Why Do We Measure In Board Feet?

Why Do We Measure In Board Feet?

October 2, 2023

wood measurement

In the vast and intricate lumber industry, measurement plays a critical role in determining the value and utility of wooden products. Because this industry is known for its unique way of measuring its materials in board feet, we wanted to dive into why this has become the universal measurement for lumber material.

To kick things off, let's cover what exactly a board foot is. A board foot is a unit of measurement used primarily in the lumber industry. It represents the volume of a board that is 1 foot long, 1 foot wide, and 1 inch thick. However boards can vary and aren't always exactly 1 inch thick. Because of this, we use the following formula to calculate the board footage of the material.                              

                            Board Feet = Thickness (in inches) x Width (in feet)* x Length (in feet)

            *Width is often stated in inches, so it would need to be converted to feet by dividing by 12 


Now let’s get into the various reasons that we have come to know Board Feet as the standard way of measuring lumber products.


Historical Significance and Standardization:

The history of Board Feet goes all the way back to the early American Logging Practices. Before Board Feet was introduced, measurements in the lumber industry were often random and inconsistent. This is because trees were often measured by the cord, meaning lumber was measured by neatly grouping the material into 4ftx4ftx8ft stacks. Each one of these stacks was referred to as a cord, which, because of this measuring process, tended to vary in size from region to region. When Board Feet was established, it was quickly recognized as a more accurate way of measuring lumber material and became the standard measurement process that we all use today.

Universal Adoption:

The utilization of Board Feet doesn’t stop in the United States. It is recognized and accepted globally in the lumber trade because of its practicality and simplicity. Meaning whether you are buying lumber in the US, Canada, Europe, or somewhere else, you can sleep easy knowing that board feet is the only measurement required to place your order. 

Precision and Consistency:

Board Feet offers the necessary precision required within the lumber industry by providing a standardized and consistent measurement that can be applied to any type of wood, regardless of its dimensions or shape. Having this uniformity and precision is crucial for customers to ensure that they get exactly what they paid for and aids suppliers in streamlining inventory management, pricing, and logistical processes across the entire industry!

Ease of Conversion:

Another reason that this measurement is widely accepted as the standard is because it can be easily converted into other units. So if the need arises, conversions to metrics like cubic meters are easy and straightforward. This ensures flexibility in the lumber industry as well as responsiveness to different market demands without having to undergo significant measurement system changes.

Consumer Awareness:

Over time, consumers have become familiar with board feet as a measurement unit for lumber. This common understanding and recognition have further solidified its position as the primary measurement method. Consumers, whether professional builders or DIY enthusiasts, appreciate the simplicity and clarity that board feet bring to the purchasing process.



The lumber industry’s reliance on board feet as its primary measurement unit is not a mere coincidence. It is the result of a long historical evolution aimed at bringing order and fairness to an industry built on natural resources. Board feet’s historical significance, universal acceptance, precision, practicality, ease of conversion, and consumer familiarity have made it the trusted and preferred measurement method in an industry where precision and consistency are paramount. Whether you’re buying, selling, or working with lumber, understanding board feet is a fundamental skill that underpins the entire industry.