Lumber Phrases

Some common lumber phrases used in relation to salvage and reclamation.


Often confused with recycled or salvaged lumber, reclaimed lumber is a form of “upcycling”, where we create a product of higher value than its original use. Reclamation is where lumber is taken from one use, joists say, and then milled into another use, for example flooring.


Lumber that comes from tree’s that have fallen down due to natural events such as storms or floods. Salvaged lumber comes from logs that have not been used previously as lumber.


Lumber that is taken from one use and put to the same use somewhere else. Flooring that is taken from one building and laid as flooring somewhere else is an example.

Recycled Wood

Recycled wood is wood that has been manufactured from other wood. Plywood or chipboard are examples. We do not manufacture this type of product ourselves though we do sometimes sell it – Reuseable recycled wood, strictly speaking!

Heartwood and Sapwood

Looking at the face of a sliced log, the outer, lighter circumference of wood, is the cambian layer or sapwood. Sapwood is softer and more prone to rot than heartwood, the wood in the middle of the log. The very centre of the log is called the heart. Lumber cut near to this is prone to splitting thus the most desirable wood for construction is known as “free of heart centre” (FOHC).


Clear lumber is where there are no knots. It is favoured by contractors for it’s ease to work with and is also used in settings where a chic, rather than rustic, effect is desired.

Janka Scale

The Janka scale measures the force required to embed a slightly less than half inch (0.444″) diameter steel ball halfway into a piece of wood. It is commonly used to compare wood types for suitability as flooring. In addition to the species of wood and hardness, factors such as grain direction, density, climate and use also have an influence on suitability and should be taken into account.

Wood Characteristics

Old Growth

A well known industry term. Refers to lumber cut from tree’s that have been allowed to grow for such a period of time that the wood becomes dense and more stable. The forests that used to exist on the continent before European settlers arrived were dense and trees had to compete for land and light and so grew more slowly. A popular definition of old growth is at least 35 growth rings per inch, though it varies by wood type and we have no source for this it’s just a word of mouth definition. In fact, the term seems to be somewhat ambiguous, see discussion on Woodweb here.

Vertical and Flat Grain

Also referred to as quarter-sawn, vertical grain is where the growth rings on a piece of lumber are vertical on the front or back sides. Flat grain is where these lines would be horizontal. Vertical grain is often desirable for its appearance and also in flooring as it is tougher with foot traffic.

Rough and Smooth Sawn

In the 1930’s mill and construction technology changed. Previously the circular saw was the norm for cutting lumber, whereas afterwards the band saw became the norm. The circular saw would waste considerable material and leave a rough finish whereas the band saw would leave a smooth finish and would waste little material. The standard dimensions of dimensional lumber remained in name (nominal) – 2×4, 2×6 etc but the actual dimensions were smaller, being 1.5×3.5, 1.5×5.25 respectively. Nowadays when someone refers to rough cut they are referring to full dimension with a rough finish, something which cannot be bought new anymore.