WT364 – Pricing Lumber

On today’s weekend show, we’re talking about pricing lumber.

What Are We Talking About

Matt got some kickback on how much he sells his slabs for and this sparked a conversation on the huge number of variables that go into the price of a stick of lumber.

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9 replies on “WT364 – Pricing Lumber”

So funny! When Matt said $300 in that video, I went and got myself a freight quote. Looks like it would be about $500 to ship it to the Southeast – and it doesn’t seem to be driven so much by weight as volume, so I think 4 or 5 of those slabs could be shipped for that price which would easily be worth it. Anybody else in the SE want to go in on a couple slabs with me?? Maybe a road trip? (somewhat serious here…)

But the one thing you definitely inspired me to do for my next project, Matt, is to look for a guy in a backyard and skip the lumber yard!

This was slab oriented, but I price out multiple options for every (FAS) project. The local hardwood dealers mark the price up about 40% over wholesale for the volumes I deal with. Occasionally, If I talk to the right people in the yard, I’ll get a decent price on it, but usually it’s pretty darn expensive.

For instance, they want 11.50 for Walnut. So for a 100 bf, that’s $1150. If I order at least 100bf, I can get it at around $8. So, $800 plus $200 shipping works out to be $10/bf.

It gets harder to justify at lower quantities, and cheaper woods. But it’s worth it to me to pencil it out to try and minimize my material cost, and what I can therefore get/convince the customer to pay.

Outstanding episode; have been so engrossed with the woodworking “hobby” for so long that I have my own band saw mill and tractor with lift forks to move the logs and lumber around which creates all kinds of storage issues. The key word is hobby, as an investment it’s a hugh loss, but the self gratification rewards are priceless. Accordingly I have no advice but for the best lumber value, selection and advice for the money seek out people like Matt or myself, we’re out there.

We have a local auction company that has had hardwood, mostly slabs running for the last 4-5 months. Prices run anywhere from $1.50 to $6.50 a BF for Cherry, Walnut, Oak and a few other domestics. I still can’t get over how well the slabs sell, I thought the market here would have been flooded by now.

I think it’s interesting that you guys talked about sourcing longs and traveling to get the lumber. I have a local guy that drives rough 500-600 miles one way to buy logs and bring them to his mill. His costs were still cheaper the the local dealer BUT it was all air dried and very rough. One thing you didn’t mention is grading. does the grading system work for slabs? Would you sell wet lumber for less?

Matt i think your prices are accurate for the region and someday i hope to drop by for a cup-o-slab, I’ll pay though unlike that jerk Marc.

Typically, slabs are not graded, at least I have never seen them graded. The fact is your typical slab doesn’t have enough defect free material to make a FAS grade. Most slabs I see would be a #1c grade, but the drying and kiln times and extra warehousing space add to the cost.

Green lumber should always be sold for less.

I know this varies a lot by region… around here in the chicago area I can buy from pretty much anyone in the supply chain… I have plenty of local sawyers and kiln operators within a 2 hour drive, I can buy from wholesalers with 1mln bd ft in inventory, or I can buy from u-pick type retailers.

For local species like walnut or cherry, the local sawyers (such as http://www.hickoryandoak.com) are my best bet. I can get reasonably priced, high quality unsteamed KD walnut that is graded on an oak, rather than walnut scale.

If I am buying in quantity (50 or 100 BF+), then a wholesaler is my best bet. The one I go to doesn’t let you pick your boards, you just put your order in and get what you get. But everything is properly graded and not picked over, so the quality tends to be much higher than a self service retail yard. They also stock specialty items – I can get QS or wide material in pretty much any species. (www.heidlerhardwood.com)

Retail yards (such as http://www.owlhardwood.com) are my last resort. If I need a single board or a weird exotic, it is a good place to go for convenience, but everything has already been picked over by everyone from veneer buyers to cabinet shops to that guy who will move a 500BF stack to get at a single board that is exactly 7.75″ wide…. particularly the domestics.

For slabs I go to a specialty place that has been in the business for a long long time (http://horiganufp.com/). They sticker and air dry everything for at least a year, then finish in a kiln. The result is flat, wide slabs with minimal surface checking. I use these for wide table tops, but typically remove the live edges and sap because I am not into that look. There are a lot of Johnnies Come Lately in the slab business. I would rather pay more for a slab that I know was properly seasoned and dried.

A comment here from Philadelphia – an interesting local market has sprung up with salvage and small lumber yards bidding for the city’s fallen trees. Lots of excitement about a huge oak that came down in a local park – probably 6 feet in diameter. Haven’t figured out who got that one yet, but I want some!

It’s priced as “speciality” lumber, with a story – dare we say provenance. Restaurants brag about their reclaimed philadelphia lumber tables. I’m happy that the wood is getting used and the city park service is getting some revenue from it. But, definitely no deals.

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