When it’s time to place a lumber order, we all know the basics that need to be covered: species, size, and grade. But did you know that those things should just be a starting point for the conversation? If you give any lumber supplier only the basics, and they give you a quote without asking any follow-up questions, don’t just walk — run the other way. Trust us: you want a lumber supplier that makes the details of your project their business.
Typical Questions You Need To Answer
For starters, be prepared to discuss your intended end use and details about it. For instance, what will you be doing to these boards once they arrive at your job site — planing, moulding, pre-finishing, all of the above? Then, what kind of exposure will the board experience?
A top-notch lumber supplier will also ask questions to help you avoid problems or over-paying. For instance, they might ask if you have accounted for overage — and, if so, by how much. They’ll also ask if your application requires that every board meets the size specifications you mentioned, or if some boards would be able to be shorter or narrower than those dimensions.
The Biggest Question You Should Be Asked
When it comes to satisfaction, it’s important to close the expectations-reality gap as soon and as much as possible. That gap can exist between you and your customer as well as between you and your lumber supplier. This big question is the one you should be asking your customers and which should also be asked of you by any lumber supplier worth its salt: “What does ‘A grade’ mean to you and to your customer?” Do you see why grading systems aren’t enough? “Top grade” has a technical specification, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
For one thing, grade specifications vary based on species, and no grading system accounts for every idiosyncrasy of every species. For another thing, much of what we stock here at J. Gibson McIlvain is actually above-grade lumber; depending on the industry you’re in, your image of the ideal board may be quite different than that of your neighbors in another industry.
The Result of Question-Free Ordering
You don’t have to have a conversation; you could just order with the basic information we listed at the outset: species, size, and grade. But be forewarned: if you simply place your order without asking or answering any questions, you probably won’t like what you get. In all likelihood, simplistic orders lead to one of two unfavorable results:
First, you could end up with only a portion of your order meeting your (unstated) expectations, leading to waste (which translates into added expense) as well as requiring you to place an added order. The timeframe won’t work out as you or your customer had hoped, and you’ll both end up frustrated.
Second, you could end up with a finished product that falls short of your customer’s (undiscussed) expectations. Again, frustration on both sides would be inevitable. And no one really wants to order that.