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Old 09-22-2008, 01:02 PM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
21,328 posts, read 54,445,579 times
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We recently moved and remodeled a historic home. The lumber that we got was terrible. (Garbage is an more apt description). Some of the 2x4s were so wet that you could actually get liquid out of them by drilling holes and applying enough pressure. Most were twisted in all kinds of crazy directions. One order of several hundred 2x4s I had to send all of them except about 20 back because they were unsuable. Even the ones that were relatviely straight twisted as they dried after being used to build walls. They are so soft, that nails barely hold in them. Some of the boards were more knots than not and some had significant chunks missing from them where a know had come out. They split easily as well.

For some of the work I went and bought higher grade lumber, but still got garbage that was full of knots and wet and/or warped. It had smaller and fewer knots but for supposedly "clear" lumber, it was terrible.

Is there some way to get decent lumber anymore? We tried an independant lumber yard hoping to get better quality (since it cost more), but got the same junk. We ended up using a lot of lumber salvaged from older homes that were being torn down. This modern sponge lumber is good for nothing but a bonfire (once it dries enough to burn).

If decent lumber is still available, where and how do you get it?
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Old 09-22-2008, 02:01 PM
3,020 posts, read 22,204,851 times
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Default Yeah it is.....

It is no mystery that modern stuff is all junk.

Got to understand the basics. Depending on the species how old is the tree the lumber comes from? Lots of it is really about like balsa wood, low weight, full of water, twists like crazy as you said. Hey, they love to put it into these modern palaces and then the fun begins. Junk produces more junk.

You have to start with the trees it comes from, their condition and age. Usually called old growth, some called it the primary forest. Lots of that was here when the original Indians were running around. Talking trees maybe 500, 600, 700 years old, big suckers. New England had houses with old growth trees, lots of what was known as hard pine, stuff was like some hardwoods today. If you can get that as salvage can be prime wood to build with. Not that much real primary forest left in most of the USA. Everything is secondary growth of some age.

Depending on your location you can get trees and have them sawn into lumber. Lots of that around me. They do mostly what is called selective cutting. Depending on the species but in general it has to be at least 18" in diameter, usually measured chest high minimum, you can sort of reach around it. Probably talking maybe at least 50-60 years old, but could be up toward 100 for the better stuff. Tougher to find really good pine. Lots of hardwoods. Can get all sorts of woods you can not find in normal outlets.

I've seen houses built out the local sawn stuff. Usually it must be air dried in a particular manner for a couple years but there are ways to solar dry it. The roughness varies according to the mill. If they use a band mill can be pretty smooth. Sure beats the junk in the stores. local Amish are into it big time, lot of them run mills, also build various things, sell lumber. Your typical board is a full inch thick or more. Same with the dimensional lumber, like the old dazes. Actually you probably can have it custom cut as desired in most cases. There are value added small companies that will cut and some of them have the ability to kiln dry, lot of them do very custom mill work to order. Don't know a ton of details about them yet. There are also portable mills that will come to you, saw it on site. One big thing they worry about is metal in the wood. Lots of the local wood was in farm land at one time, fence staples, nails from sign can be buried in the trees, does the job on the saw blades.

If you get the bigger stuff like 2 x 8" and up it tends to be better in the commercial outlets. I guess you could saw it down to 2 x 4 size but would really add to the expense. Most of that is lumber like from bigger older trees out west or the northwest.

Places like SE Ohio do have some very nice lumber but probably don't make a dent in the national supply chain, just not that type of volume. Lot of the logs go for export to places like China. Lot of it is contracted out and sawn local for furniture type makers all over. Down in WV you will find a lot of the same thing, western PA can be prime. Most of these areas the really primary forests were cut long ago. Today it is mostly selective cutting, hopefully with stuff old enough to give decent lumber. Your typical wood lot might be harvested for a percentage every 5 - 7 years.

I'm still trying to learn all the details. At some point I will either try to find land that has some good standing timber and have it cut or just buy some local. Did use the local stuff to expand a shed I moved. Nice stuff, very pleased with it. Very good prices. Apparently all types of deals are possible. If you can deliver trees, can be sawn, milled for shares or you can pay a fee. One of my neighbors has some nice walnut and a few maples, trying to talking him into us butchering them. Apparently some the lumber business has slumped a lot. Demand is way down, prices for trees are way down. Local areas don't seem that affected, they serve a different market. Doesn't seem to affect the junk on the main markets, isn't getting much better. I've heard the better stuff in the NW is not even being cut. Just letting it get better with time.

That stuff out of the tree farms like in the southern USA must be getting cut very, very young. Hey, they sell a lot before its time. I guess they claim it is going thru a kiln but somebody should turn the heat up a bit.

Goes into plastic high priced junk shacks and no shortage of buyers. Makes no difference, some slick ad, tell the necessary lies, who is ever going to know.

You want to look around for your area. See if there are any local sawmills. Want to avoid a lot of shipping costs if possible. Maybe look on line and see what is available. Lately I did see some being offered for sale at auction but I didn't get to go to that affair.
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Old 09-22-2008, 11:17 PM
Location: Houston, Texas
10,425 posts, read 41,714,363 times
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You didn't say where you bought that junk lumber from but never mind, we already know.

But I am surprised a little but you still got some bad lumber from a lumber yard. They always carry more of a quality framing material. Good ol Lowes and HD will just carry that southern yellow pine crap because it's cheap and people want to buy cheap. And yes all of their lumber is not choice cuts. But who cares? Look who their buyers are?

The lumber yards will carry better products because the better contractors buy from there.

Make sure you get doug fir. Many cities/towns etc require it.
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Old 09-23-2008, 06:29 AM
Location: Londonderry, NH
41,310 posts, read 46,188,553 times
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There are several companies making laminate lumber as small a 2x4. They may make actual 2x4 as well. The stuff is expensive but is far more useful than the junk wood the mass marketers provide. IIRC Paralam is one brand. You have to balance the low first cost against the higher labor and scrap costs before using the "cheap" stuff.
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Old 09-23-2008, 10:53 PM
3,020 posts, read 22,204,851 times
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Default It depends on the size you are buying.......

A lot depends on the size of framing you are buying. If you are buying floor joist or floor rafters sized type lumber then it is different. There tends to be some better grades available but you are paying premium for it.

Not hard to understand why, they saw the best trees into the larger sizes. They get the most profit for the unit of wood. That is also what the locals building their own houses are saying. The larger stuff ain't too bad, but gees what I had to pay for it. They don't saw the better trees into the smaller sizes of framing / lumber, they get some but it is not the main goal. The longer the lumber, again the higher the profit per unit of wood.

If you have ever been in a modern mill, a computer scans the tree and decides what to make out of it for the most profit. The ones I saw, an operator did most of the actual sawing based on a CRT display. Today it is probably totally automated. The aim is too make as much money from each tree as possible.

Lot of the smaller stuff is horrible, no matter where you get it, lots of run out, poor QC, tool marks all over it, even if cut from the better trees, mostly because it probably comes from the outer areas.

Couple tricks I found was to look around for salvage. This baseboard was remanaufacturered out of some old steel mill packing case they had used for shipping something. Old in a dude's garage, thrown into a deal for buying other stuff. Ran it thru the planer, made a sandwich out of it, got some close to what I needed in a clear grained hunk big enough to do the job.

More Baseboard out of that batch. The right salvage can beat anything you can buy.

Getting wide trim was a disaster. Couldn't get any local stuff dried enough to use. Tried doug fir, stained to match existing oak. Paid a fortune, every piece was defective.,

The good wood as scrap. Can't beat the local sawn wood in my book. If you can get it dried down enough can build furniture out of it. This was light fixtures made from scrap, hickory face over oak backing with salvage fixtures. Even this Old House TV guys tried to do some local trees sawn into lumber and they were pretty positive about it. Is my preference for the future, can't beat the quality or the price.

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Old 09-24-2008, 11:39 AM
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
21,328 posts, read 54,445,579 times
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Large (12" or bigger) yellow pine baseboard cut into a pattern rather than just square boards runs $16/foot at salvage places. You simply cannot buy anyhting new like that period. Your only hope is to buy salvage or to piece something similar together using multiple pieces of modern lumber.

I asked for Douglas fir 2x4s and I was told that it is generally not available East of the Mississippi. You can special order it if you happened to win a mega lottery last month, but otherwise it simply is not available.

I think that steel studs are the answer for new construction, but for remodeling, I do not know what the answer is. I wish that we had gone with steel studs.
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