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What goes up…

Lumber prices are coming down. Whether you’re benefitting yet depends on a couple factors.

The pandemic, supply chain issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation, fuel prices, a housing boom, you name it – if it could affect lumber pricing the last couple years, it has. But it looks like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and, fortunately, that light isn’t on the front of an oncoming freight train.

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Fortune Magazine, the National Association of Homebuilders, USA Today, Business Insider and numerous other sources are all encouraged by a trend of falling lumber prices. For that, you can thank higher mortgage rates, a slowing housing market, an easing of fuel and transportation costs, and other factors.

From a peak last year of more well over $1,500 per 1,000 bf, to a current low of just under $500 for the same amount, it’s the kind of break lumber buyers have been waiting for. That’s still higher by a couple hundred bucks than just a few years ago – and we may never get back to those historic lower prices – but it’s making all the difference for a lot of people who work with wood.

Whether it helps you depends on where you live, how you work and what you produce. Some areas of the country are still seeing transportation issues or brisk home building, and lower prices haven’t fully trickled down to them yet. The falling prices affect mostly building materials – SPF and the like – which is great if you’re a homebuilder, contractor or renovator. Use a lot of plywood? Sorry, the Russia/Ukraine situation is still impacting those prices, although we’ve even seen a bit of relief there.

If you work with mostly hardwoods, you may not directly benefit as much. Transportation and fuel costs, although decreasing, are still a big factor if the wood you need has to travel a long distance. On the other hand, if you live in a hardwood producing area you may not have been badly impacted at all. Here in Pennsylvania, we produce a lot of cherry and walnut, with a mill never more than an hour away in most parts of the state. I bought some nicely figured walnut just two weeks ago and paid pretty much what I remembered paying for it for a long time.

The bottom line is that we may never get back to prices from four or five years ago. Lingering, permanent effects of the pandemic and other factors will see to that. But this is the best pricing news we’ve had since 2020 ushered in everything a really bad year can muster. Now’s a good time to take advantage of it and get back to work.

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