November27

Lumber Update – December 2019

By Paul Rogers

In reflecting upon the lumber market this past fall, it’s been a bit of an enigma as a tightening supply and moderate demand has done little to move it to more profitable territory. Not for a lack of effort, traders put out their best efforts to forewarn buyers that the market was “under-bought” and that a rally was just around the corner. Yet one didn’t materialize and so buyers carried on their happy ways of being able to fulfill their needs at reasonable prices and lead times. Nonetheless, change is in the air. Available tallies and certain dimensions are beginning to become harder to obtain (such as 2×6 10’s and 16’s) and, even more concerning, is the lack of premium stock in all dimensions. Premium, although not an official lumber grade, is an arbitrarily “graded” product that is pulled from #2 and BTR for its better appearance. Due to the slow decline in appearance of #2 & BTR in recent years, premium has become more popular and current pricing is reflecting that demand. Adding some consternation to retail buyers this month are the effects of annual mill shut-downs (which will commence at the end of this month and last a few weeks) in conjunction with the common practice of running inventories low for year-end budgets and physical inventories. Heavy replenishment usually follows after the New Year and there is a strong sentiment amongst lumber dealers that the first quarter of 2020 will be a strong one, weather permitting. Based upon this, dealers have been actively but cautiously buying, exercising control on their purchases by choosing to cover for their near-term needs, and padding out when relative “deals” get floated by them. The combination of a potential spike in demand and short supplies ascribe us to believe that pricing for December will climb by month’s end and will remain firm through the New Year.

Sometimes, we get numb to the boatload of information thrown at us in this industry and it’s easy to see why when that information is coming at you from all angles. Generally speaking, we have only so much time in the day to absorb it and do our best to do so in between doing our jobs and living our lives.  Knowing when to pay attention is the key, and that takes a discipline that is hard to obtain but one we would like to help with. On that topic, the products we buy and sell today are far different than the ones we sold twenty years ago. New technologies have introduced high-performance products that have new virtues, but many come with a cost of giving up some old virtues. Usually, the compositions are vastly different and it may affect not only how that specific product performs, but also how another one that is used in conjunction with it may.  For example, there are now many different roof underlayments available that are meant to replace traditional felt paper (the old universal underlayment). It’s imperative that the one you use can work in conjunction with your roof type as, for instance, most cannot be used under a wood shingle roof due to a low permeability rating. Although it seems like a minor detail, it’s one that can lead to expensive problems down the road if we’re not careful to read the information presented before us or if we don’t have the conversation. Any modern product can be universally installed in the same manner or to different applications as our products of twenty years ago is no longer an assumption that any of us can take as few modern building products behave like their older counterparts. For our part, we will put additional notes and disclaimers on our product codes to give warning of the issue but, as earlier noted, it can be difficult to stop, read, and comprehend all that is thrown at us. Our best defense is providing you with the right product for the job and that’s why it is critical that we ask you the questions that we do, that you give us insight to your job, and that we all do our due diligence in following each product’s manufacturer’s recommendations for handling, installation and care.

It is our sincere endeavor to provide you with the best service and products that you deserve, and providing the ways and means for long term success. Key to the process is having the conversations about your project and learning all that we can so that we can help prevent the pratfalls from happening in this complicated industry. On behalf of all of us, please have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season and thank you for your business!

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