August28

Lumber Update – September 2019

By Paul Rogers

August is typically a quiet month for the lumber market and this year was no exception as demand was mediocre at best. For the most part, retail lumber buyers were picking and choosing material from distributors in order to fill holes in their inventories (as these types of orders are usually highly mixed and for prompt delivery). Subsequently, the distributor’s business kept the mills afloat and helped in keeping prices propped up (but flat just the same). The consensus amongst lumber dealers is that fall business will be good. However, few are hedging their bets in terms of stockpiling inventory as no one wants to be caught with too much. Conversely, not enough wood to sell could become problematic if everybody is “all-in” at once and this could be especially true considering that most mills’ order files are extended well in to late September. With the western lumber mills’ closures and shut-downs over the past six months, we are looking at approximately 1.6 billion board feet of lumber pulled off of the market and experts had said that 2 billion would be the number to hit for pricing to turn around. Considering that the gap is closing, it may now not take much on either the supply or demand side to swing pricing upward.  Nonetheless, our inventory is well-positioned and we anticipate that there will likely be a slow climb in prices during the month of September, with the potential of a rally as we get closer to October.

In the building materials industry, many advertisements utilize generalizations when speaking about their product’s benefits and very few give you a direct comparison to their competition’s offering, which limits your ability to understand what differences exist. Further complicating matters, trying to discern the differences between today’s modern construction materials (which often utilize composites, plastics, exotic species, and different manufacturing methods) can be nearly impossible considering all of the variations that can be made with material and/or manufacturing processes. Much of the knowledge that we have today about what brands or species are successful in our market are from personal experience, supplier recommendation or handed down from long-standing regional preferences. In terms of knowing what to expect for performance and what to pay for price, familiarity with the brand and material of the product that you are being quoted is absolutely critical. Although most dealers are upfront with the brands and/or species that they are selling, there are ones that operate by grouping several options into one description or omitting key brand names altogether in an attempt to garner sales based upon price point alone. We happen to deal with products that can be difficult to compare and unless you are well-familiar with the acronyms, mill, or brand names, you may not be getting what you think you are. In respect to this, you will often see descriptions on dealer quotes that indicate a variety of options (IE: SPF/DF/HF, for Spruce-Pine-Fir, Douglas Fir, and Hem Fir) or do not indicate a specific mill (such as with cedar shingles, “G&R or Maibec”) or eliminate the manufacturer’s name altogether (“PVC trim” instead of “Azek PVC Trim”). In each of these examples, the subtle differences in descriptions can have a very profound difference in quality and price and, most importantly, have a negative impact on your project. Unfortunately, the varieties and omissions are meant to mislead the buyer as the price is what grabs all the attention. Don’t be misled by these dupes of descriptions: quality drives the price in this industry and if you see a big difference in pricing between quotes, be sure to confirm what you will actually be getting for your order so that you have no surprises on the job site. 

We can assure you that we work very hard to be upfront and honest about our products and practice no tricks of deceit. Although we do have several items that share different species or mills, we can assure you that they are comparable stock, in both quality and price, and are meant only to give us a ways and means to provide to you the best quality stock at the best price point. We stand behind our products 100% and only intend to sell you the ones that assure customer satisfaction through quality, performance, and price. We appreciate your business and are more than happy to help you decipher the differences that you may see from a competitive quote. Please be sure to contact your lumber sales person should you have any questions or concerns regarding your project, and thank you very much for your business!

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