Lumber "Shrinkage Fee"

Upcharges to compensate for lumber shrinkage are improper, say the experts (and the rules). August 29, 2005

Do any of your suppliers charge a shrinkage fee for your lumber? My suppliers add 15% to their lumber prices for shrinkage. It seems to me that if they are selling kiln dried lumber they should be giving me a discount. In this part of the country, Tennessee, it usually has a higher moisture content when it is delivered than when it leaves the kiln, so theoretically it should be a larger dimension rather than smaller. I would rather they just increase their prices for the lumber rather than increase it in this manner. Am I all wrong in my thinking on this?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
I do have one supplier that adds 20% to the actual lumber tally, so if I get 1,000 board feet I will get charged for 1,200 board fee. I don't agree with this practice because like you, I think that they should just add the 20% to the actual price per board foot, but I guess they think that they can sell a lot more lumber if they charge $3.00 per bf instead of 3.60 per bf.

It took me a couple of years to discover that this one supplier was doing this to me and the only reason that I found out is because I started to tally my lumber deliveries and complained about being shorted. So now I only use that supplier in case of emergency. My other three suppliers are very good about charging me for the exact board feet amount that I receive.

From contributor P:
To contributor R: It sounds like you caught your supplier shorting you and he came up with some outrageous 20% scheme to cover his wrong doing. First hardwood lumber only shrinks a certain amount, it is a physical property of the material. It used to be 6%, then the suppliers increased it to 8%. They used to quote and sell on what they would call a gross tally. Meaning before shrinkage, so a 1000 foot 4/4 order would ship in short 8% due to shrinkage. Then the industry rules changed and everyone had to sell on a net tally, meaning if you order 1000 feet you are supposed to receive 1000 feet.

Not all suppliers are as honest as they are supposed to be. Some still try to pull the gross tally scheme and take advantage of unknowing buyers in any way they can. So it is always advisable to clearly state when you ask for a quote that you want net tally, if the quote is given verbally always re-confirm after receiving the quote that it is net tally so the salesman can't say he didn't know or didn't hear you.

If he gives a quote in writing it should specify net tally, if he is in your office add net tally wording to the quote while he is there. Any supplier still selling on gross tally should be looked upon as suspicious. How can you compare when one supplier add a secret 20% and another add a secret 15%. Net tally levels the field. Try to find a new supplier who sells on net tally, and don't forget to check the tally.

From contributor C:
All suppliers in my area add 7% shrink on random width lumber unless it is straight line ripped, and then they add 15%. Some add to every board and that normally makes each board go up 1 board foot, and others add to the total.

From contributor W:
To the original questioner: I would suggest switching to an NHLA member supplier or insist on a net tally. Kiln dried lumber should only be sold by net not gross tally.

From contributor H:
I would consider the Knowledge Base article below required reading for anyone interested in understanding how lumber is tallied.

>Net measure vs. gross measure

From the original questioner:
I talked with one of my suppliers today and was told that they are now charging 18% for shrinkage, but it is their supplier, and GP that adds the charge.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
First, the practice of adding for shrinkage is illegal in all 50 states. Contact your Weights and Measure Commission (or similar outfit that measures the accuracy of fuel pumps, etc.).

Basically, you must sell the footage you have. (It would be like buying gasoline and having to pay for spillage and evaporation, so one gallon would be actually less.) "Adding back" went to district court and was declared illegal, as well as being against the written law. Further, the NHLA is against such practice. Further, the wood shrinks about 6%, but some people will add 8%. The legitimate people will give you both numbers; this is so you can compare the legitimate folks with the others.

From the NHLA book "On July 21, 1977... sales of hardwood lumber measured after kiln drying shall be quoted, invoiced, and delivered on the basis of net board footage, with no addition of footage for kiln drying shrinkage'." I would be very surprised is a large company like GP is adding anything, let alone 15%. Their legal department would be on top of such a practice and prevent it.

One additional thought, the term kiln dried has no specific meaning when used for hardwoods. Always specify the moisture content that you want. Note that the lack of moisture content specification in the rules means that moisture content is not a reason to return or reject lumber based on the NHLA Sales Code.

From contributor W:
Well put Gene I totally agree. I would like to add one thought. We buy a lot of our lumber SL1E, which makes it a little more difficult to scale the load of lumber for accuracy. If we get a bad saw operator, the waste can be quiet high. Over the years I have found it best to deal with a trusted supplier that sells and quotes by net tally. It still is a good idea to keep a scaling stick in the receiving area, and it keeps everyone honest.