Board Feet? How to Calculate

I want to give you a simple formula that you'll never forget.

Thickness (in inches) x Width (in inches) x Length (in feet) divided by 12.

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Got it? Good! So what is a board foot anyways? Well, it's the standard unit of measure in the North American lumber industry. A board foot is the equivalent of a piece of wood 1 inch thick, 12 inches wide, and 1 foot long. In other words, a board foot is 1 square foot of lumber, 1 inch thick. Any lumber item can be calculated in terms of board feet by using the formula above.

So lets plug in a 2x4 that is 8 feet long okay? 2x4x8/12 = 5.333333 board feet (bf)

Now that you understand how to calculate one piece of wood, let's take it to the next level, because most people who need to calculate have a large volume of wood. So how do you calculate that? Now let's work using "fbm" which is "feet, board measure" and this is used for calculating a volume of wood measured in board feet.

Due to the large volume of lumber traded in a typical transaction, the most common unit of measure is a "thousand board feet". Does this look familiar... a seller faxes you information that says "I have 23 packages of 2x4x12' for sale at 5/M." So how do you calculate this?

The missing ingredient is the amount of pieces in the packages. Here's a tip for you to remember... in North America, the standard sizes of packages (for 2x4) is 294 pieces. So we now need to add two more variables to our equation.

The formula now looks like this. 2x4x12x23x294/12=54,096 fbm.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

Board Feet? How to Calculate

Dean Ponak is the manager and sales officer at D&D Pallets Ltd. in Abbotsford, BC, Canada. Dean has been involved with the pallet and lumber industry since 1996 and mostly exports pallet components to the western states in the U.S.

Dean can be reached at 1-866-281-2195 or emailed at

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