Coming off of record highs, lumber pricing softened in July as stock that was ordered in June’s panic-state rolled in to distributors and yards, bolstering inventories and sending purchasers to the sidelines as they evaluated current and upcoming business. Although the industry as a whole is still quite busy, it does appear that a touch of over-buying is apparent as “deals” being offered by traders were seldom entertained. However, this could be a short-term situation, as mill shut downs for retooling started in mid-July and most were not reopening until early to mid-August. It will soon be seen if the lack of production by mills versus the inventory stores of distributors and dealers will have much of an impact on August pricing, as a new round of buying may be occurring upon the mills’ reopening. However, the mills have healthy order files, so anticipated needs by distributors and dealers post shut-down may already be covered. In the meantime, prices have flattened, seemingly hitting bottom, but are sustained. Depending upon the pace of construction over the next few weeks (and how much inventory is in the barn at the retail level), pricing could go up, down or remain seated. In any event, we wouldn’t expect at this point for wide swings in either direction: for August, we anticipate pricing to be status quo, with the potential of a bump up at the end of the month.
Turning (selling and replenishing) lumber at this time of the year can be a challenge, as business usually slows down as we all take advantage of the summer while it lasts. As a dealer, we have to be very careful to rotate our inventory so that the stock that was first in is also the first out. One wouldn’t think that lumber and plywood have a shelf-life, but it does as it is very susceptible to sun and moisture damage, otherwise known as “yarding”. If you have the opportunity to drive through our yard, you will see that we are careful to cover any lumber and plywood that will be exposed to the elements for any length of time with either with a lumber cover or a sacrificial layer of stock that is meant to protect the layer it is covering. Ideally, storing stock in a cool spot with good air flow is the best option, but not a luxury that any of us generally have. Most especially in August, the intense heat and humidity can have a very swift and harmful impact on the condition of these products, so diligence in covering and recovering material will pay off in dividends if you wish to protect it from sun damage. In most respects, sun damage can render a board useless as it will quickly turn yellow and then gray due to sun degradation but, more damaging, is the checking, cracking, twisting, and cupping that will occur when the material becomes too dry from baking in the sun, whisking away any moisture that would otherwise keep it stable. Conversely, high humidity also presents a serious threat with mold and mildew, which will occur from repeated cycles of trapped moisture and heat. The best course of action is to protect it from direct sunlight if possible and allow plenty of opportunity for ventilation by leaving an airspace on all six sides. Covering it with a breathable material (any of our provided lumber covers will do) and keeping the stock elevated on blocks, pallets or saw horses is paramount. Especially for what today’s costs are for lumber and plywood, it’s critical to protect this material as the loss can have a profoundly negative impact to your bottom line. On this topic, we are big endorsers of end-sealing, and end-seal many of the products we keep in our Auto-Stak racking systems. Although it’s mandated on pressure treated items and most wood decking, it is also a best practice on any other wood product that may be susceptible to the elements. We sell end sealers for all of our wood products, and highly recommend their usage as they are an all-around good investment. Overall, you can’t go wrong doing whatever you can to protect your purchase, so please consult us if you need any help in achieving this important step.
It is hard to believe that we are already in the last full month of summer, but it’s a good time to take pause and enjoy some of the wonderful features that living on Cape Cod can bring while the time lasts. From all reports, it appears that we’ll be hitting the ground running with regard to fall business, so taking advantage of the best time of the year to recharge and enjoy what we work so hard for will surely replenish your energy for what’s right around the corner.