How to Calculate a Board Foot

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A board foot is a unit of measurement used when working with and purchasing lumber. Learn how to calculate a board foot with help from a home remodeling expert in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Home Repair Tools
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dave Trull with the Trull Gallery, and some of you may have heard of board feet, and not know what it is. Other of you may have heard of it, but don't know how to calculate it. Well, I'm going to explain both of those to you today. A lot of people say, "Well, what is board feet used for anyways?" If you think of plywood, you buy plywood by the sheet, you buy two by fours by the length. But, if you're going to buy lumber, lumber to make furniture, or things of that nature, you have to buy it in the board foot, or by the board foot. And, knowing how much you need will make things a lot easier when you go to buy it at the lumber yard. First thing you need to know are the dimensions of your stock: The length, the width, and the thickness. And, those are the three numbers that will determine your board feet. The easiest way to do it, unless you're doing something really huge, the easiest way to do the math is to keep everything in inches. So, if you have a piece that's 60 inches long, and five inches wide, and one inch thick, you can calculate that out, and give you the number of board feet. In this case, you got 60 inches, times five inches, times one inch, gives us 300 inches. We're going to divide that by 144. Basically, what we're doing is taking that 300 inch feet, converting it to board feet. So, we're going to divide the 300 by the 144, and that's going to give us just over two board feet. One thing you have to keep in mind is, you have to plan for more than you need. And, kind of an industry standard is to add 15 percent. So, all's we're going to do at this point is add 15 percent to that, and the easiest way is to multiply our two board feet times 1.15, which now gives us 2.4 board feet. So, the stock we would need for that project is 2.4 board feet. And, really quickly, that's how you calculate your board feet for any projects you have. I'm Dave Trull with Trull Gallery, the fine art of furniture making.

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