May28

Lumber Market Update – June 2019

Many people want to blame the weather for flat sales this spring, but drier days in May didn’t produce the level of activity that most were hoping for, especially for lumber mills. Any upward price movements in the market were largely brought upon by lumber mills’ implementation of curtailments and temporary closings, in an effort to thin out lumber inventories. Although this calculated effort was intended to create a rally and turn the market, it did little to instigate greater demand and so the weak sales kept prices bumping along a flat line. This is not to say that demand was weak at the retail level. Activity was good and outtake kept orders in the pipeline, but not to the extent that bolstered prices to more profitable levels for mills. It seems to be increasingly apparent that there is plenty of work in the field but not enough labor to handle it. Despite weather conditions or supply regulating, sales will have to wait until it becomes humanly possible for work to commence.

Typical practice amongst lumber buyers is to buy a little heavy in anticipation of spring business, so the moderate outtake has afforded us the ability to replenish without urgency and at reasonable numbers. We typically see spikes with rallies when all business hits at once or suddenly and when drastic restrictions shoot out lead times. Unless one of these scenarios plays out this late in the season, we aren’t expecting prices to fluctuate much beyond today’s levels. However, lumber mills typically close for a few weeks in the summer to retool and with July a month away, we need to keep this in mind as production will be affected. Based upon this, we expect prices to be flat for June with the opportunity for slight upward movement toward month’s end. 

On the topic of a rainy spring, one of the biggest objectives we face in construction is to control moisture, both as it relates to making buildings watertight (to prevent leaks and flooding) and as it pertains to the stability and performance of the materials we use (moisture content of the wood). In the same manner that wood absorbs and releases moisture, modern technology allows us to infuse wood with preservatives that greatly elevate its performance against rot and insect damage (commonly known as “pressure treating”).

Pressure treated boards are boards that are immersed in a preservative-borne solution under high pressure, essentially infusing the wood with the preservative that is carried in by water or a light organic solvent (LOSP). Pressure treated boards, most commonly used for decks and sills, have migrated into other areas of the home as well (such as trim boards) and continue to grow in popularity. A very common misconception of the process of pressure treating is that the entire board has been treated when, in actuality, it often has not. Pressure treating forces the preservative from the outside in, but can do it only so far in to the board. Particularly with dense heartwood, it will not absorb the solution like sapwood does, so it becomes vulnerable to rot. Another misconception is that preservatives will remain in the board if a fresh cut has been done when. In actuality, the preservatives can migrate out of the board if not resealed (just like moisture migrates in and out of any board). We bring this up because according to manufacturer’s installation instructions and warranties, you are required to reseal the end of a cut pressure treated board, in order to optimize its performance and prevent rot and decay. Although this can interrupt the speed of installation, we sell end sealers that make the job quick and effective. It is well worth the investment, especially when skipping this important step may lead to a potential failure situation years later. Pressure treated boards have been a modern miracle to our industry and perform very well but are evolving, especially to become more environmentally friendly. How long they perform on your project depends upon proper installation and preventive action with an end sealer. To coin Ben Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We are very grateful to have been blessed with a wonderful stretch of business, and have enjoyed being your supplier for the numerous projects that are going on across our region. Weather and market conditions aside, we do our best to provide you with quality products and exceptional service, and appreciate every opportunity to do so. Thank you for your business!

Paul Rogers, Purchasing Manager

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