NHLA lumber grading

Do rough mills need NHLA graders? May 30, 2001

Do rough mills need NHLA lumber graders? Does this increase the value of wood?

Forum Responses
I know from personal experience that rough mills need a grader that you can trust. I ran a mill for 11 years before I went to inspection school. I knew that I had been getting the short end, but after inspection school I found out how bad it was. If you're going to play the game, you have to know the rules.

The NHLA rules of grading hardwood lumber are there for all to study and learn. I do not believe that you have to be certified by them to accurately grade lumber. Finding a customer to buy your lumber and keeping them satisfied with the quality of your product still prevails in the lumber industry.

Having said that, it definitely would not hurt your business to have the NHLA seal of approval on your letterhead. This may help in catching the eye of potential buyers. Our mill does not, but we have no problem selling our grade lumber. We often get above HMR prices.

One can be a member of the NHLA and use their seal as a member, but you do not need to know the rules.

Anyone can grade whether you have been to an official school or not. One can attend a short course to learn the grading rules and perhaps be smart enough to accurately evaluate the grade of lumber. Or one can attend a longer grading school in Memphis. In either case, you cannot use the seal unless you join the association.

In my experience, knowing the grade can have a significant impact on yields in the rough mill, in many cases. In other cases, the seller has done an accurate grading job already--many of the medium and larger companies have an excellent reputation in this regard; others do not seem to care about this. The few that do not care will hide under the NHLA Sales Code provisions (especially the 10 day rule) rather than work with the customer to assure that the lumber sold is what the customer wants and has paid for.

In any case, it is important to remember that the Sales Code does not include any provisions or recourse for receiving lumber at an incorrect MC. MC is at times much more important than lumber grade to a rough mill.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

If you purchase lumber from a NHLA member that is using their seal, does this ensure that the product is inspected by a NHLA trained lumber inspector?


Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor

Just a word from a (former) inspector. I graded for 6 years at a concentration yard. We bought from many different mills. I saw product which had been graded by many different inspectors. I would guess that most had been through the school in Memphis, but perhaps all had not.

Having a good grader can make a tremendous difference to the profitability of a mill.

The less confident (and competent) a grader is, the more lumber he'll put mistakenly in a lower grade. For example, I have graded #1Com, from certain mills, which contained a good amount of F1F and even FAS lumber. That is money the mill just "gave away".

We never bought much #2Com, but I'm sure the same graders were giving away #1C in with the #2C.

Neither a good grader nor a bad one will get away with putting lower grades in. Just the nature of business.

A rough mill needs someone to assess lumber quality, not just NHLA grades. The grader should remember that he works for the rough mill, so some factors will be more important for the rough mill than they are in the grades. See, for example, THE ROUGH MILL HANDBOOK by Wengert and Lamb.

Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor