One important early purchase when remodeling an old house is rough cut lumber. 2 x 4 lumber you can purchase in current day lumber yards is actually 1.5″ x 3.5″. A hundred years ago, 2 X 4’s were actually 2 inches by 4 inches. While new interior walls can be built with 2012 lumber, any repairs to the original structure will need to be done with old school, rough cut lumber.
When my dad was young, his uncles bought rough cut lumber from local buildings that had been torn down. One of his earliest memories is pulling the used nails out of these salvaged boards and hammering the nails straight so they could be re-used. Today you can often find well cured rough cut lumber by asking around at your local lumber mill/hardware shop or surfing web sites like craigslist or freecycle. If you buy it freshly cut from a lumber mill, it will need time to cure, meaning that the moisture needs to leave the wood. Finding a local lumber mill early on, especially one that will take specialty sized orders, will prove enormously useful for any repair work you will be doing in the near future.
When your walls are open to the air, you are afforded the opportunity to repair areas of your framing that may have inadvertently been exposed to water damage and areas where the quality of the building was sub-par; you can make decisions about widening doorways or changing a floor plan and closing off a doorway. For all of the above, using the correct size lumber from the start will save you time and energy.
Throughout our house, we consistently worked with 3 different sizes of rough cut lumber. We guesstimated what we would need for each room, and included several long runs for the exterior walls so that we could span both the first and second floors with the newer, stronger lumber. We ordered the wood via phone (with a down payment, since he was cutting the lumber from his own trees as a side job), picked it up in Kasey’s truck and set it in the house to cure.
While the lumber is drying for at least 8 months or so, you want to stack it on a flat surface so that it does not twist or bow during the drying process.