pricing and BF calculations when purchasing lumber - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 12-18-2012, 02:46 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy pricing and BF calculations when purchasing lumber

Hi, I just got back to woodworking and was really hoping to use Suwanee lumber but had a horrible experience. Is this typical experience and I have to live with this or should I just seek another yard?

Here is the brief summary:

Poplar board was 21BF but the guy in the lumber yard calculated as 26 and insisted: "this is how they told me to calculate". He even tried to tell me that the difference was because he was using inches for the length and I was using feet (the board was 7 foot even). The office recalculated and agreed that it was 21BF and upon calling the other guy, confirmed that the other guy was "rounding it up". I do not know what that meant but they did not seem to care to figure out and told me that there would be 12% waste surcharge because wood shrinks during the kiln-drying process and when they bought it, it was a larger board (this was a rough cut, so, edging waste was no factor here). The edge also had a large defect (more than 2”) that should have knocked down at least 1BF but I was told this was already “factored in” even though other boards without a defect had the same price. So, I do not know what “factored in” means since I paid the full BF plus 12% “shrinkage fee”. The overall attitude was also very unpleasant. Asked the first guy to help with the loading and he disappeared only to show back up once I loaded it myself.

I was also concerned about the pricing. the Poplar was under $2 BF that is reasonable but 16/4 was $3.95. I know that thicker stock has higher price per BF but usually not twice as high and this was rough cut as opposed to the $2BF variety. I had no way to see the pricing and figure out if they were just making it up or it was the actual pricing.

Any guidance about what to expect during the lumber purchase would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 22 Old 12-18-2012, 03:25 PM
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I also just got back into WWing and recently bought rough lumber for the first time in over a decade. I went to 2 different shops and had the same experience with both, although their prices were very different due to a few reasons which I understood.

I agree they are trying to screw you. You can measure length, width and thickness in inches, but after you multiply them, you have to divide by 144 (number of inches in a bd ft). Although I have found that defects don't seem to be taken into account. But I never really asked because the boards I was looking at, I could work around the defects.

I'd suggest either dealing with someone else that is more helpful at that store, or finding another lumber store.
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post #3 of 22 Old 12-18-2012, 06:08 PM
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Knots and other defects are not deducted from the price, but, the board is graded according to how clear it is. This varies with the species to some extent. I am assuming you purchased more than one board since a board 7'11" x 1" thick board would have to be 39.41+" wide to equal 26 bf. Rounding up is not uncommon but the folks I buy from are usually spot on with the bd. ft. calculation. I am not an expert on how to grade Poplar but if it's FAS or better it should be pretty clear of defects.

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post #4 of 22 Old 12-18-2012, 08:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msakaki View Post
Hi, I just got back to woodworking and was really hoping to use Suwanee lumber but had a horrible experience. Is this typical experience and I have to live with this or should I just seek another yard?

Here is the brief summary:

Poplar board was 21BF but the guy in the lumber yard calculated as 26 and insisted: "this is how they told me to calculate". He even tried to tell me that the difference was because he was using inches for the length and I was using feet (the board was 7 foot even). The office recalculated and agreed that it was 21BF and upon calling the other guy, confirmed that the other guy was "rounding it up". I do not know what that meant but they did not seem to care to figure out and told me that there would be 12% waste surcharge because wood shrinks during the kiln-drying process and when they bought it, it was a larger board (this was a rough cut, so, edging waste was no factor here). The edge also had a large defect (more than 2”) that should have knocked down at least 1BF but I was told this was already “factored in” even though other boards without a defect had the same price. So, I do not know what “factored in” means since I paid the full BF plus 12% “shrinkage fee”. The overall attitude was also very unpleasant. Asked the first guy to help with the loading and he disappeared only to show back up once I loaded it myself.

I was also concerned about the pricing. the Poplar was under $2 BF that is reasonable but 16/4 was $3.95. I know that thicker stock has higher price per BF but usually not twice as high and this was rough cut as opposed to the $2BF variety. I had no way to see the pricing and figure out if they were just making it up or it was the actual pricing.

Any guidance about what to expect during the lumber purchase would be appreciated.
You have so many different subjects in the second paragraph that I cannot tell what you are saying and what you are asking.

George
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post #5 of 22 Old 12-18-2012, 08:26 PM
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Put simply, the board foot calculation is how lumber yards stay in business. And it is the custom as well as legal.

Width is usually the next higher inch and boards are measured individually. Two boards 5-1/2" wide are considered 6 inches each thus a foot is used to calculate.

Length is usually to the next foot. Anything more than 3 inches over the foot, is the next foot.

The thickness is 1 for everything one inch or less. Thickness is usually 4/4, 6/4, 8/4 and 12/4. ( 1, 1-1/2, 2 and 3) The next higher x/4 is almost always used. Thus 5/4 is charged as 6/4. The other thing to remember is that if 4/4 is $1 a board foot, then 6/4 is probably $2, 8/4 is $3.50 and 12/4 is probably $5, ALL PER BOARD FOOT. In other words, the thicker the board, the higher price per board foot.

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post #6 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 12:04 AM
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Its not uncommon for a lumber company to cheat you on scaling wood. I stopped using a company that started shorting me more than 20% when the company changed hands. To be fair though a lot depends on the policy of the company. The lumber is scaled at the saw mill when it is cut from the log and they have a choice of selling the wood as it was scaled green or scale it after its kiln dried and marking the price up to account for the shrinkage. When they scale lumber they don't use tape measures, they use a lumber scale. Depending on the length of the board it may only measure about 3/4" intervals and just reads in board feet. They measure at the widest part of the board and if its between numbers its rounded up to the next board foot. It may be if you used a lumber scale and rounded the boards up to the nearest board ft. and allow for shrinkage the 21' you got started out as 26' when it was green. Also if the board was straight line ripped, you also paid for the strip they trimmed off. The amount of shrinkage should have been closer to 7% though and they don't discount for defects.
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post #7 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all your responses. I guess I will need to recalibrate my expectations for lumber yards. Initially, I expected this as “one-woodworker-to-another” type of fair transaction but this does not seem the case anymore. It takes some joy out of woodworking but just a tiny bit.
To GeorgeC: Yes, you are correct; I brought up several concerns/questions simultaneously around pricing transparency, BF calculation and attitude. Too many things went wrong during the visit.
To clarify the BF: I purchased one 16/4 piece that was just under 7’ and under 9” at its widest. The board was rough cut with huge cup and some bow. After edging and planning it would be much smaller and could easily justify 12% or more waste.
And here is my completely subjective assessment of the overall experience: the staff seemed fairly friendly to customers with large trucks taking 100s and 1000s of BF lumber. Maybe I was an undesirable “little fish” not worth their trouble or time. This would make perfect sense from purely profit oriented business perspective.
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post #8 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 10:28 AM
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msakaki, I think maybe you just need to find a different lumber dealer. The hardwood dealer where I buy most of my wood is quite the opposite experience you describe. They have the board foot total marked on every board and there are tape measures all over for you to check/confirm if you wish. They routinely break down the lumber for me to make it easier to transport (I drive a small pickup) at no cost. If I'm looking for something special, all I have to do is give them a call and they'll set it aside if they have it. Otherwise a couple weeks lead time to get and they call me when it's in. Their prices are fair and I've never had anything but good service.

Shop around.

That bowl was perfect right up until that last cut...
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post #9 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 10:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msakaki View Post
Hi, I just got back to woodworking and was really hoping to use Suwanee lumber but had a horrible experience. Is this typical experience and I have to live with this or should I just seek another yard?

Here is the brief summary:

Poplar board was 21BF but the guy in the lumber yard calculated as 26 and insisted: "this is how they told me to calculate". He even tried to tell me that the difference was because he was using inches for the length and I was using feet (the board was 7 foot even). The office recalculated and agreed that it was 21BF and upon calling the other guy, confirmed that the other guy was "rounding it up". I do not know what that meant but they did not seem to care to figure out and told me that there would be 12% waste surcharge because wood shrinks during the kiln-drying process and when they bought it, it was a larger board (this was a rough cut, so, edging waste was no factor here). The edge also had a large defect (more than 2”) that should have knocked down at least 1BF but I was told this was already “factored in” even though other boards without a defect had the same price. So, I do not know what “factored in” means since I paid the full BF plus 12% “shrinkage fee”. The overall attitude was also very unpleasant. Asked the first guy to help with the loading and he disappeared only to show back up once I loaded it myself.

I was also concerned about the pricing. the Poplar was under $2 BF that is reasonable but 16/4 was $3.95. I know that thicker stock has higher price per BF but usually not twice as high and this was rough cut as opposed to the $2BF variety. I had no way to see the pricing and figure out if they were just making it up or it was the actual pricing.

Any guidance about what to expect during the lumber purchase would be appreciated.
i have been wood working 50 or so yrs, now when i buy from my guy this is how it should be, say the board is 6" wide and 8' foot long that is 4 board feet. or if you want to figure inches it is 6 time's 96 inches diveded by 144 is 4 board feet, now i don't know but i bet he was selling it by the running inch which ?? here another

The answer is in board feet. Lumber is often priced in board feet. However, most building material retailers and lumberyards also price lumber by the running foot for easier calculation. That is, a 2 X 4 X 8 is priced at eight times the running foot cost rather than as 5.333 board feet.
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post #10 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by rrich View Post
Put simply, the board foot calculation is how lumber yards stay in business. And it is the custom as well as legal.

Width is usually the next higher inch and boards are measured individually. Two boards 5-1/2" wide are considered 6 inches each thus a foot is used to calculate.

Length is usually to the next foot. Anything more than 3 inches over the foot, is the next foot.

The thickness is 1 for everything one inch or less. Thickness is usually 4/4, 6/4, 8/4 and 12/4. ( 1, 1-1/2, 2 and 3) The next higher x/4 is almost always used. Thus 5/4 is charged as 6/4. The other thing to remember is that if 4/4 is $1 a board foot, then 6/4 is probably $2, 8/4 is $3.50 and 12/4 is probably $5, ALL PER BOARD FOOT. In other words, the thicker the board, the higher price per board foot.
There is no way I would ever do business with anyone that "rounded" anywhere near that much. Rounding to the nearest inch is one thing, but rounding 3 inches into 1 foot is unreasonable to the point of being robbery.

The place I buy wood from the most calculates based upon inches, rounds down as often as rounds up, and lets me cherry pick my boards. The do charge premium for "wide" boards (depends upon species but typically anything wider than 8 or 10 inches) and price often more than doubles when going from 4/4 to 8/4. I pay for "kiln dried" wood, so I don't know if they mark it up or not, but I suspect they do. They have to stay in business, after all.

To the OP find another place to buy your wood. Don't expect any place to give you a discount for "defects", though. I just don't see it happening.
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post #11 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 02:39 PM
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I agree that you need to find a different yard. No one should leave feeling the way you did on so many issues.

You should also look at CraigsList. You may not find an exact board if you need something specific, but you can find decent lumber much cheaper.
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post #12 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 02:49 PM
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Standard practice is round to the nearest foot in length and nearest inch in width. If you have a 5'5" board that is a 5 footer, if you have a 6 1/4" wide that 6, if it is 6 5/8" that 7"

They are not suppose to calculate shrinkage in hardwood, softwood is a different ball game.

by your description you picked out a 21 BF stick. It matters not if it has a big bow or cup or wane on it, those are the dimensions therefore that is the BF. If you didn't like the board you didn't have to buy it.

When it gets dicey is when you order large amounts of lumber and have it delivered to you. If you don't like one board usually the whole load gets rejected and you got nothing until it gets replaced. Depends on how friendly you are with your salesman.

I have a little retail place I go to on occasion for smaller jobs, I calculate the BF myself and usually they come in pretty close or on the mark. Only once did they come in less than me.

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post #13 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 03:19 PM
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I would never be ok with someone rounding to the foot. Rounding up to the inch is fine. And I have never been charged for shrinkage, that's a huge load of B.S. That should all already be factored into the BF price. It seems like they treated you this way because you were a hobbyist and they may only like to work with large shops. If that's how they want to run their business, fine I guess but I wouldn't reward them for it. Give them a google or yelp review, a lot of people base their choices on those reviews.
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post #14 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 05:42 PM
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Maybe this picture will shed some light. The guy reading the lumber scale really isn't measuring the width of the boards. The numbers on the scale is calibrated in board feet instead of inches. Depending on the policy of the yard if the board is between measurements they might round up to the next board foot and write down in whole numbers on their tally sheet board feet.

I prefer to buy from a company that I can scale the wood with a tape measure and get the amount of wood I ordered after its dried. If they round up and allow for shrinkage its hard to figure out how much wood to order.
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post #15 of 22 Old 12-19-2012, 07:22 PM
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The local yard i buy from figures the narrowest part of the board as the width, i always end up ahead since some boards taper in width up to 1 1/2", there's another local board store that always rounds up and they're prices are crazy, i bought 2 boards from them which i calculated the board feet to be 10.50, 2 boards 7" wide and 9' long, when i went to pay for it they had it on the ticket at 14, which he said 2 boards 8" wide and 10' long.... i argued with him and he basically refused to put a tape measure to it, and when its wood that's $14 a board foot that's a giant increase in price, that's why instead of driving there in 15 minutes i drive an hour and a half to the other place where i cherry pick the pile, get excellent lumber and pay for what i actually get, and they will order anything i want if they don't have it, even if it means i only need 10 board feet and they have to order 100, they even knew i had a zebra wood project and bought a few boards of it from them they gave me a piece they had laying around and was about 3 board feet for free.
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post #16 of 22 Old 12-20-2012, 12:02 AM
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There are places that still use a shrinkage factor but I wouldn't buy like that. Most places sell on net tally (actual measurement) so it won't be hard to find a different supplier. That said, there's still a lot of wiggle room in measuring and you just need to know how your supplier does business and decide if it's acceptable for you. Some round up, some round down, some are exact.

As far as thickness and price goes I think people often assume it's unreasonable but here are some things to consider. 8/4 and 12/4 lumber require much longer drying times than 4/4 (it's not just double or triple the time) which adds cost and ties up capital.

An additional factor is the grade of logs you need to get decent size 8/4 and 12/4 lumber in good grades. Those logs cost more money. The odds of maintaining grade by sawing 8/4 or 12/4 vs 4/4 are also stacked against you since most saw logs contain a mixture of grades. For instance, if I saw 4/4 material and get a S&B board and the next 4/4 is 1 common I get a premium price for S&B and a lower price for the 1 common. But if I cut an 8/4 piece from that same space then one face will be S&B and one face will be 1 common. Unfortunately that makes the whole 8/4 board a 1 common board (since grade is determined by the worst face) and now I lose money compared to sawing two 4/4 boards. Add to that the additional cost of drying and now I'm really losing money and waiting longer to sell the boards for that loss.

If I charge the same for 8/4 and 12/4 as 4/4 then why incur the expense and risk? The answer is...I have to charge more. Now I'm not sure double is the right place but as with all transactions the right price is the one the buyer and seller agree on.

Hope that's helpful.
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post #17 of 22 Old 12-20-2012, 09:32 AM
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I've purchased hardwood from a few different sources, and each has been a different experience. One particular yard that I liked quite a bit would measure the width (S2S, rough edges) and if it was 5-1/4", they'd call it a 1x6 & calculate board feet accordingly. I didn't care for that, but they were always generous with rounding down the length to allow for checks, damage, etc., on the ends, so it all evened out. And their bd ft prices were always reasonable.
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post #18 of 22 Old 12-20-2012, 04:17 PM
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Board Feet

Hardwood lumber is sold by the board foot. There are two ways the hardwood can be measured, Gross Measure or Net Tally. Gross Measure is where the wood is measured Green (Before Kiln Drying). We never deal with suppliers who insist on using this method. Net Tally is the actual amount of lumber you’re buying. If you order 1000 bd ft, then you should receive 1000 bd ft. With a Gross Measure if you order 1000 bd ft you should receive around 930 bd ft. This would be 1000 bd ft minus the industry standard of 7% shrinkage. Knots, defects, ECT, are not taken into consideration when figuring board feet. They are figured in the grading process. If you are ordering FAS, then there are standards the lumber must meet in order to be called FAS. If your supplier is telling you 12% shrinkage I think I’d be looking for another supplier. As an example for our area we recently purchased 1000 bd ft of FAS 8/4 poplar and paid 1.35 a board foot at net tally, and 1000 bd ft of 4/4 poplar and paid 1.19 a board foot at net tally. I hope this helps.
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post #19 of 22 Old 12-21-2012, 01:41 AM
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Frank,
I would love to have a lumber yard that calculates as you said at the prices that I'm paying. About mid October I got about 50 BF of White Oak, FAS, S2S SLR for $2.58 a BF. AND they loaded it into my truck for me. Nothing warped, everything good for furniture. At that price I really don't care how they calculate.

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post #20 of 22 Old 12-21-2012, 03:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sawdustfactory View Post
msakaki, I think maybe you just need to find a different lumber dealer. The hardwood dealer where I buy most of my wood is quite the opposite experience you describe. They have the board foot total marked on every board and there are tape measures all over for you to check/confirm if you wish. They routinely break down the lumber for me to make it easier to transport (I drive a small pickup) at no cost. If I'm looking for something special, all I have to do is give them a call and they'll set it aside if they have it. Otherwise a couple weeks lead time to get and they call me when it's in. Their prices are fair and I've never had anything but good service.

Shop around.
I have had a similar experience. My local lumber yards (owned by the same company) are cruel and illogical in their pricing and calculations. They calculate BF from largest width and do nothing to account for missing material (bark area, taper, etc). Last time I was able to convince them to give me a break on the $/BF, but that is not the norm.

My regular wood guy is a small private hardwood sawmill that has odd hours, but each board is pre-calculated and marked. They account for defects in these calculations and do not round up on thickness or width. There aren't many things that I ever buy where I feel like the transaction is honest ( maybe I am a pessimist), but this place is definitely an exception.

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