Buying Lumber Online – Is It a Good Idea?

If you’re into woodworking or DIY projects, you know that finding the right wood can be a challenge, especially if you’re looking for specific types. Fortunately, buying lumber online can be a great solution to this problem. However, is it a good idea to purchase wood online without being able to examine the quality beforehand?

The ideal scenario is to be able to buy wood at a local lumber supplier or hardware store, which will allow you to inspect the wood and select the pieces with the best grain or color. However, this may not be an option depending on where you live or the species of wood you need. You’ll have no problem finding pine, poplar, red oak, and other common species but if you are looking for hardwood lumber such as walnut, cherry, padauk, or maple, you may be out of luck.

Purchasing lumber online - stack of rough cut lumber

Thankfully, online retailers are more than happy to sell you whatever species you are looking for whether it’s a common hardwood or a more expensive exotic wood. This may or may not be a good idea depending on your needs. Let’s look at some benefits of buying wood online as well as some disadvantages.

Benefits of Buying Lumber Online

1. Larger Selection

When it comes to buying lumber online, the selection is virtually endless. You can find almost any type of wood species and size from around the world without having to travel to different locations or stores. You may even discover species of wood that you weren’t even aware of. There may be types of lumber that can help you create the perfect masterpiece for your project.

If you are tired of the limited selection at your local big box stores, it may be time to buy lumber online.

2. Convenience

Shopping online allows you to order quality lumber at any time of day or night, and you don’t need to drive to a store or wait in line to check out. Plus, most online retailers offer door-to-door delivery, so you don’t have to worry about transport or heavy lifting. Most good lumber suppliers online will also ensure you have straight pieces with the least amount of flaws possible.

This isn’t always the case but you’ll rest assured knowing that they are doing the work of delivering great lumber to you without you having to spend the time digging through the lumber racks at your local store. You’ll be able to pick out the perfect wood for your next project and have it arrive on your doorstep.

3. It’s Surprisingly Affordable

Even after shipping fees, I have found that buying wood online from the right retailer can be very affordable since online retail stores have fewer expenses associated with running a brick-and-mortar storefront. Sure, you may be able to find rough-cut lumber at a local sawmill or lumber supplier for cheaper but you’ll likely have a lot of work on your hands with planing, smoothing, and preparing the wood for use. All of this is done for you and usually offered with multiple surfaced sides and ready for your next project.

4. High-Quality Standards

When you buy wood online, it’s usually graded and inspected before being shipped, ensuring that you receive a high-quality product. When working with a good retailer, you’ll know what you are getting and can expect it to be as good as anything you could have picked out yourself.

Disadvantages of Buying Lumber Online

1. No tactile experience

Unlike purchasing wood in person, shopping online means you can’t touch or feel the wood you’re purchasing. This is perhaps the biggest downside of purchasing wood online. This makes it challenging if there are specific qualities or characteristics you’re looking for. When buying lumber online, you don’t get the opportunity to see, touch, and inspect the wood before you buy it.

This means that you’re relying on the seller’s descriptions, photos, and customer reviews to gauge the quality. However, it is often possible to contact the seller directly and tell them what you are looking for and they can often make an exception and hook you up with your exact needs.

Man selecting lumber at a store

2. Shipping Costs

Lumber is heavy, especially with dense hardwoods. Shipping expenses can add up and may deter you from purchasing some types of wood or smaller orders. Boards of greater length add even more cost so shorter will often result in the best shipping rates. Be sure to factor in shipping rates when comparing prices to local retailers.

3. Timing

Once you order wood online, you may have to wait several weeks for it to arrive. This can be a significant downside if you need the materials right away for a project. You’ll often find that once you place your order, it can take a week or more for your lumber to be picked and packaged. It’s a lot of work to fulfill lumber orders and ensure you are sending out quality products to each customer. You’ll need to account for this delay, especially if you are running a business and need wood regularly.

Tips for Ensuring a Good Experience

Do Your Research

Before buying lumber online, research different websites, their reputations, and customer reviews. Make sure that the wood species, grade, and dimensions meet your project’s requirements and that the seller has a return or refund policy if the wood doesn’t match your expectations. Be sure you understand dimensional lumber, board foot, and nominal size vs actual size so you know how to find exactly what you are looking for.

Many companies also have a minimum order requirement so make sure you understand this before ordering.

Seek out Smaller Operations

While it may be convenient to shop at big box stores online, you aren’t always going to get the best selection or price. In my experience, I have found it best to shop with online companies that grade and sell lumber as their only business. These types of businesses are generally great at providing their customers with the best cuts of lumber possible.

My favorite is Ocooch Hardwoods. They have a great selection, send out high-quality products, and their prices are among the best online.

Request Samples

Many sellers offer free samples or small bundles of wood before you buy. Take advantage of these offers to check the color, grain, and texture of the wood and compare it with your project’s needs. Samples are a great way to get a feel for the company you are buying from. You’ll discover the quality of their lumber as well as the timing and process they use to get it to you. If you have long wait times and a bad experience with a sample pack, you may want to avoid placing larger orders.

Look for Monthly Deals

Some online lumber retailers offer sales and “wood of the month” deals. If you are flexible in your needs, you may find the perfect type of wood for your woodworking projects at a steep discount. You may also find liquidation or overstock deals at certain times of the year. Keep an eye out for these deals and take advantage of them when they present themselves.


There are certainly benefits to buying lumber online, including a wider selection, lower prices, and high-quality standards. However, it’s important to consider that you won’t have the same tactile experience as shopping in person, and shipping expenses may exceed your budget. If you decide to shop online, be sure to take the time to research the website to ensure it’s reliable and trustworthy.

And, always double-check the measurements and specifications to be sure the wood is right for your project. Overall, buying lumber online can be a great solution to finding specific or hard-to-find wood species, but it does require some careful consideration before making a purchase.