Despite interruptions from wintry weather and the holidays, December lumber sales were, on the whole, very good. With the heavy snowfall that came earlier in the month, Eastern mills struggled to load and deliver what they had on the books. Coupled with short holiday weeks, late trucks became a real burden for buyers who had planned on their scheduled arrival. Retailers, (who were already dealing with thin inventories and struggling to cover their needs) were forced to turn to distributors with the hopes that they had what they needed and if they were lucky that they did, deal with paying a higher price to plug the holes that needed to be filled.
On the mill side, premium products remained in short supply and end-of-year shut downs put a crimp on availability of many dimensions, pushing lead times well in to the New Year. Despite all, lumber pricing remained surprisingly measured throughout the month, with very few variances week to week. Mills had healthy order files going in to their shut downs (in large part due to the customers who ran their inventory down to avoid being taxed on surplus carried in to 2020). As inventories get replenished after the New Year, few are speculating that there will be a bump in prices as typically seen in early January.
Although this sustained flat market has been nice (and it’d be great to enjoy it for a little longer), it is winter. Adverse weather conditions across the nation have a long history of interrupting supply and creating some havoc with fulfillment and pricing. We’ll have to be optimistically cautious as to where the market goes but, in the meantime, we’ll advise that pricing will be flat in January with the potential of a slight rise, if poor weather conditions prevail.
If you come from outside of this industry, much of what appear to be identical products that are sold by lumber yards seem to have little to no difference in composition or appearance. However, that is where our education and expertise comes in as we know that the subtle or unseen differences can have a major impact on performance, appearance, and price. For example, on our 1⁄2” fir construction plywood, we carry both 4’x8’ CCX and 4’x8’ CDX. In sheathing plywood terms, the first two letters indicate the face and back veneers, and the “X” represents the glue, for “exterior”. From outward appearances (and especially in lift-form), they can look very similar but the grade of the plies (“C” being a better grade than “D”) and manner that they are assembled (CCX is core composed, which means that the veneers are one-piece glue-bonded rather than separate veneers laid loose, minimizing the occurrence of voids) makes the CCX a better product and not only by appearances, but with integrity as the inner core has less voids and therefore carries a better glue-bond rating of “Exterior 1”. CDX, with the “D” back and non-core composed veneers (although CDX can have core-composed, depending upon manufacturer), has more voids and therefore has a lower glue-bond rating of “Exposure 1”.
What benefit does using Exterior 1 CCX bring versus Exposure 1 CDX? According to the American Plywood Association’s explanation (www.apawood.org/faq) “Exterior panels are suitable for applications subject to long-term exposure to weather or moisture. Exposure 1 panels may be used for applications where construction delays may be expected prior to providing protection. Exposure 1 panels are made with the same exterior adhesives used in Exterior panels. However, because other compositional factors may affect bond performance, only Exterior panels should be used for long-term exposure to weather. Note: APA Rated Plywood Sheathing Exposure 1, commonly called “CDX” in the trade, is sometimes mistaken as an Exterior panel and erroneously used in applications for which it does not possess the required resistance to weather. “CDX” should only be used for applications as outlined under Exposure 1 above. For sheathing grade panels that will be exposed long-term to weather, specify APA Rated Sheathing Exterior (C-C Exterior plywood under PS 1).” In addition to those factors, CCX measures a true 1⁄2” whereas CDX measures 15/32” (although the APA allows tolerances to be within 1/32” for each).
Why do we carry both? Mostly because of price point and user preference, as some customers don’t need to pay more for a better product to have a satisfactory outcome. However, it should be noted that plywood pricing is market-controlled and quite often CCX and CDX are very closely priced to each other, depending upon conditions. On the topic of price parity, we also carry 1⁄2” fir CDX in 4’x10’ sizes, which is commonly used to accommodate the building code instituted years ago that requires that walls be continually sheathed vertically from sill to top plate for hurricane wind resistance. 1⁄2” fir 4’x8’ CDX and 1⁄2” fir 4’x10’ CDX are identical in composition and appearances and usually come from the same manufacturer. When pricing 4’x10’, you would expect to pay a 25% difference over 4’x8’ to account for the size difference, because that’s logical. However, 1⁄2” 4’x10’ CDX is produced on the West Coast and mostly for the West Coast, to accommodate their earthquake building codes. In comparison, there are fewer territories on the East Coast that require it for hurricane resistance and of those that need a 4’x10’ panel, many use OSB. Because of the difference in sales volume between 4’x8’ and 4’x10’ on the East Coast, it is considered a “specialty” item and therefore is sold in smaller volumes for a smaller demand, and the cost reflects that with a square foot price that can be as much as a 75% premium to 4’x8’. We are aggressively working to narrow that gap, but please talk with your Shepley sales rep for other possible alternatives.
Again, there are many building products that you commonly use (such as PT lumber, wood shingles, primed and PVC trim boards and asphalt shingles, amongst others) that, from outward appearances, seem to have very little differentiating themselves from other brands. However, the differences can be profound in performance, appearance and price. We hope that we can show you the value of our products and give you a better understanding of what we can offer and why we offer it. Please be sure to consult your Shepley sales person for any assistance that you may need and we sincerely thank you for your business!