Tilson Homes
Feb 18, 2020

The Different Lumber Grades Explained

Construction Practices

With homes– just like with humans– what’s on the surface is exactly that. It’s just on the surface. Any home builder worth their salt can build you a beautiful house with all of the latest and greatest. But how it’s built, and what it’s made of, are significantly more important than you might think. 

Lumber 101

Take dimensional lumber as an example. In Texas, we use a lot of southern pine lumber.  When these trees are harvested and cut into boards, a very strict grading system is used to evaluate the quality of each piece of wood. In basic terms, every board is graded from 1 to 3, depending on its inherent characteristics.

Number 1 lumber is the highest quality grade, with numbers 2 and 3 sequentially lower in quality. The fewer flaws and knots a board has, the higher the grade. The higher the grade, the better the quality. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Let’s just use the good stuff!  But here’s the thing: good lumber does not come cheap. Every grade increase can almost double the price.

The Competitor’s Way

In order to shave down building costs, some builders will buy the cheapest quality lumber permitted. As if that isn’t enough, they will also intentionally design a home to require less lumber to build. They do this by pushing the distance between each board as far apart as they are allowed. It’s a one-two combo of cheap material and inferior construction practices. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

The Tilson Way

Although the building code allows the use of number 3 graded lumber, we use the higher quality number 2 lumber to frame every home that we build. We deliberately do this because the superior lumber is more structurally sound. It also allows us to span longer distances in construction.

We also use a substantial amount of engineered wood products, including beams and i-joists. This material is designed to carry a large load of weight over a long span, making it an ideal product over garages and anywhere a second story is built. Engineered wood eliminates any kind of warping, bowing, or crowning that can affect natural wood. It even helps to prevent squeaks on the second floor.

On-Center Spacing

In a Tilson home, all studs used in interior and exterior walls are built 16 inches on center. “On center” indicates the dimensional distance between the center of one framing board to the next. Framing a home this way increases its strength and structural rigidity.
As far as rafters, we place them on 19.2 inches on center. Code does allow for 24 inches on center, but we’re just not comfortable with that amount of distance between each rafter. It would weaken the home’s roof decking and ceiling sheetrock finish to a level we can’t accept.

It’s Just Who We Are

We’ve been building homes since 1932. In all that time, we’ve learned a few things about what it takes to build something that will last. For a closer look at the “bones” of a Tilson home, check out our Craftsmanship series video all about lumber, framing, and how we go above and beyond to get the job done right. 

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