Metal and lumber prices are influenced by a fluid lumber market, but the range in metal and lumber prices are affected much more by the quality and supplier of the lumber than the market itself. Sawmills, for example, will be able to sell you lumber for a lower price than a lumberyard, but a large sawmill probably won’t fill an order for a specific species of wood, cut to a specific size, and prepared just so. Lumberyards prepare lumber for homeowners and are more likely to be able to provide you with what you need for your home improvement project.
Quarter Sawn Lumber
Quarter sawn lumber is lumber that has been milled perpendicular to the grain to create a more pleasing grain and a stronger wood. Hardwood flooring is almost always quarter sawn. Naturally, quarter sawn will cause a jump in the lumber price, but interestingly, it doesn’t cost all that much more to produce quarter sawn lumber. Mostly, the extra cost is a function of supply and demand. Depending on how durable your lumber needs to be, you may be able to get away with plain sawn lumber. If you know what you’re looking for, have the patience, and are working on a small project, you may be able to pick out random planks at your hardware store that are quarter sawn. Even plain sawn lumber will have a certain number of planks that happen to be cut perpendicular to the grain.
When a tree is first cut down, it still has quite a bit of moisture that it has absorbed from the ground. As the wood dries, it shrinks, which can cause structural problems if the wood is installed in your home before it has dried. Drying the lumber out in a kiln, expedites this process, making the lumber ready for use and extending the life of the lumber. Naturally, this raises the lumber price, but it’s well worth it. If lumber shrinkage isn’t a problem for home improvement project, you may be able to circumvent this step, but those projects are few and far between. Hardwood floors will begin to pull apart; wood fencing posts will become loose in the ground.
You may be able to let the lumber dry on its own, but this requires extra time and effort, and the wood must be protected from the elements during the drying process. One exception to this rule is logs for log home construction. Thick logs can’t be thoroughly dried in a kiln because the heat will dry out the outer part of the log, locking moisture inside the inner part of the log.
Metal prices are more immediately affected by market influences than lumber. Metal appreciates at such a rate, in fact, that many people choose to invest their money in precious metals. For the homeowner who needs metals for their home improvement project, metal prices can mean something entirely different. First, scrap metal prices are largely irrelevant. Unless you’re sculpting scrap metal or have some quirky decorating fetish, most of the metal for home improvement projects is primary metal. For the eco-friendly homeowner, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re contributing to new mining. Recycled metals that have been boiled down and refashioned regain the status of primary metal. Naturally, each metal has its own price that can fluctuate greatly. Hurricane Katrina, for example, reduced the price of many kinds of scrap metal, but increased the price of primary metal. Like lumber, metal treatments, like hot-dip galvanizing, will increase the price of the metal for your home improvement project.
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