December27

Lumber Update – January 2019

By Paul Rogers

With the exit of one of the most volatile years in lumber market history, buyers were quite grateful to close the books on 2018 and for it to go quietly. December proved to be a flat month, with little fluctuation despite the best efforts of producers to do otherwise. With a six month slide from all-time highs that concluded in late November when several notable mills implemented curtailments, closures and layoff’s (in an attempt to tighten supply and prop up prices), there was hope that buyers would react with a sense of urgency to get their orders in.  However, demand wasn’t such that merited replenishment to any notable volume as, by most accounts, dealers had enough inventory to carry them through the New Year. Some hard lessons were learned in 2018, one being not to get coerced into buying more than you need: buyers refused to jump in on anything that wasn’t clearly for their short-term business needs and were clearly still trying to sell off their higher priced inventory. Frustrated, traders and mills were tripping over themselves to find homes for their stock and did their best to instill doubt in the minds of buyers who chose to show some restraint. An underlying issue that seems to be getting more attention is that the real estate market has cooled: with trade magazines reporting with more frequency that consumer affordability concerns has pushed buyers to the sidelines (inflated house prices, limited incomes and growing mortgage expenses), sales have waned. That’s not to say that demand isn’t healthy (because it is), but the pace has changed from a gallop to a trot. January is typically a quiet month for building and the lumber market appears to be following suit: as of print, pricing is flat. However, with the continuing strategies of mills to tighten supply and the ability of weather conditions to flip the market on its head, we may see some moderate inclines toward month’s end.   

Fun Fact: “Care and Handling Instructions” are most often read by the installer/consumer after something goes wrong with the product. They are also the first documents that are consulted when a warranty claim is made. In this industry, we are guilty in expecting the consumer to know what it is they need to know in order to care, handle or finish the product in a proper manner. However, when was the last time that you saw them attached to a 2×4 or sheet of plywood? Conversely, even if they were supplied, they wouldn’t likely garner much attention when they are attached to common products you handle day in and day out. However, there are basic care and handling practices that need to followed, even for the errant 2×4 or sheet of plywood, and most especially during the winter months. “Basic”, in these examples, would be to keep the items off of the ground, laid flat on “stickers” and covered, in order to protect them from the elements. Moisture control is key! You’ll likely know that is how we try to deliver your material as we want to do our best to give you a head start in making sure that your stock remains in top shape for your project. For other building materials, the care and handling may be different, and not adhering to them can have a profound effect on the performance. For instance, JM Huber’s Advantech subfloor mandates that the removal of ice and snow be done with sand, Safe Paw Ice Pelt or Bare Ground Liquid Ice Melt. The use of solid or liquid salt type products should not be used, as they can open up the surface of the sheet, compromising its performance. Pressure Treated boards (both lumber and trim) must always have freshly cut ends sealed, in order to prevent rotting. Another to note is to refrain from using metal snow shovels or plastic shovels with metal leading edges to remove snow on most PVC and Composite decking and porch planks (Azek included) as they may damage the surface. Also, be cognizant of temperature limitations as mandated by the manufacturers of coatings, adhesives, caulkings and sealants as many, if accidentally frozen, should not be used when thawed. None of us want to be surprised by learning something the hard way which, in the examples above, usually occur with some sort of damage or product failure. The best that we can do is communicate the issues and hope that the message gets shared on the job and eventually to the homeowner, if required. Especially during the winter months, it’s particularly crucial to learn and follow the proper care and handling instructions for the materials we buy and sell. 

Most of us have a propensity to skip over the “fine print” however, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, so it will pay dividends to spend a little extra time reading up on the proper treatment of the products that you deal with, day in and day out. Although the Internet has afforded us the luxury of being able to find most of what we need learn for the care and handling instructions of any given product, please do not hesitate to reach out to us: we’ll be happy to assist you. Thank you for your business!

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