question about local wood prices

Around here, pine and spruce are cheap. I can get an 8 foot 2x4 at home depot for about $2.50(the Canadian dollar is about on parity with the USD).

Oak and hardwoods are expensive. Cedar is more than Pine, not so bad as Oak and Ash. It comes from a few hundred miles away, in British Columbia.

What about local prices? If I drove down to the coast with a trailer, could I buy western Cedar at comparable prices?

What about you guys in the states? Are the hardwoods cheaper? Is cypress cheaper than Spruce in Florida(assuming its used for carpentry).

Hardwood is expensive because it grows much slower. I’d be suprised to find a place where that’s not the case.

It’s always cheaper close to the source. And usually not kiln dried. So if you’re looking for green wood you’ll save decent money. But if you want dried lumber the mill has to have a kiln, and usually when you add the transportation costs in you won’t save huge amounts unless you’re buying a lot. On the other hand you can get lumber cut to whatever size you want. I doubt there’s ever much advantage for pine because it’s sold in huge volumes to local lumber suppliers. But hardwood is where you’ll find savings. If you want to buy a lot of walnut, go to where the walnut grows. And depending on what you’re doing, you can get a lot of deals at the mill.

Thanks zoid and Tripolar.

Now I’m thinking about running to Home Depot to check. But IRC pine and spruce are more expensive, with Cedar a lot more expensive. I think there’s some limited production of dimensional Pine and Spruce in the midwest, but all the Cedar (which is much in demand for decks) is shipped from BC. Most forestry in the northern midwest is planting fast growing trees like Aspen for paper production.

I’ve never seen Ash for sale. Around here they’d probably have a fit due to possibly spreading the Ash Borer.

Kiln dried 2x4x8 here in middle America is still about $2.50.

Wow, it’s been a long time since I bought framing lumber…why, I remember back in the day a 2x4 stud was around $1.80.

Simply not true. Hardwoods (or broadleaf trees) do not grow much slower than softwoods (or conifers). They usually grow faster. In my shop, white ash, elm, birch, maple and red oak lumber with up to 3/8" growth rings is common as dirt. With conifers around here, 3/8" growth rings is rare to non-existent. The average ring width in the locally-ubiquitous Scots pine is 1/16", too thin to be found on any of the hardwoods.

Most hardwoods are expensive relative to most softwoods because they are rarely cultivated in man-made monoculture forests where every tree is of uniform size and shape and of the right species; many commercial softwoods naturally and invariably grow into a shape that’s conducive to processing (ie. a single, straight bole with evenly distributed small-diameter branches), unlike many hardwoods with short or multi-stemmed boles and a wide, irregular crown with difficult-to process heavy branch wood. So, filling a truck with pine is much quicker and easier than filling a truck with maple, and many more truckloads of pine can be taken per area. Hardwoods, being on average much denser than softwoods, are also harder on the woodcutting and woodmilling machinery, more time-consuming to season properly (in expensively-run kilns) and much heavier in seasoned form, adding hardware, maintenance, utility and transportation costs relative to softwoods.

There’s also a premium put on by lumberyards on the hardwoods used on more prestigious projects than the lowly knotty pine, douglas fir etc. No-one builds scaffolding from rock elm, but it sure makes a pretty table top. This is reflected in the price.

Toxylon, that was great info. Thanks.

I agree, the spruce and pine around here just dont have that large of growth rings. They take 80-120 years to reach full size.

You can get a lot of dimensional lumber out of a lodgepole pine, but its not so great for table tops.

Pine normally doesn’t make great table tops because it scratches and chips very easily. But it can look really nice, and an epoxy finish can toughen it up a lot. I have a huge pine tree in the yard with the first 10’ of the trunk over 5’ in diameter. When that comes down some day I plan to have it milled just to get some fabulous looking boards out of that. Most of the pine lumber available around here is really cruddy stuff selected just for framing lumber. I can get #1 grade 1X lumber, but for heavier stuff I have to build up boards, try to pick good ones out of a pile, or just use other wood. Lately cedar has become more available and I’ve been making lawn furniture from that. I pick up all the cedar I can because I have a house made of cedar. The house is white cedar though. Preferable because of it’s great resistance to rot and pests, but in increasingly short supply, and very expensive. One thing I’ve heard is that abundant deer population are eating the cedar seedlings and new growth is minimal. Some places in the Great Lakes region cedar is abundant and less expensive, but unless I buy many board feet at once the transportation costs eat up the savings.

Take a day and go visit the mill. They’ll tell you what they have, what they can get, and how to get the best deal. For instance if you buy all the wood from a log they might give you a very good price so they don’t have to find something to do with the rest. Straight cut boards can cost less than quarter sawn. If you’re going to make furniture you’ll want kiln dried wood, and if they don’t have a kiln, they’ll tell you who does. And you might see some wood you didn’t think of before.

Best of luck with your projects.

Do you have a cite that measures something more relevant than growth rings?

The lumber industry is all about usable volume, usually measured in board feet. And, since branches are not as useful for lumber as trunks, growth rings don’t seem like a useful measurement to base this conclusion on.

I addressed these issues in the first half of the second paragraph of my reply that you left out of the snip. Yes, you get more usable volume per tree per area from commercially viable softwoods than from hardwoods. This is different from saying softwoods grow faster than hardwoods, which is not true.

I’m no expert in timber, but the internets seem to be confused in this regard:

http://www.ehow.com/about_4673107_differences-between-softwood-hardwood.html

http://www.mamashealth.com/saveearth/softwood.asp

http://www.mr-dt.com/materials/timber.htm

http://www.countrysideinfo.co.uk/woodland_manage/intro.htm

It does appear that broad-leafs grow faster than conifers when they are young.

http://www.gopaperless.info/Lifestyle/GOKidsZone/LearnaboutTrees/TypesofTrees/tabid/84/Default.aspx

http://www.paperonweb.com/wood.htm

There’s going to be a lot different ways to describe growth of a tree. For use as lumber it will be measured by how much usable lumber can be taken from a tree. For other purposes, the height of the tree may be measured, or it’s total mass, or diameter of it’s trunk. By the time you get through all the descriptions and the misuse of terms like ‘faster’ and ‘slower’ you don’t end up with a clear picture. But that’s because ‘how fast does a tree grow’ isn’t a very specific question.

Some hardwoods (aspen) grow faster than pine. Some hardwoods (oak and maple) grow slower than pine.

When they talk about planting hardwoods, they’re talking about aspen to make paper, not red oaks for dimensional lumber.

One non-commercial, small-scale woodworker way to look at this is to observe local tree species grow. For instance, when the underside of a power line is clear-cut, or a lot abandoned, trees pop up and shoot skywards at markedly different rates. What I have here are birch, rowan and bird cherry saplings reaching 15 ft. in five to eight years, with trunks of dense, hard wood as thick as a man’s arm. In those same five to eight years, conifers have barely reached three feet in height, with a whip-like ‘trunk’ and lots of useless branches. On logging-sized alder, birch and aspen trees several decades old, more efficient growth (girth and length) is easily observed over conifers. Then again, pine, spruce, larch and juniper live to be 200+ while most hardwood trees here are lucky to make it to 80.

One way to get hardwood is to salvage a storm damaged tree on your property. Most areas have businesses with a portable sawmill. They come right to the tree and make the lumber. Let it air dry, run it through a planer and you have really nice material for woodworking.

I saw this done years ago on This Old House. The tree had to be cut anyhow for a construction project. The guy came out and cut some really nice lumber from it.

OP question - standard 2x4 studs are $2.59 here at Home Depot or Lowes.

$2.59 for a precut 2 x 4 x 92-1/4 wall stud. I guess the precut ones are available in Canada too?

2.67 for a plain 2x4 8 ft

Thanks aceplace57. I kinda figured pine would be pretty universal in price.

I know transportation is a pretty small portion of the cost, but I figured perhaps there might be some regional privilege happening. I guess not when it comes to chain stores, but it seems that local producers are a good way to catch a deal.