Hopefully after reading our first post on the topic of reconsidering the North American tendency for extra-wide, long boards, you’re beginning to doubt the necessity of always ordering large lumber sizes. Certainly, some applications require bigger sizes; however, the current trend toward them has resulted in many customers defaulting to ordering boards far larger than they really need. The result is waste as well as as decreased quality and extra expense.
In addition to making sure you’re not buying wider or longer boards than you really need, we’d like to introduce you to an unusual idea: buying odd-length boards can save you money. Especially an issue when it comes to tropical hardwood decking lumber, buying odd-length boards translates into paying less for more lumber. Stay tuned to learn why.
The North American lumber market is distinct from others across the globe. For some reason, the North American standard is to purchase only even-length decking. As you can imagine, trees don’t grow in only certain sizes, so boards are naturally cut into a variety of lengths, including odd lengths. Because the rest of the world is okay with both even and odd-length decking boards, U.S. importers really limit their buying power when they request only even-length boards. Especially when it comes to species in high demand, such as Ipe and Cumaru, mills have no trouble selling odd-length boards. As a result, some lumber mills refuse to fill orders from buyers who specify only even-length boards; at best, the choosy buyer will limit the volume available to them by putting such vast restrictions on board length.
At J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber, we no longer request only even-length decking from our lumber mills for this very reason. Instead, for customers who request only even-length decking, we’ll provide the added service of cutting boards here at our in-house millworks.
Since an Ipe tree — or any tree, for that matter — will yield boards of a variety of lengths, including both even and odd boards, that’s what we always have to start with. If you require only even-length boards, approximately half the stock yielded by a tree will need to have a foot cut off. Not only is such a process wasteful, but it’s also costly: you’re paying for that extra foot as well as for the added labor required to cut it down to an even length. So while we’re perfectly capable of cutting boards to even lengths, we’d really rather not: we think it’s in our customers’ best interest to pay less for longer, odd-length boards instead. And whatever you decide, we at least want you to be aware of the fact that that’s an option available to you — and one that not all lumber suppliers will offer.
You may be wondering why the North American market so strongly prefers even-length decking boards, and we really can’t help you there. But we can assure you that no one will be bringing a tape measure to your next barbecue and discounting the beauty of your high-end tropical hardwood deck when they discover that it’s actually 21 feet long instead of 20.
Continue reading with Part 3.