Did you know that just because something is common in the U.S. lumber market doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best (or only) option? Like particular lumber thicknesses, it seems that the preference for even-length decking is unique to the U.S. market, presenting a quandary for lumber mills as well as an opportunity for financially savvy tropical decking customers.
U.S. Ipe importers have traditionally preferred to purchase only even-length decking boards, due to the U.S. market’s penchant for such lengths. However, two factors have led to difficulties in sourcing shipments of only such lengths. First, because the global market has no such preferences, creating orders according to U.S. peculiarities simply isn’t cost-effective for them. Second, there are waste issues that are tied to simple common sense: trees don’t grow in only even sizes, so lumber isn’t limited to that. Mills will cut all lengths, and U.S. importers have to work with that.
When a U.S. importer limits itself to even-length decking, they practically ensure that they’ll pay extra, and they’ll also limit their potential to purchase large quantities. If a lumber mill tailors an order to meet U.S. market demands, that will mean taking an extra step. Either they will have to separate lumber into even and odd lengths, and the even lengths will go to the U.S. while the odd lengths go elsewhere, or they’ll end up lopping off a foot from odd-length boards to make them into even-length boards. Not only will that extra foot of premium tropical hardwood decking go to waste, but that extra time and labor taken for trimming will end up costing additional money, so essentially you’re paying more for a shorter board.
Because we want to pass on the best prices possible to our customers, J. Gibson McIlvain purchases both even and odd lengths of Ipe and other tropical hardwood decking boards. Because we have an in-house millworks operation, we can certainly trim the boards to all even lengths for you or split several packs to get you exactly what you want. But we have to pass along those overhead expenses to you. Whether we purchase all even-length boards from a mill or mill the lumber ourselves to make it into even-length boards, you’ll end up paying more.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether U.S. market preferences or traditions are as important as getting the most for your money. Is anyone really going to notice that your deck is 21 feet long, instead of 20? Maybe you’ll actually appreciate that extra foot of elbow room at your next backyard barbecue. If not, you’ll at least appreciate the fact that you’re not paying more for a deck that’s a foot shorter.