We might all wish that lumber pricing, like lumber ordering, were more straightforward. But it’s not. While the principle of supply and demand certainly weighs in, there’s definitely more to it than that. In Part 1, we talked about how grading combines with the timing of an order to contribute to lumber pricing. Especially within a market where Common grade lumber is typically unsalable, the cost of the lumber that is sold will end up being inflated at some point, in order to account for the lower-quality lumber that comes with the shipment.
Now we’ll take a peek at some of the other major factors that tend to impact lumber pricing.
Seasonal Shifts in Lumber Pricing
For some lumber species, the timing of your order is more significant than others. This issue is somewhat related to supply and demand, particularly when we’re dealing with decking lumber. As you might expect, summer is prime time for buying decking lumber, and as the summer dwindles, so does your supplier’s stock of decking lumber. Sometimes you could actually pay more during the off-season, though, if the supply is extremely limited.
For some exotic species, seasonal shifts in availability also come into play. Ipe is a major example of this, due to the extreme rainy season in Brazil. This situation results in availability for Ipe to be shipped only during the winter; when Ipe inventory is high and space in the lumber yard is at a premium, you’ll be able to source Ipe for far lower prices. The longer you wait, however, the higher the prices will typically climb.
Board Width and Lumber Pricing
Just like it’s no surprise that grade will impact pricing, board size will make a difference, too. The extra-long, extra-wide boards that are extremely popular are decreasingly available — more so in some species than others. Sometimes there are added factors like low demand that actually lead to mills regularly ripping wide boards into narrower widths more commonly ordered; this scenario is most often the case with exotic lumber species. When a mill that typically does that is willing to offer wider boards, they know they’re taking a risk; as a result, you can expect the price per lineal foot to be significantly higher than that of narrower, more in-demand board sizes.
Domestic species can greatly vary in the difference in price per board foot for various widths. For instance, wide boards in Maple or Oak are fairly common, allowing for the price for even extremely wide boards to be quite similar to that of narrower boards. If you’re looking for wide Walnut, though, expect a significant disparity in pricing, due to the natural limitations of the species.
A similar situation comes up with board thickness and length, as we’ll discuss in Part 3.