It would seem logical if thicker boards were always more expensive than thinner ones of the same length and grade, wouldn’t it? However, as we discussed in our last post in this series, that’s not always the case. Why? Thinner boards sometimes mean that thicker boards need to be re-milled. Sometimes the way pricing relates to board length can be similarly counter-intuitive.
Trendy Board Length and Lumber Pricing
Boards in excess of 14 or 18 feet will be particularly difficult to acquire, especially if you’re specific about premium grade, color-matching, and other details. Of course, if those specifications are absolute necessities, your customer should be informed that the price tag will reflect the kind of high-end lumber their project requires. However, you can still save money by purchasing only as many extra-long boards as the project actually requires instead of making it your default, even if you’ll end up chopping up some of the boards. You might be surprised — and delightfully so — at how much you can save by purchasing some short and odd-length boards. This is especially the case when you’re dealing with tropical decking species such as Ipe.
Global Lengths and Lumber Pricing
When it comes to odd-length decking, the scenario is similar to that of greater thicknesses: the U.S. preferences do not reflect those of the global market. Even though North Americans somehow assume that only even-length boards are acceptable, the rest of the world realizes that odd-length boards are just as good. As a result, many mills refuse to send out shipments of only even-length boards, especially when top-grade material is requested; even those mills who will nod to such preferences will limit the volume they’re willing to send in all-even lengths. Instead of limiting our access to premium lumber milled by well-reputed mills, at J. Gibson McIlvain we choose to take a stance that’s unusual throughout the U.S. lumber market.
Instead of letting tradition dictate the way we order lumber here, we try to use a little common sense, decreasing cost for our customers while reducing overall waste. So we now buy mixed packs of even- and odd-length decking lumber. If our customers prefer to purchase only even-length boards from us, that’s fine; there will be added cost associated with lopping off a foot of each odd-length board, but if someone wants to pay more for less wood, we’ll let them do that. But we’ll also inform them that they can pay a little less for a board that’s a foot longer, too.
We also like to ask a lot of questions when our customers place their lumber orders, and one is definitely whether they really need extra-long boards. If they’re just going to chop up the boards into shorter lengths anyway, short lumber may be a great way for them to save money and, again, reduce overall waste.
Continue reading with Part 5.