Perhaps before reading this series of articles (see Parts 1, 2 & 3) you weren’t aware of the subtle differences between the various National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) lumber grades. Or maybe you had heard of the different grades, but you weren’t sure what specific characteristics lumber distributors look for when categorizing their inventory into different grade packs.
Hopefully, this series has given you a new appreciation for the foresight of those who founded the NHLA as well as those who have worked hard to revise these standards to come up with the grades we currently have in place today. Without their hard work and diligence, purchasing lumber may still be a discouraging process involving plenty of guesswork and unpredictable pricing. Thanks to the NHLA, lumber suppliers & dealers have a much better idea of what to fairly charge their customers, and customers can have a clearer picture of what they can expect to pay for their lumber.
What Should I Ask a Lumber Dealer About Besides NHLA Lumber Grades?
In spite of all the strides that have been made, the system isn’t perfect. There’s really no practical way that a system can be put into place that would cover every issue, because no two buyers have the exact same expectations and preferences when it comes to choosing lumber for their projects.
That’s why just asking your local lumber dealer for 2000 board feet of a certain size, grade, and species of lumber may not get you the exact lumber you’re hoping to find. You may need to go into more detail about what you want when it comes to the elements that don’t qualify as defects, so that you’ll be sure to get a product that will satisfy your unique needs.
Is the NHLA Grading System the Same for All Species?
To complicate matters even more, certain species of wood such as Walnut aren’t graded according to the typical NHLA grading scale. In fact, Walnut has such an atypical growing pattern and such distinct features that there’s an entirely different grading system which the NHLA uses for grading it!
How Should I Use the NHLA Grading System in Negotiating a Fair Price on Lumber?
In spite of these limitations, the NHLA system could prove extremely helpful to you once you familiarize yourself with it and figure out your preferred grades for different species that you may choose to order. This type of familiarity comes with time and experience.
Knowing what you’re talking about when it comes to this subject could help to show your local lumber dealer that you know a thing or two about the lumber market. Using that knowledge could allow you to be better prepared to negotiate a fair price for your next project purchase. Once you understand lumber grading you can research the current market value of different grades for different species. You could call around to several different lumber dealers to find out if your dealer’s prices are reasonable.
Should NHLA Grading Standards be More Specific?
It’s actually a good thing that the lumber grading standards aren’t more specific. If they cover too many details, they can end up causing unnecessary red tape for suppliers and dealers, which would increase the amount of time and effort it would take to inspect the lumber and categorize it into the right grades. Naturally, this would cause prices to rise for lumber customers.
When it comes to deciding which lumber to purchase, you can use the grading system as a starting point in your mind, as well as your own unique criteria. Knowing what grade of lumber you want will help your lumber dealer to find you the ideal products to meet your specific needs.