Timber Mats for Construction Sitework

Information on heavy-timber mats used to support heavy excavation equipment on soft ground (a potential value-added product for sawmillers). November 28, 2006

I have been asked by a land developer about sawing a very large quantity of hardwoods. He is interested in making a product to sell that would be profitable for both he and I. The most prevalent product I have researched is construction mats and heavy timbers. Does anyone have experience producing them and what price can you charge for cutting the lumber and assembling the mats? I was considering charging approximately $200 per mat and $.35 bd/ft for the timbers. (Mats would be 8'x16' made from 8/4x10'' boards.) Mats in this area are renting for $100.00/month and selling for up to 600 each new.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor N:
I manage environmental construction projects that often have a need for heavy wood mats to support large, heavy equipment on soft ground conditions. We generally treat them as disposable, in that the mats are quite damaged and often contaminated. Mats vary from supplier, but are usually hardwood 12 by 12 inch timbers bolted together, creating a four or five foot wide by 16 to 20 foot long mat.

Keep in mind that in excess of 100,000 pound track excavators are working from them with great force, lifting and swinging, so generally one inch threaded rod is drilled through the timbers every four or five feet to secure them together. Be sure to drill and loop heavy cables through the mats one or two feet from each end on the working side with the loop up for the operator to hook the mats with the bucket of the excavator to move them. The cables must be heavy (one inch), as the mat often has significant suction from the mud or sludge.

I haven't purchased any recently, but believe that they are about $800 each plus freight in some markets. I had a project about ten years ago that used heavy planks (three to four inch thick), and they did not last. So my advice is to research this further by contacting an engineer from a civil or environmental contractor in your area and asking them what their needs are. You did not list your city/state. This is one product that is definitely a consumable and generally does not make it beyond one project. And as I recall, there is limited demand, but more importantly, limited suppliers. This could be a good side business.

From contributor W:
I am in the crane and heavy rigging business. About 4 years ago, the company I work for bought about 75 oak mats that measure 4' wide x 28" long x 12" thick. I believe they cost $1000 per mat. The way that we use the mats, the cable on the end isn't necessary. We have had some that did and the cable is always in the way, though I can definitely see where they are handy with an excavator. The mats we have simply have a notch cut on each end of the mat, so that the through bolt is exposed (bolt is covered with a metal pipe sleeve for durability). Then we can use spreaders to lift the mats into place, or simply use a forklift. The notches are off-centered diagonally from each other so that the mat will stay balanced while airborne.

From contributor S:

Funny, I have been around them a few times and never gave them any thought as far as the manufacturing goes. 12"X12" sounds a little big, but could be called for by the buyer I guess. I would guess that the ones I have been around were on the scale of a medium duty, with maybe 9"x9" logs and 16' long. Handy to have when you need them and always in the way when you don't.

I would ask around at a few site works/grading companies to see what they use/need or what they call the standard size. (We called them "put logs" at the company I was at, but we called scaffold planks "put logs" too). If you have the resources, build up four of them to get a feel for it and set them out front with a for sale sign on them.

A few other things come into play here. Is all of the land going to be cleared at once, leaving you with too much work at one time? Are you doing the felling? How big of a cut does your new partner think he wants? It is not always the best for money in the pocket, but for quicker turn around, selling the timber straight to a buyer or mill could make more sense if you can't find a buyer for an end product.

From contributor H:
I have purchased used mats to put into my horse stalls and pastures during the rainy season. They make a great feeding, shelter platform. I have also used them for portable shelter floors and about everything else you could think of around my ranch. I bought all that could be had from a local RR tie company. I was told that they were used by the RR as instant rail landings when and wherever they were needed and that the RR does not use them anymore.

I was always able to sell them whenever I wanted to horsey people. You might look into that market. In fact, since your post, I have been asking around at my new location and have received some good responses from the local ranchers and farmers. Now I can't wait for the rainy season.