How to Choose the Right 2x4s for your DIY Wall Building Project

Not all 2x4s are created equal and when you are taking on a construction project its important to start with a bunch of good ones.  Life is hard enough without dealing with bowed, cupped, or twisted studs.  I’m getting ready to start framing the new walls in the basement and I wanted to get the job started well by picking the right lumber for the job.

With the help of my dad’s trusty little red wagon I brought home 80 some 2×4 by 8′ studs, 15 sheets of 1″ rigid insulation and a new storm door for the entry spruce up I keep pretending I’m going to take on.  But I didn’t just stroll into Home Depot and pull the top studs off the pile. I climbed up into the stacks (no employees came by to stop me) and each one got checked for flaws and about a quarter of the studs I handled ended up on the discard pile.

I’m a little worried that some hapless DIYer came by after me and thought that my discard pile was a cart all ready to go home.  Here are a few of the key flaws that studs can display, pulled from a post I wrote on 2×4’s for moss design’s blog several years ago.  To quote myself:

 Each individual 2×4 has the potential for flaws.  Trying to turn an organic organism (a tree) into a fixed, interchangeable unit (a board) is not without its problems and when selecting 2x material for a project, you have to beware of many potential flaws (nearly all created by misalignment between the wood’s natural grain and the way it was cut.)  Unlike finish grade wood, which is cut from specific areas of a round log to get particular grain patterns, dimensional lumber is sliced out of pretty small-diameter trees, any way it can be.

It’s pretty easy to check for construction ready 2x4s – dad and I just laid out several next to each other.  If one popped up higher than the others in the middle, curved toward or away from them or twisted one end higher than the other, it was pretty obviously not OK.  Fortunately it is pretty easy to see what’s what.  Bring gloves with you to the lumber yard to avoid nasty splinters while you sort through the pile.

Here’s our fully loaded wagon: a finished basement’s worth of insulation and walls in condensed form.  We’ll be ready to get framing soon!

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