You may have noticed by now that there has been an extreme shortage in Lumber supply across the nation amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Not only are the shelves completely empty in stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Mendards, but also in most lumberyards across the East and West cities of Ohio including multiple 84 Lumber locations, Mentor Lumber and Larson Lumber. They are having difficulties fulfilling their contractors needs as well as homeowners needs. The cost of lumber is also in the rise since supply is low and the demand is so high. Robert Dalheim from Woodworking Network states:
Both big construction companies and smaller contractors are feeling the supply crunch, which began with the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic caused a big decrease in supply, as well as an increase in demand – likely spurred by homeowners opting to renovate while they’re stuck at home.
Tree millls that make lumber can’t get it out quick enough. Pressure treated wood is especially hard to come by these days as well. Making lumber requires a process that takes several months to complete and the drying process of wet wood that comes from trees could take up to two years.
Ron Smith from Wagner Meters explains how Lumber is made and the process it goes through.
Lumber mills turn trees into manufactured wood products. Throughout the process, the moisture content (MC) of the wood is an important factor for producer and end user alike. The lumber manufacturing process generally follows these steps:
- Head Rig: The primary saw cuts the tree into sawn pieces or boards.
- Edging: Removes irregular edges and defects from sawn pieces or boards.
- Trimming: The trimmer squares off the ends of lumber into uniform pieces.
- Rough Lumber Sorting: Pieces are separated based on dimension and final product production, whether the finished piece will be unseasoned (known as “green”) or dry.
- Stickering: Lumber destined for kiln drying production is stacked with spacers (known as stickers) that allow air to circulate within the stack (green product skips this stage and the next).
- Drying: Kiln drying wood speeds up the natural evaporation of the wood’s MC in a controlled environment.
- Planing: Smoothes the wood’s surfaces and ensures that each piece has a uniform width and thickness.
- Grading: Assigns a “grade” to each piece of lumber that indicates its quality level, based on a variety of characteristics, including its MC.
There is also a process for Kiln Drying Wood for Maximum Value and Usability. Ron Smith outlines the steps it takes for Kiln Drying wood:
In order to maximize wood’s value and strength, mills invest both time and money in the kiln drying processes to remove excess moisture from the lumber stack. In fact, kiln drying on some hardwood species can take up to (and beyond) a month, depending on the initial MC of the wood. The kiln drying process can vary considerably, depending on the species and initial MC of the wood. In general, however, these are the steps in the process:
- Lumber producers carefully stack “green” wood, using spacers or “stickers” to create gaps for air to freely circulate throughout the stack.
- Once the wood is placed in the kiln, depending upon wood species, the kiln is heated to temperatures between 110 to 180 degrees (Fahrenheit) for conventional-temperature kilns and 230 to 280 degrees (Fahrenheit) for high-temperature kilns.
- Operators constantly monitor kiln temperatures and relative humidity (RH), as well as the lumber’s MC. The goal is dry the lumber to the correct MC for how it will be used.
For the post-drying lumber processing, in-line moisture content measurement systems can easily identify and mark pieces that are either too wet or too dry. These pieces can then be pulled from the production line before further processing and possibly be re-dried or re-milled as necessary to create the highest grade lumber or wood component possible for that piece, thus increasing the mill’s profits and giving consumers access to better quality materials.
So, considering the process and steps it takes to create lumber, there is no doubt as to why it is taking so long to re-stock the shelves to get the supply back up. There is also a factor of employees getting laid-off during the pandemic and lumber yards are experiencing a shortage in staff as well.