Robbing Lumber Pricing of Its Mistique
None of us likes to feel like — or wonder if — we’ve been taken advantage of. Deceived. Defrauded. Bamboozled. Whether it’s in the context of a personal relationship or in the midst of a business transaction, that kind of thing can weigh on a person.
Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we don’t want our customers wondering if they’ve been overcharged or ripped off, in any way. At the same time, we do realize that the nature of the lumber industry and its far-from-simple pricing considerations can easily lead customers to at least wonder about how we come up with our prices and why they change so much.
We hope that our longstanding reputation for quality lumber and customer service will help you give us the benefit of the doubt, but we also want to educate our valued customers so they can not only avoid feeling betrayed but also have the best shot at getting the most — and best — lumber for their money.
Understanding the Lumber Market
I’m sure you wish you could walk into your local lumber yard — or flip through an online catalog — and see straightforward pricing for your particular order. For that desire, all we can offer is our condolences: It’s simply not possible.
So many variables affect pricing, that there’s simply no way to offer the kind of simple pricing we all wish that we could.
In addition to basics like species, grade, and number of feet, we need to know several other details, in order to start toward calculating a price that allows us to cover our costs, as well as make a reasonable profit:
• Whether you mean board feet or lineal feet
• Job requirements, such as specific lengths, widths, and thicknesses
• Specific requirements within the grade requested (a particular grain pattern, for instance)
• Pickup or delivery specifications
• Details regarding any millwork required, as part of your order
You may be starting to understand how difficult it is for lumber suppliers to offer the kind of forthright pricing we all wish were possible.
Understanding Additional Costs
One of the lumber types that’s infamous for ever-changing pricing is decking lumber, so we’ll look at the highly sought-after species of Ipe as an illustration.
Since Ipe grows in South America, its growing season poses a unique quandary. While its demand in North America is at its peak during spring and summer, lumber suppliers cannot receive any more shipments of it until winter. For those buying in early spring, the overflowing inventory allows for relatively low prices, along with plenty of options as far as sizes, grain patterns, and other specifications.
If you order in the spring, we may need to open a number of packs in order to assemble your specific order, which will increase our overhead costs. At the same time, though, we’ll probably be able to provide lower-end boards when that’s acceptable, so the price will still be lower than later in the season.
In Part 2, we’ll look at some additional factors that play into lumber pricing.