Lumber is graded by certified graders at the mill for the purpose of distinguishing quality and to ensure that it is suitable for the job. Finish boards are graded on appearance, while framing lumber is graded on performance – what will it span or hold up. Grades stamps vary by species and by geographically located grading authorities, but in all cases higher graded lumber is more valuable because it is rarer and performs better.
Species Are For Different Uses
Value and prices are also dependent on specifications and characteristics of the different species of wood. Southern Yellow Pine is excellent for joists and rafters due to its strength characteristics, but is ill-suited for studs or plate material because of its instability (making it too difficult to achieve straight walls). Doug Fir has greater stress values and is a more stable wood than either SPF or Hem Fir, and is therefore a superior choice for many high-end applications. Certain species are well suited for some climates and not for others; for example Hem Fir does not do well in Texas heat – tending to twist and bow.
Price Differences Based on Grade and Species
Based on historical pricing numbers:
- #3 SPF mill prices are 12% – 25% cheaper than #2 SPF
- #1 SYP mill prices are 10% – 20% higher than #2 SYP
- #2 KD Doug Fir mill prices 10% – 20% higher than #2 KD Hem Fir.
In addition, #2 SYP from a top shelf mill with higher standards will command a 5% or more premium over a run-of-the-mill #2 SYP. They’ll both be stamped #2&Btr., but you can sure tell the difference. Davis-Hawn always attempts to buy from the top-shelf mills when stock is available. How does your lumberyard buy – on quality or price alone?
It’s an old and simple concept – better product, higher price
Think Cadillac and Chevrolet – both get you around town just fine, but take the Cadillac to Sunday brunch. Just as you would not use AC Fir Plywood for rough sheathing (where CDX will do), you would not use Select Structural KD Doug Fir in a Fox & Jacobs home (where #3 or Utility SPF may be appropriate).
The quality of material should fit the job and the customer’s expectationsSurprisingly, in Dallas this is often not the case in high-end custom homes! Custom builders, whether knowingly or unknowingly, are often using low-grade lumber in multi-million dollar homes, even on Beverly Drive. This is the unfortunate result of initial price trumping all other considerations and, in our opinion, it does both the builder and his customer a great disservice.