Lumber Market Update-July | Shepley Wood Products
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Lumber Market Update-July

June started off as another month of mostly lethargic sales as traders and mills failed to spark interest with their offers.

However, an actual spark that set the Canadian wildfires did firm up Eastern stock and Western stock followed suit when West Fraser (a major lumber producer) announced curtailments on all but one of their British Columbia mills. Coupled with most lumber mills’ impending annual summer shut-downs for retooling (some of which have been extended) and with a better-than-expected housing report for the month of May, buyers realized that it was time to step in and cover their needs for the next 30-45 days. As we experienced here with smoke in our own sky, the peak of the Eastern Canadian wildfire issue was a tense and disconcerting one for the mills, with several in the Quebec province shuttering operations in order to divert their efforts toward fire-fighting. Elsewhere, with sales as flat as they have been and being so close to the summer season, announcements of extended curtailments and closures came from the vast majority of mills, in their attempt to tighten up supply and drive the value of lumber upward. It had a moderate effect, but a late month announcement of a robust increase in May housing starts, completions and permits really helped to catalyze a reverse in the market. Nonetheless, as the 2nd quarter of the year came to an end and with many concerned about missed quotas, budgets and goals, conservative purchasing ruled supreme as the fear of having too much inventory overruled the fear of having too little. The fact of the matter is that damage does occur despite our best intentions, but oftentimes it’s manageable because the products we deal with are not in their finished state.

In terms of aesthetics, damage and natural defects are often viewed as one and the same and frequently the entire product is refused or deemed unusable because of the imperfection. Lumber mills are hoping that the market is stronger by the time that they come back on line and their curtailments and shutdowns will undoubtedly help that. The availability of lumber has now tightened and, while buyers are currently buying defensively, they are doing so with caution, seeking only enough to pull themselves through the summer.

As of print, prices are currently firm, following a modest upward trajectory and we anticipate that they will continue to track this way through July.

The building materials industry is a rough and imperfect business, in that we deal with very heavy, awkward products that commonly come in unfinished condition. A lot of these products have permissible defects and are easily susceptible to cosmetic damage from the methods required to secure them during transport, their exposure to weather or the sometimes close-to-impossible manner that they have to be carried by humans around a jobsite. Anyone who has had to lug a beam in to place, set an Andersen Frenchwood door in to it’s opening or carry sheetrock up a flight of stairs will attest that it’s virtually impossible to move most building products without the risk of some minor damage occurring. Considering the costs of these things, it’s understandable that no one wants to pay the high price for something that is less than perfect, and we hear that loud and clear. However, sometimes the understanding of how the item is to be installed and/or finished isn’t clear and so the immediate response is to reject it, especially if first viewed by the person who is responsible for signing off on its condition or who may ultimately be paying for it.

This same person may not have the expertise to realize that a product is perfectly salvageable, and that’s often when the issue escalates in to refusals and replacement requests. So to speak, we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when we don’t look at the situation objectively and determine the scope of the issue, as oftentimes it can be easily corrected. In addition, when and where damage occurred can oftentimes be as clear as mud, so it’s important to handle the cases diplomatically and with the utmost fairness to all. As most claims of damage or defect involve special orders (which usually aren’t easily replaceable), they can often hold up your job at a critical time. With a little creativity and teamwork, very often something can be made 100% right again but it first starts with determining to what extent the damage or defect will compromise the final performance or appearance. If the chance exists for a remedy that will alleviate or conceal the blight or allows that particular portion to be replaced, then it’s worth looking in to the ways and means that it can be salvaged.

Fortunately, we have a very deep bench of experts at Shepley (through our Purchasing, Mill Shops and Service Teams along with our Vendor Partners) who all have had extensive experience with these situations and can weigh in on the best resolution to make it right. If you find yourself dealing with one of these types of issues, please reach out immediately to your Shepley Salesperson. We promise that in the event that “life” happens, we will make it our top priority to address and help correct the situation with the utmost timeliness and in a manner that won’t compromise its final performance or appearance. Thank you for your business!