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What is the difference between timber, lumber and wood?

We often see and hear people asking about the precise differences between timber, lumber and wood. There are regional variations in usage of the terms, so it’s sometimes a source of contention. Let’s try and break it down for you!

The world of wood is an exciting but daunting one, with questions and queries around every corner.

Founded in 1957, we’re a third-generation importer and stockist of timber and timber products, so we like to think we know a thing or two when it comes to wood.

We often see and hear people asking about the precise differences between timber, lumber and wood. There are regional variations in usage of the terms, so it’s sometimes a source of contention. Let’s try and break it down for you!

Lumber vs timber vs wood: What’s the difference?

The answer? The distinctions between lumber, timber and wood largely depend on where you are in the world.

In the UK, New Zealand and Australia, timber refers to sawn wood as well as processed wood products used for purposes such as home construction, cladding, decking and furniture making. It’s available in a range of softwoods and hardwood species, each with their own aesthetic and technical properties. The word timber is also commonly used to describe timber-frame construction — the use of wooden beams and posts to create buildings.

Processed wooden products are usually referred to as ‘timber’ in the UK.

Lumber is used to describe felled trees. It’s something much more crude than timber; usually, lumber will still have its bark. An easy way to understand the broad difference between timber and lumber is that lumber is less processed than timber.

Recently-felled and unprocessed: more commonly referred to as ‘lumber’.

Wood, on the other hand, is used to describe the fibrous substance that makes up a tree; the very thing that supports it when it’s in the ground, allowing growth and stability. Wood is easily understood as the structure that makes up a tree. Also, people often use the word wood loosely to refer to both lumber and timber; or even more generally to refer to things like ‘wood flooring’, ‘wood cladding’.

What about meanings elsewhere?

To confuse things, timber usually has a different connotation across the pond. This is often a source of confusion; in the USA and Canada, the word timber refers to unprocessed wood, such as unharvested or recently-felled trees still with their bark.

The word ‘lumber’, on the other hand, is used to describe processed wood products used for furniture making, home construction and the like. So, essentially, lumber in the USA means timber in the UK.

In a nutshell: in the UK, timber can be anything from a piece of sawn wood through to a processed product. Lumber is much less processed, and often means a felled tree. Wood can be used more loosely to refer to any timber or lumber.

Want to talk timber with us? We’re a timber importer and stockist with over 50 years’ experience when it comes to all things wood — get in touch with our team of experts!

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