Why Is Lumber So Expensive?

Lumber refers to harvested wood that can be cut into heavy timber or logs. Lumber beams are used in light-frame construction, as a result, it is the most in-demand construction material in many countries. In this article, you will learn more about lumber.  We will first consider facts about lumber. Secondly, how lumber is categorized. Thirdly,  the lumber manufacturing process. Lastly, some of the reasons why lumber is expensive.

Why Is Lumber So Expensive?

About Lumber

The word lumber is used to refer to processed wood that has been turned into planks and beams. It is vital to remember that the full definition of “lumber” and “timber”, may be different due to regional differences. However, both terms are used to refer to wood either in its raw state or in its processed state. Lumber can be in its rough or finished form.

When it is in its rough form, it is called rough lumber. Rough lumber can be used to make furniture. It can be cut and shaped to form many wooden products.

Rough lumber is mostly from:

  • Red pine
  • White pine

When lumber is in its finished form, it is considered finished lumber. It is used in the construction industry as a material used to create quality wooden floors. 

Finished lumber is mostly from

  • Pine
  • Hemlock
  • Fir and spruce
  • Cedar

Lumber goes through the cutting process in a lumber mill or sawmill. The lumber is later sold at a lumberyard.

Lumber can be created from softwood or hardwood. 

Facts about  Hardwood:

  • Hardwood is from angiosperms.
  •  The trees that produce hardwood have vessels that transfer water, and they have external pores, which affect the appearance of hardwood.
  •  Hardwood trees grow at a slower rate than softwood. 
  • Supply for hardwood is low.
  • Hardwood  used to create  lumber  include:
    • Walnut
    • Mahogany 
    • Birch 
    • Alder
    • Cherry
    • Beech
    • Poplar
    • Maple
    • Teak
    • Ash (includes white ash)

Facts about  Softwood:

  • Softwood is  from coniferous trees, also known as evergreen 
  • Softwood is lighter than hardwood. 
  • It has more density.
  • Most trees where softwood is derived grow at a faster rate than hardwood.
  • Softwood has a higher supply.
  • Lumber is mostly made of softwood. 
  • Softwood has a straighter grain.
  • Softwoods used to make lumber include:
    • Redwood 
    • Cedar ( yellow  and red)
    • Pine
    • Spruce 
    • Douglas Fir

The Categorization  of Lumber

Lumber is usually grouped according to its level of quality, mainly because wood is naturally inconsistent, and it may have defects that can affect the lumber made from it.  Hence, lumber is grouped in grades.

Grouping  lumber  helps determine  the following:

  • Quality of lumber as a raw material.
  • Price to charge on the lumber. 
  • Wastage that may result during wood production. 

 The following  details are considered  when grading lumber:

  • Green tally
    •  This is the gross tally that conveys the number of board feet of kiln-dried lumber.
    • The lumber is only measured before the drying process.
    •  The reduction of the lumber after the drying process decreases its value by roughly 7%.
  • Board foot:
    • This is the product of:

Width of the board × length of the board

  • The width  is in inches, and it is according  to the thickness  of the board
  • The length of the bord is in feet.
  • Surface measure:
    • This is the surface area of the board.
    • It is calculated  as follows:

Board  foot ÷ 12

  •  The answer is rounded off to the nearest whole number value.
  • The surface area must be in square inches.
  • Net tally
    • This is similar to the gross tally or green tally.
    • It is calculated after the lumber goes through the drying process. 

Please note:  “boards” refers to lumber cut into beams.

 Lumber Manufacturing Process  

The lumber production  process goes through the following  stages:

(Please note: These steps are merely general steps that  most companies use in lumber  manufacturing)

  1. Cutting process
  • This process involves the coping of trees into boards/ beams.
  1. Edging 
  • This process involves removing any defects and irregular edges from the boards.
  1. Trimming 
  •  Using a trimmer, this process ensures that all the boards are trimmed into consistent pieces. 
  1. Sorting process 
  • The pieces are arranged  according  to their dimensions as well as the final product products
  • Green or unseasoned pieces are separated from dry pieces of lumber.
  1. Stickering:
  •  Dry lumber boards are stacked with stickers before undergoing the drying process. 
  • The green lumber boards are not considered during the drying process. 
  1. Drying:
  • This process is known as kiln drying.
  • It is done to speed up the evaporation that occurs in the wood.
  1. Smoothing  process 
  • This process involves smoothing the surface of the wood to ensure that each lumber board has a consistent width and thickness.
  1. Grading 
  • The lumber is graded to indicate the quality as well as other important attributes. 

Why is Lumber expensive?

Lumber tends to be very costly  due  to the  following  reasons:

  •  High demand for housing leads to higher prices.
  • The shortage of lumber workers affects the supply chain. As a result, this leads to high lumber  prices
  • An increase in fuel costs, as well as transportation costs, results in higher prices.
  • The pandemic is currently the major cause of the high lumber prices because it negatively affected the lumber supply chain.
  • Snowstorms or wet climates negatively affect the supply of lumber mainly because unpleasant climate conditions slow down the transportation and retrieval of lumber. 
  • Wildfires reduce trees which reduces the supply of lumber. 
  • Due to deforestation, the amount of wood is very limited, thus affecting lumber production. 
  • The lumber manufacturing process is costly and very time-consuming. So, to cover the costs, lumber prices are increased. 
  • High shipping costs increase the prices of lumber.


The Lumber  Industry is one of the most valuable industries in many countries, mainly because this industry positively contributes to the economy of a country. However, as long as the demand for lumber constantly moves faster than the supply, lumber prices are more likely to increase. Hence, companies need to find effective methods to increase the supply of lumber and decrease supply bottlenecks.


1. Does additional processing on lumber increase prices?

Yes, other types of lumber are required to undergo additional processing to increase their durability. The additional processing leads to increase prices. 

2. Has Covid-19 affected lumber production?

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected lumber production in the following ways:

It led to a shortage  of workers 

It affected  the transportation  of lumber 

It led to lumber firms shutting down.

Slowed down the lumber supply.

Even though business processes are starting to pick up, the effects of the pandemic are still visible.

3. Does storage affect lumber prices?

The lack of storage  containers  slow down shipping, thus reducing  supply and increasing prices

Why Is Lumber So Expensive?

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