Head to your local home improvement or building supply store and you’ll likely find dimensional softwood lumber more suited for construction and renovation than cabinetry or furniture. Lumber yards are generally a better choice because they specialize in lumber. You’ll find a somewhat wider selection of lumber, including some domestic hardwoods, typically at better prices.
For a wider selection of domestic and exotic hardwood lumber, including live edge or flitch cut lumber, cabinet grade plywoods and veneers, you’ll want to visit a specialty lumber dealer.
Specialty lumber dealers
There are a lot of specialty lumber dealers spread right across Canada. A quick google search will list those in your area. Or, you can search the Canadian Lumber Directory, a comprehensive list of just about every lumber supplier in the land, from large lumber yards to specialty hardwood dealers, veneer shops, small custom wood mills and dealers in reclaimed and salvaged lumber.
A&M Wood Specialty has the largest selection of veneers in Canada, along with a huge inventory of exotic lumber. Exotic Woods provides premium and unique woods from around the world, while KJP Select Hardwoods has an inventory of over 70,000 board feet of domestic and exotic lumber. And The Wood Shed has a vast inventory that you have to see to believe.
Townsend Lumber is an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified producer. They harvest, mill, and kiln dry lumber from private and public landowners throughout Ontario, delivering high quality domestic lumber to both DIYers and wholesalers.
Not everyone will be within a reasonable driving distance of a specialty lumber dealer, or have a suitable vehicle to transport lumber. Fortunately most of the companies listed in the Canadian Lumber Directory ship across Canada. Many use “Less Than Truckload” carriers and know which carriers provide the lowest possible freight rate.
Wood recovery programs
Some woodworking clubs, like the Vancouver Island Woodworkers Guild, have wood recovery programs. Working closely with municipal park services and private donors, they process trees that might end up as firewood. It’s good for the municipality and a great way for woodworkers to acquire good quality, well-priced lumber. Find out if your local woodworking club has such a program (and if not, maybe you can start one).
Municipalities are getting into wood recovery as well. In Huron County, Ontario, lumber is salvaged from trees harvested as part of trail maintenance operations in local forests. Proceeds from auction are reinvested into the management and improvement of the County forests. The lumber is sold through a bidding process on the GovDeals website. Right now Huron County has 16 lifts of conventional and flitched white ash, pine, and black cherry lumber posted on GovDeals with the auction closing between January 15th and 17th, 2021.
The lumber from wood recovery programs is green wood and will need to be air-dried (unless you have access to a wood kiln). Still, it’s a great way to get hold of high quality lumber at very competitive prices.