Lumber pricing can seem like quite the enigma. To some extent, it is impossible for us to communicate to customers the many factors that contribute to it, but in an effort to unveil the mystery and foster open communication between lumber suppliers and customers, we’re making an attempt.
In “What Factors Determine the Price of Lumber?” we explored some general ways in which lumber pricing is necessarily variable and far more complex than that of manufactured building materials as well as the role that lumber grade actually plays in it. Now, we’ll take a gander at size specifications and how they influence lumber pricing.
General Impact of Size on Pricing
Unfortunately, there’s no tried-and-true algorithm or chart by which you can combine species, grade, and size and come out with a price; lumber pricing is far more nuanced than that. So when we say that length and width impact size, we want you to realize that these aspects of lumber will interface with the unique characteristics and availability of a given species in how they impact pricing. Current demand and the practices of mills will also impact pricing. Let us explain.
Impact of Demand on Extra-Wide Boards
Many extra-long and extra-wide boards boards are pricier than ever, due to a decreasing supply and increasing demand. For some exotic species, though, wider boards have waned in demand, causing mills to rip wider boards into narrower, standard-width strips. If wide boards are required, mills may require that a lumber supplier order an entire shipment to that specification. The large volume will translate into a greater liability for the lumber supplier, who will have to increase the price per board foot in order to offset the related risk and slower turn-around time for the large volume of wide boards purchased as a by-product of your order (and which will remain on the lot until sold to other buyers).
Impact of Species Limitations on Extra-Wide Boards
Another aspect related to width is species availability. For instance, today’s wide Walnut is difficult to source, making it much pricier than other domestic species and even some exotic ones. No lumber supplier or mill can change the fact that wide Walnut is extremely rare; the small supply necessarily places a premium on the Walnut boards. (The situation with Walnut is so significant, that its grading scale has been adjusted to reflect the size limitations.
Our purpose here isn’t just to justify our pricing to you, the customer; it’s also to allow you to make more informed decisions on the lumber you plan to purchase. Today’s price-savvy builders are increasingly considering non-standard sizing and promoting value engineering in order to provide their customers with the most high-quality lumber that keeps cost in view.
In “How Seasonal Demand Affects Lumber Pricing,” we’ll consider how seasonal availability and demand impact lumber pricing.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods and has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.