A 2 by 4 wood board is the most common type of lumber used in the world. It is used for framing houses and in part of just about every other type of project. The size and strength of the boards are what make them so popular.
It hasn’t always been this way. But after centuries of contractors and architects studying board sizes, it has become the standard, outselling every other type of lumber by a longshot. But a 2 by 4 board is more than meets the eye.
How Big Is 2×4 Wood?
The thing about 2x4s is that they aren’t really 2-inches by 4-inches thick. The name may suggest so but this is to take other things, like drywall, into account. That said, a rough-cut board is likely to be accurate.
But after the board is rough-cut at the lumber mill, it is smoothed down and treated. The end result usually takes half an inch off each side. You can count on treated 2×4 wood to be 1-1/2-in by 3-1/2-in.
The way to tell if the board you are getting is 2×4 or 1-1/2×3-1/2 is to see if it says nominal or actual. Actual is the actual dimensions while nominal is the original dimensions before it was planed and treated. Length is not affected by treatment.
When To Use 2 by 4 Wood
This is the most popular and most versatile size of lumber board. You can use it for almost any project. The number one reason people buy 2 by 4 wood is to frame houses. Though it cannot stand alone.
Although 2x4s are strong, it is recommended to use at least 2x6s for insulation and structural integrity purposes. That said, all interior walls and the majority of the frame can be built with 2×4 wood.
As for projects, as long as you don’t need the item to hold your full weight with a good amount of psi, then using 2x4s will be just right. But when in doubt, add a little bit of support with some 2x6s or 2x8s.
Other Lumber Sizes
The boards are almost always sold in lengths where the number divisible by 2. This would be 8-feet, 10-feet, 12-feet, and so on. But the width and thickness are usually set. Here are the most common sizes.
The 2×6 board is the most common board size, or rather the minimum board size, for foundations. It is used as support for load-bearing walls and is needed for building houses in most cases. This is the second most important board size.
The 2×8 board is also popular and is often preferred over the 2×8 board in recent years because it offers more support than a 2×6. This type of board is also very common to use on decks as they will get a lot of traffic.
If the wooden structure will be driven over, you can guarantee that a board at least 10 inches wide will be used. Sometimes, 2x12s are used instead but oftentimes, in projects and bases, 2x10s are used.
A 1×2 is a small board that is often used for trim and finish work. It is delicate and attractive, often treated and finished to be very, very smooth. This is common for use in projects that are in open view.
This offers the same things that a 1×2 but covers more. For example, if you have 2-inch gaps that need covered but not insulated, then a 1×3 may be a better option to make sure the gap is covered well.
This is simply a thinner version of the everyday 2×4. It can be used for almost anything that doesn’t require structural integrity that is needed to carry weight. It can be placed on top of 2x4s for a perfect fit.
This is the most common type of board used for posts and feet for decks. This type of board is almost always used in framing too as it will be set in concrete to create a foundation for almost all houses.
A 4×6 is a common dimension for larger buildings like barns. They are used in corners to offer good structural integrity and often under load-bearing walls. This is because animals require a stronger hold than humans.
While a 4×4 is often good enough and a 6×6 isn’t needed, a 6×6 is often used for aesthetics. That said, a 6×6 will always be stronger than a 4×4 so this is just about the strongest standard-sized lumber you can get.
Types Of 2×4 Wood
Many types of wood are used to make 2x4s, but not all of these woods are created equally. These are the most common types of wood used for 2x4s and why they are used. This can help you find out which is right for you.
Douglas fir is one of the most common woods used to make 2x4s. It is one of the cheapest types of softwood 2x4s. This makes it easy to screw into but still strong enough to be used for any project, including a house.
Pine is similar to fir but it is more expensive and harder. Though it is more durable than fir, it isn’t usually needed for framing or for projects where the wood will not be seen nor exposed. This is why fir is a better option in more cases.
Redwood isn’t a common type of wood for framing but it does have its amazing points. It is expensive and isn’t ideal for framing. But if you need the perfect deck board, then this is it. The uniform look and rich color are very attractive.
Cedar is a great wood for that cabin look. Those who live or have lived around cedar know why this is true. It’s not just because of the color nor the strength. But the smell of the wood is seasoned and reminiscent of holidays.
Although hickory isn’t a common wood, it is the strongest type of 2×4 you can get. This type of wood has a dark color and a unique appearance. It is more expensive than alternatives but it is extremely durable.
Easy 2×4 Wood Projects
While you may not be able to build a house right away, there are some things that anyone who knows how to use the tools can make. Here are a few projects to get you started using 2x4s and learning about their uses.
A coat rack is perfect for any entryway or mudroom. All you need to do is create a simple plywood base. Then, using an a-frame technique, you build up from there with 2x4s as support and a 4×4 for the post.
Though this looks simple at first, when you finish and stain it, you won’t find a better-looking coat rack. You can customize it by adding whatever type of hardware and hooks that you want.
A pergola is similar to a gazebo. The difference is that a gazebo has a covered top while a pergola usually has slots for the light to shine through. Gazebos are also usually rounded while pergolas are rectangular.
Pergolas are perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors but want a little bit of shade. You can build one fairly easily the same way you would build a ceiling in a house without the need for load-bearing walls.
There’s nothing like an indoor plant to transform an area. You can build a hanging planter with nothing but a pallet and 2x4s. Building materials often come with free pallets that are used to transport them.
So take advantage of this by using them to build amazing things. This planter is very easy to make too. All you need to do is create a frame and attach the chains. Then, plant your chosen plan and watch it flourish.
Have leftover 2×4 wood? Well, this may be the best use of those boards, especially if you have other extra wood too. Because then you’ll have a place to store all of your wood while using up the shorter boards.
All you need to do to create this rack is to build a few brackets. Add plywood on top and secure it for an extra-strong hold and room for even small boards. You can build multiple racks in your garage or shed.
Should I Hire A Professional?
This is a question everyone faces. Is it worth hiring a professional for your project? The answer isn’t the same for everyone. Because everyone has different needs and budgets. If budget is your main concern, then probably no.
But if quality and timeliness is your main concern then there’s a good chance hiring a professional is your best bet. In general, you can count on paying double the cost of materials for a contractor.
So if you pay $1000 for materials, count on paying about $2000 total for your project. For some people, it is worth it to have it done right and to not have to take time off work. For others, it’s simply too much.