Home > Techniques, Tools and Schools > A New Lumber Dealer

A New Lumber Dealer

Walking into a lumber yard used to be fun. It is like opening a treasure chest. Walking between rows of boards I look at the many species, some I have never heard of, some that are very familiar. The smell of the wood is clean and honest reminding me of places and projects. Working through a stack of lumber one of the owners would often come over and chat, asking about projects helping find just the right pieces.

As I said it used to be fun, after moving a few years ago, my previous store is a few hours away. I have a store approximately half an hour away which I have stopped by several times. Their selection is decent, but the pricing is outrageous . I also often feel like I have intruded into the store. They are helpful, but I get the feeling there are other things to be done. A couple of weeks ago I stopped in to pick up one board. The board I had planned to use had a check right where I didn’t need it. As I worked through the quarter sawn oak I could find no boards with medullary rays. My project was almost complete and I was trying to match my existing wood. Asking if there were other boards the assistant pointed out that all of the boards with rays had been sorted and in another spot for $1.50 more per board ft. I then looked at the price of the regular qtr sawn oak and saw that it was $1.50 higher then my previous store! That’s $3.00 higher totaling $9.50 per board ft!!

Needless to say I didn’t purchase the lumber. While I was there I asked if they had any 10/4 boards. The answer was you don’t always get what you want…. I’m wondering if I was having a bad day or perhaps the assistant. What I really needed to hear was we don’t usually carry it, but could get it for you. Anyway I’m lookin for a new store.

  1. October 12, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I agree with you that the cost of lumber is outrageous. I have no issues with paying what something is worth, and obviously lumber yards have overhead to deal with, but the cost of rough lumber is way higher than it ought to be. Trouble is, I don’t know the solution to the problem, other than somehow producing my own. But I feel your pain.

  2. October 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Yeah – it’s easy to feel like your getting a bad deal in a place where the products don’t have price tags and the cost changes often! And I also feel the experience is sometimes dependent on the assistant. The moody ones can really put you off a place!

  3. October 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Yep, that’s a real turn off. There is a local place that has a big selection of wood species, but the prices are over the top. $12/bf for 8/4 Poplar the last time I was there. It kind of made me a little nauseous to tell you the truth. I picked through the “top quality clear pine”, which was around $8/bf if I recall. Every board (S4S) was twisted, bowed or cupped badly. Yuck.

    I got a couple of boards at another place that mills some of their own lumber. I got some 8/4 red oak and 4/4 alder, both were really badly checked. I should have seen it in the alder, but it’s really dimly lit inside the place. Next time I’m taking a giant flashlight.

  4. October 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    I hate hearing this. I feel fortunate to have the yard I do. Northwest Lumber in Indianapolis. Friendly and helpful. Domestic lumber is very reasonable. Poplar 8/4 @ $3.95/bf before 50bf price break. Yesterday they offered me 50bf break @ 48bf. Ash 4/4 @2.95, 8/4@ 3.20, 5/4 maple @ 4.80. They will also sell less than full boards no extra charge and help you load; which is great when buying 8/4 ash.

    Last month they got in some amazing clear walnut. Much of it 8 to 11″ width, a few 15 – 18. Many boards absolutely defect free. The most amazing thing was that they knew this was special, yet didn’t gouge. They had it at $8.95.

    • October 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      I drive through Indianapolis every once in a while. I’ll have to write the name down and when I’m traveling that way stop in. Maybe they will give you a referral bonus. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  5. October 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I hate to tell you this guys but the cost of lumber is rising and frankly it needs to. When speaking of domestics you will find that the costs for many species are on par with the 1960s. The recession hit the industry really hard and many, many sawmills and yards have gone out of business. On hand sawn stock has dropped from 11 Billion bf to around 6 B now and as the building industry recovers the mills can’t saw it fast enough to meet the demand. We are on the correction side of a really depressed market so costs will rise. Without knowing any of the prices specifically it is a guess but I’m willing to bet those yards are buying downstream quite a way and are subject quite a bit of mark up from every dealer upstream of them. At the same time many of these dealers aren’t maintaining large inventories and buying on a just in time model that the upstream distributors can’t manage because the cost of fuel has gone through the roof so they need to increase the “wholesale” cost to cover these 100 board foot shipments in an 18 wheeler. It is a wicked cycle and the people that usually pay the biggest price are the folks who buy the smallest volume of lumber. Moreover, the larger customers have not been asked to take a price hike when costs go up because the dealer is afraid to lose the business so the little guy gets the bigger bill as a way to make up for falling profit margins on the wholesale side.

    Now I won’t make excuses for poor customer service. That is always inexcusable but I think where the lumber industry has really let everyone down is by being so close to the vest on market changes like this and not helping to educate their customers (large and small) on how this effects them and why. The end result of this is exactly the conversation in this post and comments: customers feeling like they are getting the shaft.

    Your friendly neighborhood lumber man

    • October 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Shannon, I don’t disagree with you in anything you have said in particular about the communication. You’re industry and mine are similar. The frustration comes with the service. I wouldn’t mind the premium pricing with a friendly discussion and some help finding the products I want. I did find another lumber dealer at similar pricing and they did help me find what I need and had a great conversation. Customer service can lead to higher prices.

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