IN DEPTH: Lumber and Structural Panels

RoyOMartin’s Peters agrees. “Imports will be a challenge this year, but builders need to be sure they’re getting the quality they expect. Have the products been inspected and are they what the customers think they’re buying? What is the amount and quality of the resin and glue used in them? There are many questions that arise.”

Housing-start predictions also can be misleading, presenting a rosier picture for lumber-sale forecasts than reality, suppliers agree. “Residential construction is the single largest driver for wood products,” explains Boise Cascade’s Nyblad. “But the current market trend shows faster growth in multifamily versus single-family construction. All starts are good for wood products, but multifamily starts use less wood per start than single-family homes. Always look one step deeper when thinking about the new-start numbers.”

Adds LP’s St. Germain, “The total housing starts can be misleading. But multifamily housing uses different types of construction, and some are using more wood than in the past.”

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Factors to Consider
Suppliers also suggest dealers and builders look at the full cost of products—which can include labor, time of installation, added benefits and other factors. Key factors whenever a dealer is considering a new source of supply include:

Added Services: “Customers need to understand all of the services available and which offer value, especially in logistical help that they might take for granted,” says Roseburg’s Killgore. “Can the supplier meet the dealer’s needs fully so they can serve all their own customers’ needs? They need to be able to provide fast and worthwhile solutions as issues arise.”

GP - ForceField Air and Water BarrierThe ForceField Air and Water Barrier System from Georgia-Pacific, introduced in January, is designed to keep water out of a structure during construction and for the building’s life. It consists of engineered-wood sheathing panels laminated with a proprietary air and water barrier. The panels are taped with Force-Field seam tape, creating an integrated barrier system.

Product Consistency: “When selecting a supplier, it’s critical to find out about product and performance consistency,” says LP’s St. Germain. “We continually survey our builders to gauge their response to service levels and find any problems that might exist. We don’t want to have builders having issues with the products that are delivered.”

Speed of Delivery: “Some suppliers have better efficiencies in their distribution for getting products to the customer when last-minute orders arise,” says Sherwood Lumber’s Berwick. Adds RoyOMartin’s Peters, “A key question is whether they can deliver on a timely basis every time, and is the product that’s being delivered what the customer expects?”

Warranties: “We try to drive sales by emphasizing the value of the brand and what it stands for, especially with our warranties and the differences they can make if an issue arises,” says Weyerhaeuser’s Hendry. “Dealers should ask suppliers about the warranties that are included with the product and what they cover.”

Resolution of Issues: “When choosing between suppliers, there often are more differences than it appears,” says Sherwood Lumber’s Berwick. “Suppliers differ by their systems and efficiency. There are differences in the back-end work that is done and how well they can assist customers with issues that arise. Brokerages are pretty lean these days, while distributors tend to have more boots on the ground to work through problems. In some cases, claims issues get pushed back up the chain of command and add delays.”

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