Buying timber in the UK

Buying timber in the UK is not as easy as it is in the US. here I am spoiled, there it can be more a chore. Oh! Yes, I mean timber, by the way. Terminology is different in the UK than the US. Lumber in the US is what you buy when you build your house and it’s what you usually find at the lumber stores like Home Depot and Lowes or the locally owned lumber store too. In the UK lumber doesn’t work; we call it wood or sometimes, often, timber. So here is the point; when you are looking for oak wood to work with on projects, don’t forget or dismiss looking on ebay these days. In fact, ebay is the most likely place to source your wood and especially is this so for oak. I have bought some of the most beautiful oak via ebay suppliers. I will buy a pallet of white or red oak on ebay when I see a good deal and then keep it in stock. What’s funny (strange) is that I can often buy American white or red oak at half the price I can buy it in the US direct from the saw mill that cut the trees into boards. I recently bought a pallet 3’ x 4’ x 5’ of 1″ thick stock. That translated into about 600 square or board feet of 1” stock for £500 delivered. The pieces were of course short at 5′ or less in length, but they were dry to 7% through, measured between 4-10” wide and were all between 3-5’ long with most pieces 4-5’ long. Thickness was 1 1/8” thick rough sawn. I know some of you may feel this is a little ‘iffy’ (risky), but there are safeguards and sometimes with the UK distances being more concentrated you may well find a supplier local to you, and that may well mean the bargains can be had. If perchance the wood is not fully dried, and I have never had this yet, simply sticker-stack it and wait a few weeks. This is a good way of getting your wood inventory up. Thinking back on this, as I recall, one pallet of wood produced about 15 pieces including coffee tables, chests and chairs and I still have 25% of that wood still in inventory so that might make my average price per piece somewhere around £25 and that makes the percentages right for me.

On the other hand, you can buy European Oak here for a little higher and still very cheap. Kiln dried to around 11% and buy as much as you need.

So in the UK, look under ‘oak timber’ and scroll through. You will find many people wanting to sell off their excesses. For instance look here. Now I don’t know if this is green or dry but you can find out. I would still buy this in green at this price and store it for two or three years until dry. On the other hand, here is another hand here is the UK supplier who has good oak at good prices. I say all of this to encourage you to be resourceful. Invest a little time searching and you can find the wood you need.

7 comments on “Buying timber in the UK

  1. I managed to find a good supplier in Leicester which had a very good grade of hardwood timber. When trying to find hardwood timber in the U.K compared to the U.S is definitely harder and a little bit more expensive as well. I have got to say the rates of this supplier was very decent indeed.

  2. when I was living in Croydon I use slhardwoods they were not to bad prices and I could allways go and collect it they sell through ebay now days but only planed stuff where I am living now is twice the price for timber than in London even softwood

  3. This is an old post with a few newer comments but I felt I wanted to comment on this subject.
    Living in Sweden, a wood producing country of large proportions, the only wood that is easy to find is construction grade studs from spruce, some glued up panels in knotty fir, moldings in a few different sizes for window casings and base boards and some dowels and small sized dried pieces of fir and oak in 1 m lengths that are prohibitively expensive and unsuitable for building anything. Hardwoods or clear pine/fir is mostly unavailable unless you live in the country side and can find a small mill (mostly hobbyists).
    If you are a professional and have your own company there are a few distributors of hardwoods, both exotic an domestic (birch, beech, ash, elm, oak) but they refuse to accept hobbyists and smaller purchases.

    This is really discouraging when you want to do some woodworking in your spare time.

    • I often think someone or a group of someones could band together to but wood via a cooperative of buyer sellers. How to organise it would be like a food coop where the commoner foods are bought in and parcelled off into smaller bundles. More unusual seasonal foods are bought as available but cheaper when there is a found glut of something; passing on the savings to one another with no markups for profiteering.

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