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

The persistent wet weather we’ve had throughout our region this season has hampered many projects and been a damper to the optimism that a building rally was going to occur. There doesn’t appear to be any shortage of work, so many suppliers were going into May in preparation for a “spring rush” as there was concern that, once it dried out, delayed jobs would commence, and business (along with lumber pricing) would surge. However, dry weather or not, any pick-up in volume would be offset with a workforce that can only handle so much at one time and, as we are now in the prime month where the pressure is on to finish that deck, erect that pergola or finish the rooms in the rentals before the 4th of July, time is running out. In respect to this, there appears to be a growing number of quotes and projects that have now been pushed off to the fall. In the meantime, lumber pricing has been lumping and bumping along as mills do their best to hold their prices and reduce production while buyers are operating hand-to-mouth, trying to determine near-term outtake without over-buying. Lumber mills’ summer shutdowns are only a few weeks away and rumors are circulating that many are opting to extend their closures, in the face of lackluster sales. Extending shutdowns is a good tactic for mills as “starving” the market in the hopes that demand will supplant supply can be an effective way to get prices back to more profitable levels. However, it doesn’t always work, especially when dealers don’t have a need to buy because they have sufficient inventories and, as of print, that does appear to be the case. Whether or not dealers have enough in reserve to carry them through the closures remains to be seen but prices at this time are firm and appear to be gaining traction. We anticipate that June pricing will hold steady and likely tick upward as July nears.

Most of us have witnessed the impressive performance of materials that were installed decades ago in older homes. Top of mind would be decking, railing, siding, and trim-boards. From this end of the business, we often stare with mouths agape at these old products, in awe of how well they have endured, even if they weren’t installed or maintained (if at all) in the best manner. Unfortunately, as we know all too well, many modern products tend to fall short in their durability and are often prone to quick failure if the installer or homeowner didn’t carefully adhere to the manufacturer’s mandatory (and often lengthy) list of exceptions and rules to follow for installation and care. Although we love the old-school products, many new products are born out of necessity: updates in the building, environmental and energy codes have put us on a new path of construction that requires alternatives and diminishing natural resources (along with a demand for “low maintenance” (because there is no such thing as “no maintenance”)) has driven many manufacturers to delve deep into alternative resources and manufacturing methods. Quite a few of these products are “composites” which are made from a recipe of different ingredients, using processes and technologies that are intended to best unify and stabilize it into one. “Composite”, by definition of the Oxford dictionary, is as follows: Composite (com·pos·ite) [kəmˈpäzət, ˌkämˈpäzət]; adjective: made up of various parts or elements: "this soup is one of those composite dishes which you gradually build-up". Oxford uses the perfect example for context as these products are made from a “soup” of different “ingredients”. Depending upon the manufacturer, elements such as rice husks, fly-ash, sand, Portland cement, OSB, recycled plastic, cellulose fibers and even recycled carpeting have been used and mixed with bonding agents that are meant to not only hold it all together, but to endure under stress and extreme weather conditions. Although highly processed in a manner that is meant to create a stable, long-lasting product, what often occurs is that they can expand or contract at different rates to what it’s bound with or bound to and, as a unit, will react again in a different (and usually unexpected) way when finally installed and finish painted. Unless the installation and finishing instructions were carefully followed, a failure can become a likely outcome as, too often and after we’ve had an issue, we discover the one little thing that was overlooked that happened to lead to the catastrophic failure. Most of the time, it nulls the warranty and makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to make a claim. Even if we have success, 99.9% of the time it’s for a replacement product only and, as we know too well, labor often exceeds the cost of goods. Manufacturer’s representatives will often argue that the percentage of failures is a small figure when compared to the whole, and that following the installation and care instructions will always lead to a favorable outcome. What they don’t appreciate is the difficulty in conveying the installation and finishing parameters to the right party, as traditional installation and finishing methods typically prevail on the jobsite and labor is often done by workers who are under pressure to get the job done and may not have been apprised of the installation and finishing instructions. From the homeowner’s perspective, most building materials are extremely difficult to identify (let alone tie back to the original installation dates, suppliers, or manufacturers) so quantifying the amount of failed product in the field can be an elusive thing to do. All too often, homeowners live with or replace the failures at their own expense because they don’t know who to turn to, or the warranties are flimsy, difficult to employ and don’t cover labor. There is no doubt that we all need to do a better job communicating and adhering to the restrictions and requirements that must be followed on any new product, especially if it will be your first time using it. To most manufacturers’ credit, they do an excellent job in creating installation and care guidelines on their website or on YouTube, which typically can be viewed on a smartphone on the job site. It is strongly recommended to always take the time to learn what you don’t know about a new product before it is cut and installed and share the care and maintenance instructions with the homeowner.

In the end, we are in the home-building business, and homes need to be built to last. At a time when housing is so expensive and inflation has many of us against the ropes, we don’t need to be buying things twice. Please turn to your Shepley Sales Team for support: our building professionals are here to help and can advise you on the best product for your application, as there are many successful ones readily available, composite or not. Thank you for your business and support.