each board out.

This will help with visualization, and allow you to figure out the most efficient and least-wasteful way to obtain all of the pieces from your list. Start with the widest and longest components first. You may find you’re able to mill several pieces from a single board, depending upon the overall lengths and widths.

Hope this helps!!

The Anchor Crew

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