We know by now that you can buy a lot of stuff over the Internet -- books, DVDs, video games, apparel, electronics, even big appliances.

Well, get ready for the next interesting item to be offered over the Web. Would you believe lumber? Believe it, because Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) issued a press release last week announcing the addition of heavy wooden products such as structural lumber and plywood to its Web sales operations.

I actually thought this was pretty neat when I read it. I first have to acknowledge that I am not a do-it-yourself kind of guy; I can't even manipulate a hammer well enough to drive a nail into a two-by-four. Nevertheless, I can still exhibit empathy for the many individuals out there who will take Lowe's up on this service.

This raises the question of exactly who is the ideal target audience for such an initiative. Is it the contractor? The hardcore home-improvement type? What about the very casual hobbyist?

I'd say all of the above are fair game, but greater emphasis can be put on the commercial contractor. I did some very limited research, querying a friend of mine who has been a homeowner for the past few years -- he seemed ambivalent at best about ordering up lumber in this manner. I'd imagine that his opinion won't be atypical, at least at the beginning. I don't know much about working with lumber products, but I've been involved in purchasing some pieces in my time, and it does strike me as the kind of thing where you want to get an up-close look before laying down the cash. As we all know, however, a lot of people research products on the Web before they buy them, so this will still hold some value for Lowe's.

Home Depot (NYSE:HD) has shown that it will react when a gauntlet is thrown its way. When the company saw that Sears and other entities were using electronic shopping as a way of moving big-ticket inventory such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators, it decided to make sure that it wasn't left in the dust (see this article by Rich Smith). I would imagine that Home Depot will look long and hard at Lowe's lumber scheme to see how best to compete.

The release says that Lowe's is the "first and only home improvement retailer" to be doing this. I wonder how long that will last.

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Post any thoughts building up in your head on the Lowe's or Home Depot discussion boards.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.