Appreciating Lumber Market Fluctuations, Part 2: The Good News

After reading Part 1 of this series, you may think the future of the lumber industry is looking pretty bleak. The only good news presented there was lower prices, so the idea of buying up all the lumber you can now before prices spike may seem like a good idea. At J. Gibson McIlvain (website), we’re confident that the apparent bad news about the lumber industry is about to do a flip, though. Like many circumstances, sometimes the darkest storm clouds give way to the brightest of silver linings. Let us explain how.

With fewer saw mills and timelines that don’t allow for the proper drying time needed for quality lumber, the future of the lumber industry may actually be bright. Since so many companies have gone under, production rates in general are lower. The decreased supply will naturally lead to climbing prices, eventually arriving at current year standards. Builders who have been burnt will, in turn, gain boldness to push back and insist on a reasonable time frame and price for quality work. Customers will pretty much have to comply because, well, if they want premium products and masterful work, then they’ll have to pay for it.

It’s at least interesting that our throw-away society that places a premium on low prices is colliding with a resurgence of environmental consciousness that some elevate to the level of religion. Birthed out of the market downturn, combined with environmental concerns, the reclaimed material market is a thriving industry.

Consider a 300-year-old barn board. Defects outnumbering those allowed in fresh lumber for the lowest grades, color consistency and stability are nearly a joke. But to many, such materials hold value for their historic significance, causing some reclaimed lumber to go for much more than the same species would, freshly cut and dried. For those who want wood that tells a story, price is far from the deciding factor.

Price consciousness is still part of Americans’ everyday lives, more so than it was a decade ago. At the same time, perhaps we’ve learned that money isn’t everything. There’s value to quality materials and craftsmanship that transcends generations. Environmental sustainability matters. So does supporting our local economy. If we buy less “stuff” but do so with these types of values in view, we’ll end up passing on a dozen throw-away items while saving up for a few prize pieces that we can be proud of and which will stand the test of time instead.

This turning point is right around the corner, and it promises industry-wide growth. As each player shows respect for raw materials and labor, we’ll price goods and services appropriately and foster the continuation of business. In order to succeed, teamwork is necessary between sawmills, lumber dealers, builders, and contractors. Customers can’t be expected to pay more for lower quality, but for uniquely sourced, responsibly harvested lumber and excellent craftsmanship. In that day, many will be proud to be part of the team, helping save the lumber industry for generations to come.

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