When it comes to lumber dealers filling an order for a particular buyer, specificity is key to customer satisfaction (see Part 1). In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences in how builders perceive lumber grades and what the grading system actually entails. As a dealer, recognizing and explaining these vital distinctions to your customers could mean the difference between getting complaints or getting rave reviews and future orders.
Wood that Qualifies as “Grade A” Often Falls Short of Customer Expectations
When builders look to dealers to supply them with top grade wood, they often have unrealistic expectations of what “grade A” means. This is because their customers, in turn, have extremely high standards for the wood that will be used for their projects. When dealers stick strictly to the grading system, the end result is that builders may not be pleased with the materials which they have to work with.
If builders end up rejecting some of the materials, they won’t have enough lumber from their initial order to complete the customer’s project. This could lead to the project being delayed or going over budget, neither of which consequence will make the builder or customer happy. High-end wood species, such as Teak, are pricey enough that any amount of waste would be quite frustrating for both the customer and the builder.
A Universal Grading System is Inherently Flawed
One of the major drawbacks of the current wood grading system is that it isn’t species specific. Since each wood species is unique, there are qualities that may be acceptable in one species, but undesirable in another. Due to this limitation in the grading system, different lumber dealers, as well as the builders they supply, tend to come up with their own set of expectations for what they consider “top grade” wood for each species.
For example, some will place an emphasis on the grain, pattern, or overall appearance of different species of wood. Still, others look for the amount of heartwood included in the boards, with 90% or more considered “grade A” quality. Other customers want boards that match closely in color. These factors don’t really have anything to do with the NHLA’s standards for grading, but aesthetically-based projects like high-end hardwood flooring jobs almost always involve lofty color matching expectations.
Since these color, heartwood, and grain qualities all vary from company to company, it can be difficult to determine if your “grade A” wood is going to qualify as “grade A” to your builder or end customer. That’s why it’s important to ask specific questions when builders call to place an order.
Color Matching is Tricky Because of Wood’s Color Changes
Another factor you need to consider is how the wood’s appearance is going to change over time. Make sure your builder knows and plans to explain to their customers how they can expect the color of the wood they’re ordering to change in the months and years following installation. Freshly milled Teak, Mahogany, and Cherry, for example, look quite different at the time of their milling than they will well after their exposure to the sunlight and air. Builders should be aware that wood that appears to match now may not be a perfect match later. If they want to be more assured of color matched wood, they’ll need to patiently wait for the wood to change color before acquiring it from you.
In summary, the solution to potentially disappointing builders and customers is asking plenty of questions about their expectations from the get-go when they place a lumber order. Whether you’re on the buying or selling end of lumber, asking detailed questions and clearly communicating your own expectations is crucial to making sure customers, builders, and lumber dealers are all satisfied in the long run.
Learn More about the Lumber Industry
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.