Top ways to save lumber on job sites

The current pandemic along with increased demand for housing and lumber tariffs have created the perfect storm for contractors. Lumber costs have up significantly over the last year.

While you cannot completely avoid the increase in costs, there is still a little hope. Here are some common-sense strategies that we use in our designs and on our job sites. The NAHB came up with a similar list that was the inspiration for this post.

1. Design to the standard dimensions of the lumber

This may seem obvious; however, many architects do not do this. A sheet of plywood is 4 feet by 8 feet. If the room’s exterior dimensions are designed to be 13 x 13, then there will be a lot of waste with the wood. Designing in increments of 2 feet or 4 feet is ideal for minimizing waste.

2. Consider alternative lumber species

The lumber shortage is mostly in categories that use softwoods. Hardwoods don’t seem to be affected right now, so consider eco-friendly hardwoods for structural components. I received this email from one of my vendors that provides eco-decking:

INTRODUCING ROBI® GLULAMS

We have just launched our newest product, Robi® Glulams, the first hardwood glulams constructed out of Black Locust. Combining the durability, strength, and natural class A fire rating of Black Locust with glulam technology, this innovative product enables us to produce wider and longer pieces of wood than is possible with standard solid lumber.  Currently are producing 2” thick material that is 12” wide and up to 12 feet long. Soon we will begin producing 2” thick by 12” wide by 16-foot long material. The glulams can be cut and processed to smaller dimensions and are great for structural framing, in-ground applications, benches, handrails, stair treads, facia board, and anywhere the imagination takes it.

3. Reuse Lumber for other projects

Good wood should not go in the dumpster!

If we over-order and the wood is in great condition, it can be returned for a refund. That does not often happen, so we usually take all of the dimensional lumber to the next job site. If it is not perfect, it can be used for forms, site protection, or bracing.

We made a structure for our son’s cub scout pack that was 99% repurposed materials.

4. Advanced Framing

Ironically it is called “advanced framing” when in fact is simplifying the framing process. This framing technique uses less wood while allowing for more insulation which. Not only do you save on framing costs, but you also save on heating and cooling costs as a result of the increased R-Value!

Additional Reading:

2021 International Builders Show

5 Sustainable Building Materials

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