What Is The Difference Between Rough And Planed Lumber?

What is the difference between rough and planed lumber? To a professional used to working with timber this may seem a ludicrous question with a simple and obvious answer.

However, there are many enterprising amateurs working with timber now without their knowledge and experience. Many DIYers find the technical terms and acronyms used in descriptions confusing and are wary of buying the wrong materials. As timber, especially hardwoods, can be an expensive material, buying the wrong type can be a costly mistake.

Also, for a DIYer wanting to complete their project as simply as possible, the correct materials save time and work. Work can begin immediately without any need for preparation and will be finished far more quickly.

In this blog we will address some of the more frequently asked questions about rough and planed timber. The differences are simple and straightforward and once explained, even an amateur can be confident in their knowledge.

What is the meaning of rough sawn - Hardwoods Group

1.    What is the meaning of rough sawn?

This is the most basic form of wood preparation after felling. The timber has been cut to size with a circular saw and received no further treatment. This will leave the sides and edges of the timber with a rough, unfinished surface where the saw cut through the wood. Due to the simplicity of preparation, rough sawn timber is always cheaper than planed. As a result, it is the best choice for jobs where the finish of the wood is not important.

Rough sawn timber is usually used for pieces such as internal frames where it will be concealed by a neat outer layer. It is also used for beams beneath flooring or in attics where it will not be visible. In fact, for any job where the strength of the wood is the most important factor, not its appearance, it is ideal. It is also a more economical choice if the user possesses planning equipment to finish the wood themselves.

How does planed timber differ from rough sawn - Hardwoods Group

2.     How does planed timber differ from rough sawn?

After sawing to size, the timber can then be passed through a planer, which pares away the rough outer layer. Traditionally this would have been done by hand, an extremely time consuming and labour intensive process.  This gives a smooth, splinter free finish to the treated surface and can be applied to one or more faces. The grain and other details of the wood will be more visible, giving a neater, more pleasing appearance.

The planed surfaces will have a perfectly flat and level surface. This can be particularly important if the timber is being used for pieces such as shelves or kitchen work surfaces. Planed surfaces also allow for flush joins between separate pieces of wood, giving stronger, neater joints. Planed timber is more expensive due to the extra work involved in production but saves the user the job of sanding and planning themselves.

What is the difference between rough and planed lumber - Hardwoods Group

3.    What is the difference between PAR and PSE?

Before discussing this, it is worth looking at the meaning of the two terms. Both are planed, but to different degrees depending on the use they will eventually be put to. The extra work involved in producing PAR timber makes it the most expensive of all.

What does PAR mean?

PAR is a trade acronym that stands for Planed All Round. After sawing, the timber is passed through the planer to smooth all four surfaces. This gives a level, uniform surface to all edges and sides. For features where all four sides of the timber will be visible, this gives a neater, safer finish.

What does PSE stand for?

PSE is used interchangeably to stand for Planed Single Edge or Planed Square Edge. PSE timber has only been planed on one side, giving one smooth surface and three left rough. This makes it perfect for jobs where only one smooth side will be visible, for safety or aesthetic reasons. It is most often used for flooring or external cladding.

In the case of floorboards, the visible side must be splinter free to protect users, but the remaining sides can remain rough without affecting construction. Similarly, for external cladding the planed outer surface give a neat finish to the building for a lower cost than PAR. As the other sides are not visible, this would be a needless expense.

There is also a third type of planed timber. PBS (Planed Both Sides) is planed on both of the wider surfaces, as the name implies. This can be useful for flooring when building verandas or internal balconies. As the floorboards are visible from above and below, this give a neat, smooth finish without the expense of PAR timber.

Oak Framed Garden Buildings - Hardwoods Group



4.    What is PAR timber used for?

As noted above, PAR is used for feature pieces where all four sides of the timber will on display. For example, outdoor structures such as gazebos or summerhouses where the entire frame is visible. It is also the only safe choice for pieces that bare skin will be in contact with regularly. For balustrades or fence tops, a rough finish can easily cause splinters to hands run along their surface.

PAR timber is also used in furniture construction for this reason. For internal features, PAR just looks prettier than rough sawn timber. While many people prefer the look of bare wood such as oak, planed timber is also far easier to apply finishes to.

Applying wax, stains or varnish to rough sawn timber would be difficult and pointless. This gives the user a much wider choice of finishes and planed timber is much easier to dust and clean. A major boon to DIYers is the ability to start working with PAR timber as soon as it is delivered. It needs no preparation and is safer to handle.

Hardwoods Group are specialist suppliers of wholesale timber. We can supply rough sawn timber to all specifications and specialise in oak machining and moulding. Whatever style or finish you have in mind, we can meet your needs. Contact us today to discuss your requirements, we will be happy to help.




Helpful Links:

What is Green Oak?

Timber Grades Explained

Starting a Joinery Business

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