West Hamilton, Ohio
961 Main St
Hamilton, OH 45013
(513) 896-6660

Understanding Nominal & Actual Lumber Sizes January 28, 2020

West Hamilton, Hamilton
Understanding Nominal & Actual Lumber Sizes, Hamilton, Ohio

Whether you’re building a new home or completing a DIY improvement project, lumber will likely play a role. As you determine the correct dimensions, you’ll notice that the actual measurements of the wood can be slightly different than what the store lists. These are known as the nominal and actual dimensions. Use the guide below to ensure you choose the right product for your needs.

Nominal Dimensions

Nominal dimensions relate to the size of the board before the manufacturer cut, treated, and smoothed it. The numbers are specific to width and thickness. Examples include 1-by-12-inch lumber, 2-by-4-inch framing pieces, and 4-by-4-inch posts. These numbers are used for most wood types, including spruce, fir, and pine.

Actual Measurements

lumberOnce a piece of lumber is smoothed with a planer, the dimensions become slightly different. The new measurements are called the actual dimensions. Examples include:

  • Nominal 1 inch by 2 inches equals actual 3/4 of an inch by 1.5 inches.
  • Nominal 2 inches by 2 inches equals actual 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches.
  • Nominal 6 inches by 6 inches equals actual 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches.

To ensure you pick out the perfect planks for your job, consider both the nominal and actual variations. Bring a tape measure to the store so you can check a piece of lumber before purchasing it. It’s wise to buy slightly larger pieces than you need so you’ll have extra material to cut to the exact dimensions you need.


If you’re looking for quality lumber for your next project, turn to Butler County Lumber Company. These providers have offered a variety of building supplies and construction materials to residents of Hamilton, OH, since 1912. Their skilled team will work closely with you to ensure you find all the building materials and supplies you need. Call (513) 896-6660 to speak with a sales associate, and visit their website to explore their inventory.

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