Understanding Lumber Pricing: How Lumber Quality & Size Affects Pricing.
While lumber does actually grow on trees, we need to remember something significant about it: it … grows … on … trees. It’s not stamped out by machines making cookie-cutter items that are identical in size, shape, and quality. Nature does not produce resources in response to consumer demand or preference, and lumber mills only have what’s available to them. In order to make their ends meet as well as to avoid mass amounts of waste, lumber mills ship out your lumber in diverse packs that may include lumber that doesn’t meet your specifications.
While some are taking strides toward reducing waste by changing industry norms, many customers know exactly what they want and desire a certain grade and detailed preferences. If your order specifies defect-free boards with no knots or worm holes, we will need to extract your lumber from a mixed pack — or several packs — in order to build your unique order. Add specific sizes, and we’re looking at even more legwork. (Think time and laborer salaries, in addition to equipment use, and it makes sense that the overhead expenses begin to mount.)
Even though we may have specified FAS from a lumber mill, we will still receive lower-grade boards. Due to vagueness inherent in the existing grading structures and the more detailed requirements of particular applications, we will still have to pick through packs to assemble a customer’s order. In addition, all packs include lower-grade lumber, inflating the cost of the lumber you want to buy. (Basically, since we have to purchase lumber by the pack, we have to pay for every board. If none of our customers will purchase those boards, then the price of the wasted boards will be spread across the orders in order to cover our cost.)
Just like when an order requires defect-free boards and higher pricing results, requests for popular or hard-to-come-by sizes will also be met with higher prices. Wider and longer boards are particularly difficult to source, so you will pay a premium for them. Sometimes, we are able to request a special shipment of wide boards from a mill. That scenario presents its own set of reasons for higher prices. When the mill cuts a shipment to meet the qualifications of a specific order, they will charge us more per board foot. The reasoning is as follows:
- Instead of two 8” wide boards, they’re selling only one 16” board, and they perceive that 16” board as more costly to them than two 8” boards.
- Depending on the species, a 16” board may be quite a rarity, increasing its value.
- A 16” wide board may not be salable if the customer cancels their order, so the risk involved leads to a higher price.
While width is more of a factor than length, when you start requesting boards that are upwards of 14 feet or — to a greater degree — 20 feet in length, you will see the price climb quite a bit. It’s not simply a matter of creating a wider or longer stamp, because, well, lumber actually does grow on trees.