Why You Should Be Careful When Selecting 4×4 Lumber

If you need 4x4s or other large posts, inspect them first. Why? Read on to find out!

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What is 4×4 Lumber?

4×4 lumber is an essential building block of construction, most commonly used as posts in the framing of houses, sheds, and many other structures. Like most lumber, 4×4 lumber gets its name from its dimensions. Depending on the demands of your particular project, 4×4 lumber can be purchased both treated and untreated. Just keep in mind that a treated 4×4 is going to be significantly heavier.

Why You Should Inspect 4×4 Lumber

If you need 4x4s (or any other large posts, really) inspect them first. Why? Many of them, especially 8-ft. posts, come from logs used for veneer, which is peeled from the logs like paper towels from a roll, leaving only the very center of the log. The center “pith” is the least stable part of the log and is very prone to twisting, splitting and bowing. This is particularly true of treated 4x4s because the treatment exaggerates the warping.

How to Inspect 4×4 Lumber

Examine the stack of posts at the home center and reject the posts with end grain that looks like a bulls-eye. Choose the straightest posts you can find, with the least amount of center pith.

How to Get the Best of the Pile

Look for posts without a “bulls-eye” and growth rings from edge to edge. Perfect lumber is rare. Find the best you can. Plus, check out how to find the best home center lumber for your DIY projects.

Brad Holden
Brad Holden, an associate editor at The Family Handyman, has been building cabinets and furniture for 30 years. In that time, he has absorbed so many slivers and ingested so much sawdust that he's practically made of wood.