Across the Northeast region sources agreed that the hardwood lumber market has seen better days.
In Maine, a sawmill spokesperson said that they were slow, at the time of this writing. “There is an uncertainty in the market right now, with no speculation or optimism,” he said.
He noted that they are slower than they were six months ago, saying, “There was a bump right after the first of the year, but since then everything has been quiet, and we are slowing down even more now.”
His sawmill handles Hard and Soft Maple, Yellow Birch and Ash in grades Prime FAS through pallet industrial and in thicknesses 4/4 through 8/4. He mentioned that Hard Maple is currently their best seller.
He said that his sawmill sells to distribution yards, kitchen cabinet companies and wholesalers. “They are slow. I hear it every day when I call them up asking what they are up to and what do they need. With prices changing weekly, nobody is wanting to buy high-priced lumber and price themselves out of the market. It seems that everyone is waiting till the last minute,” he continued.
When asked if he was having trouble with transportation he said, “No, there seems to be trucks available. They are calling us looking for work.”
A lumber spokeswoman in Pennsylvania said, “Business in general has been weird lately. I can’t say that we have any established business right now, our sales have been spotty.”
She continued to say that there is a big difference between the market, at the time of this writing, and six months ago. “We are trying to make sure that we don’t over produce and, instead, focus on the products that we currently have. I think that our sales are doing well with this adjustment.”
She said that her company handles Red and White Oak in grades No. 3 and Better and in 5/4 thickness. When asked which specie was selling the best, she said that White Oak was moving well and that she refused to drop prices on it.
She noted that her company is selling more to end-users, such as moulding, millwork, stair and flooring manufacturers. “A lot of customers that are into custom work are busy,” she added.
She noted that her company has had difficulty with labor, causing their steadfast employees to wear many different hats. As for transportation, she said, “I try to establish relationships with owner/operators that are running a few trucks and promise them work. I stay away from the brokers, their prices are unreal.”
A New York sawmill owner said, “Our sales are probably at a 5 out of 10 right now. We aren’t doing as well as we were six months ago due to the lack of demand.”
His sawmill deals in Red and White Oak in No. 2 Common and Better and in thicknesses of 4/4 through 8/4, with White Oak being his best seller.
He noted that he primarily sells to hardwood distribution yards and end-use manufacturers. He hasn’t heard any comments from his customers on how their sales are.
When asked if he was having issues with transportation or labor he said that he wasn’t at the time.