The lumber industry is unique in many ways. Because we are selling organic materials, no two boards are exactly alike, and so many factors affect a board’s grade and price. Because of those issues, both lumber grading and lumber pricing can be complicated; complexity, however, does not mean random. The more you learn about wood species and the lumber industry, the better equipped you’ll be to place your next lumber order and make sure you receive exactly what your job requires without paying more than necessary for your order.
Placing Your Lumber Order
As a lumber supplier, J. Gibson McIlvain receives many requests for quotes every day from all across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean; often, the customer gives us far less information than we actually need. They might mention species, grade, length, width, and the number of board feet. However, is that sufficient to allow us to offer a quote or — even more importantly — fill an order? Surprisingly not.
It might help to think of placing your lumber order as more than a simple transaction, but rather a conversation. In that conversation, you should expect to answer a few more questions about your project.
Questions You Need To Answer
While this is in no way an exhaustive list, here’s a sampling of the questions you should be prepared to answer.
What are you building?
What additional work do you plan to do or have done to your lumber?
Will the lumber be used for interior or exterior work?
Do all boards need to be the length you requested, or do only a certain number need to be that long?
Does your estimate of footage account for any overage? (If so, how much?)
If you place your lumber order without offering the answers to the above questions (or being asked about them), the lumber supplier you are using will not have enough information to fill your order properly. Period. In fact, withholding information and waiting to see if you will be asked might be a great way to determine the precision of a new potential supplier.
A Question About Grade
Did you know that just about everyone (here in the U.S., anyway) wants “A grade lumber”? That issue leads to one more question you need to be prepared to answer — and it might be even more important than the others we already considered. It’s key to making sure you’re satisfied with your project. Ready? Here it is: “What does “A grade” mean to you and your customer?”
Grading systems, all of them, become virtually irrelevant at this point. Not only are the standards constantly in flux, but they also vary according to species. Often, even purchasing top grade lumber will end up with disappointment from your customer — and of course, that’s not at all what we want!
Continue reading with Part 2.