Spring fever usually brings a rush and a push to lumber sales at this time of year but, with the spring-like weather we’ve enjoyed throughout most of the season, business has been abnormally strong and, with the winter-like weather bouts we’ve recently endured, the current pace is subdued. As most dealers replenished at the last short-lived rally in February, the lumber market lost its momentum in March and, as buyers clung to the sidelines, frustration on the supply side was palpable. As traders and mills worked in earnest to move stock at profitable prices, they often came up either short or empty-handed on most transactions as conservative buyers stood their ground. Nonetheless and overall, business has been good for most and great for some (especially for those of us hugging the coast) and it’s only a matter of time that a replenishment cycle kicks in to get lumber buyers buying again. Reports from recent seasonal buying shows are indicating that dealers are confident that the second quarter of this year promises to have a strong outtake, but concerns about our overall economic health continue to weigh heavily on all buying decisions. With all that this industry has gone through in the past few years, it’s healthy to have cautious optimism but not over-extend oneself to a promise of strong sales before they’re realized as the market has had a tendency to disappoint when you “count your chickens before they’ve hatched”. As we enter this second quarter, at a time when nicer weather spurs the sense of urgency to start, freshen up or finish projects before the official summer season commences, we are confident that business here in our area will remain strong. In the meantime, lumber pricing is waffling in both directions on what seems like a daily basis, trying to seek a price level that is conducive for both sides. We anticipate that pricing will continue to moderate for most of April, with it likely slightly increasing by month’s end.
To anyone from outside of this industry, it’s very easy to think that a trim board is a trim board, a deck board is a deck board or a shingle is a shingle.
One could run through the other components of a house and think the same thing however, for those of us in the know, there couldn’t be a bigger fallacy in thinking that all building products are the same within their own category. In this business, apples and oranges are commonly compared as equals to each other because they are often disguised as one and the same. However, when you do a deep dive in to manufacturing processes and content, you can really discover some surprising dissimilarities that really distinguishes, for better or for worse, one product from the other. For instance, we sell AZEK PVC trim boards because they have the quality and reputation of being the best free-foam cellular PVC board on the market…and they’ve earned it. Side by side to many of their competitors, they look practically identical but what you don’t see in the competitor’s board are the increases in air (making the boards less dense and lighter, therefore less durable and stable) and the decreases in titanium dioxide (an expensive ingredient that is the leading barrier to ultra-violet degradation). And if you drift away from PVC options, you can find a range of other trim boards that are either OSB or cement/silica/fiber-based, or are composites of polymers and unexpected primary ingredients such as fly-ash (the byproduct residue found in coal burning power plant chimneys) or “upcycled” rice husks. Which do you choose for your project or home? Good question: it depends upon your price point, desired aesthetic, faith in technology, dedication to green products, level of performance you are seeking, your local supplier’s commitment, code requirements and finally how much time and money you are willing to incur for the installation and maintenance (as many of these products have some not-so-obvious installation and maintenance requirements). New technologies are introduced to us all the time, usually in the form of some new product that “has been tried and tested in Europe for decades” or is targeting the perceived or real short comings of the current fan favorite, such as AZEK. Although we often embrace them with some skepticism and a critical eye, we also have to be willing to hear them out as, after all, it wasn’t that long ago that we were saying that we’d never sell plastic boards on Cape Cod, yet it’s now our most popular option. It’s key to remember that there is rarely a situation where you can buy an orange at an apple price but, if you do, one will never taste like the other.
Please be sure to lean on our Shepley team of building material experts to help you navigate your way through the myriad of options that the building trade has to offer. A very big part of our service to you is to vet out all the products that we encounter and make sound judgments on your behalf as to what would be the best fit for us to sell. Frankly, we enjoy the challenge of learning every day and performing product comparisons has been an education for us that compares to no other method.
Thank you for your business!