Valuing and pricing old lumber

Lumber pricing is like everything else: Whatever the market will bear.

by Professor Gene Wengert

An elderly relative has a quantity of quite old wood from trees on the family farm and would like to know its value. There is chestnut wood from before the blight (some boards are very wide), cherry and black walnut. Do you have any idea of what it is worth and how to find a buyer?

The first piece of advice when dealing with small quantities of lumber is never take the first bid. Second, kiln dried lumber of these species could easily sell for $2 per board foot or more (especially if the lumber is quite wide). If you want to take the time to market it yourself, then you could probably get $4 or more. The quality and moisture content will be important in determining the price. Third, if you can get someone (or do it yourself) to measure the lumber and get the volume (preferably in board feet), that would help establish what you have.

What you should be looking for is a company that handles small quantities of wood, probably with a retail outlet. Many states have a wood utilization specialist who could give you the information for your local area. (For example, here in Wisconsin we have a directory of over 800 wood using companies, including Kettle Morraine Hardwoods, Wisconsin Crafts, and Lamb Forest Products who handle small quantities, as well as Work Bench Tool Company here about 3 miles from me. In Norfolk, VA I know about Yukon Lumber who would be a good lead; and Harris Hardwoods in Washington Court House, Ohio. And so on.) In Wisconsin we have a Forest Products Marketing Bulletin, published six times a year by the Dept of Natural Resources--this would be good if you want to market the wood yourself. Let me know where you are and I will check my directory here for someone in your state.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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