lumber yard vs Home depot or Lowes

allen levine

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11,012
Location
new york city burbs
When it comes to basic construction, nothing too exotic as far as wood is concerned, Im having real problems with a couple of local lumber yards, and I keep ending up in HD buying the wood I need. Perhaps a slight bit inferior, I dont see it much with pressure treated or plywoods, but its much better for someone like me to hand pick each piece of lumber I want, whether it be 30 boards, or one board.
Im not sure if the workers at the lumber yard are stupid, careless, or sneaky under the direction of their bosses, but I dont find having to go back and forth with them much fun.

If Im paying 4.89 a foot for clear red cedar 1x6, I expect to get 64 feet when I buy 4 16 footers.
So when I pay the cashier, and you hand in your slip, to the lumber yard workers, I expect to receive what I paid for.
When the worker returns, he has the 4 16 footers, but 3 of them, have cracks down one of both ends 8-10 inches in. So I tell them fine, cut off the foot on each side, and Ill pay that much less, since the board only has 14 feet of uncracked wood.(I know cedar and redwood split alot, but Im not purchasing it split already)
Whats worse, is that when they have to bring it back to the pile, and repick for you, their attitude becomes somewhat less appreciated, and to top it all off, they expect a couple of bucks for their efforts even though they make grunts, roll their eyes at you, and whatever else shows you they dont appreciate having to go back and pick a decent board for me.
If I go to HD, I can pick through the lumber, pressure treated, oak, maple, poplar, plywoods, and so on, and pick only perfectly straight, and unsplit pieces. Noone tells me not too, and I think they expect you too.
And HD is at least 20% less expensive then the local yards, which wouldnt bother me much as long as I was getting what I was I paying for.
Am I too picky when paying 21.60 for a 1x8 16 footer of pressure treated lumber, and the piece has splits 8 inches in on both sides, and the picker seems to ignore it.
I can pay 4.99 for a 1x6 8 footer at hd, and never have a bad board.

Is this anyone elses experience, or do I just have cruddy lumber yards out here?
 

allen levine

Member
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11,012
Location
new york city burbs
one more thing.
I understand if I was buying the wood in giant lots, enough that they would deliver it to my door, Id expect to pay 10-15% less, so some cracked or unstraight boards wouldnt eat away at my costs as much since IM already getting a discount.
Im thinking maybe the lumber yards are discouraging a small lot purchaser like me, meaning theyd prefer to deal with contractors and huge purchases only.
(but I see they sell all these exotic woods and mouldings, and I see plenty of contracting trucks there with purchasers, buying only 6 or 8 feet)
 

larry merlau

Member
Messages
18,299
Location
Delton, Michigan
large purchase dont stop it!!!!

allen i can give one fine example of not makin a differnce,,when building my new shop i needed a bunk of 2x6x10 studs, i was already doing business with them previously and my whole family had, dad and brother. the one guy that works there was distant relative..well i was gettin ready to start on the walls and the studs were full of wane and cracked & crooked way more than i wanted.. went and sent dad who had over 3o yrs workin in yard to go look at a differnt yards lumber and if he liked what he saw to get 100 of them.. well he came back with that hundred and i loaded the bunk back up sorted out what i could use and even used some of the bad ones for short areas and had dad take them back for me saving the bad yard the trip.. they looked at my list of returns and asked why so many coming back??? dad said come on out and take a look,, the guy that was distant relative looked at the first group on top and then looked at the owner and said what you wanna do? the owner looked at dad and said sorry and then looked the yard guys and said give this man what he wants!!! since then i send dad to get the lumber when i can.. todays quality is far from what it was yrs agao becasue of the youngness of the growth and cuttin smaller trees ad hurring the process of everythng.. ..to make this end now, allen go to your yard if they dont treat you right tell them and if you get what your after elsewhere do that but quantinty doesnt make the differnce the yards get bad stuff in there orders and they try to unlaod on who ever will take it.. its sometimes not there fault its just what is avaible and the cost factor....
 
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glenn bradley

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9,723
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SoCal
I like my local yards just fine. However, other than one guy at one yard who knows me pretty well; I pick all my own lumber. If the yard uses a format that doesn't allow that, I don't shop there. I have this luxury as I don't usually buy over 50 - 60 bf at any one time and often less.

If I commonly ordered 100 bf a week, I would certainly pick my supplier carefully. If I was limited due to location and got poor service, I would try to address that with someone who had a vested interest in getting my business (manager, owner, whatever). I hope you find a good solution.
 

tod evans

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4,993
Location
ozarks
the borgs (lowes-n-h.d) are in business to deal with the end consumer....or harry homeowner if you will...they have the lumber sorters and tire kickers figured into their business model.
one of my good friends owns a chain of yards and they discourage the homeowner/price shopper/lumber sorter from shopping there by full list pricing all goods that non-contractor/non-established customers buy.... this way their sales staff has the ability to placate those folks and still keep profit margins acceptable.
i`ve been on both sides of the equation for a few decades and as much as i dispise the borgs they do have a place in society.
 

Ian Barley

Member
Messages
562
I can't speak for a lumber yard. I buy cedar in quantities - approx 1200 bdft at a time. I pay a little bit more than you but the ocean cruise its been on explains that. I reckon on getting about 85-90% useful yield from that quantity. The rest will be sap or underthickness or just plain beat up. Losing a foot from the end of a board is unexceptional.

I would guess that your lumber yard is charging you at a basic trade price and that their expectation of total quality is different to yours. Maybe have a word with the owner/supervisor and tell them what kind of quality you want to buy and see what their price is for that quality level. I am not trying to apologise for them but there is a difference between the expectation level of trade and retail customers.
 
Messages
1,457
Location
Central (upstate) NY
I'm lucky enough to have an hour commute :doh: and the lumber yard halfway home is really good about letting me go find my perfect stud. Mind you, I buy what they call the premium grade dimensional lumber - this is about 25 - 50% higher price than the economy natural edge stuff.

This way I know that I will still have a board if I joint and plane the whole thing and also it is usually quite good enough to be used as is for shop / basement jigs and/or storage projects.

The yard in the same town where I live is also good about giving me straight stock, but is usually closed by the time I get home.

I'm glad they accepted the return for you.
 

Frank Fusco

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12,255
Location
Mountain Home, Arkansas
Our local lumber yards allow me to be picky for what little I buy. But, as Tod points, out, I'm probably paying for the extra service. I'll never buy a hunk of wood from HD again. Last time, I got oak for a set of shelves for the wife. The wood had quarter size imprints, probably from an automated handling machine. The imprints were so deep they would not readily sand out. I complained and only got a "so sorry". No more Home Depot for anything. Haven't even thought about buying wood from Lowes. Maybe the bite at HD made me twice shy.
 

Jeff Horton

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4,272
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The Heart of Dixie
Makes me appreciate my relationship with the local building supply I have. Most of the sales people know me by name. I have 2 or 3 that I know really well. Most times I just go down in the basement, the yard or the warehouse and pick out what I need, load the truck and then go to the counter and tell them what I got. If one of them goes with me they help me pick out good quality. Of course if I am making something that doesn't matter I will take rough boards. I feel it's only fair.

Last week I need a good Cedar 2x4 for a paddle. They keep those in the basement. I just asked where they were and then head down the stairs and start pulling boards out of the rack till I find one suitable. I realize that not just anyone can do that. This makes me appreciate that fact that I have such favor there!
 

allen levine

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11,012
Location
new york city burbs
I dont know if Im allowed to name a lumber yard that stocks every wood species known to mankind.
They are more expensive than anyone Ive ever dealt with.
Having said that, once you pay inside, the workers, the wood pickers are obvioiusly craftsmen themselves, everyone of them.
I use this yard for white oak. The guy will use his forklift, and go through as much as I want to find the right boards, and he doesnt mind.
He understands the price and the need for quality merchandise, and Ive dealt with at least 3 different pickers.
For quality, or a one of a kind piece,(in my life, that means maybe an outdoor table, or a set of chairs for someone that wants teak,20 bucks a linear foot, and I need 25 feet for each chair) but wont pay, so white oak hits the mark), I always use this yard.
But when Im making 8 chairs, and cost is the main factor for me, since I wont look for shortcuts when Im making them, 20-25% difference in cheap pressure treated lumber runs a huge difference.
I havent found a happy medium yet.

IM a small business owner myself, and I know the importance of developing a rapport with a local business cause favors or special needs are addressed so much easier when you know someone that cares.
 
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2,322
Allen,

I have had the opposite experience here.

There is a regional borg and they pick and load the stuff. I quit buying there when I wasn't satisfied with the quality of materials I was receiving.

The HD....you can pick what you want.

A local family owned lumberyard....they "highgrade" it for me and give me contractor prices. The contractor salesman there is the guy who recommended the contractor who built my shop shell. I buy as much as I can there. Only short comings...they are open a short day on Saturday and closed on Sunday. If I need something on Sunday, it's HD.
 

Steve Ash

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Messages
2,437
Location
Michigan
Maybe I get better service cause I am a full time building contractor and they know I will be back, but I would be absolutely lost without my local mom and pop lumberyard. They take great care in making sure I get what I need and the quality is always there......something I have never expierienced from a BORG.
 

Jeff Horton

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4,272
Location
The Heart of Dixie
Maybe I get better service cause I am a full time building contractor ......
That and because your a regular customer too. At least that is my experience. I am not a contractor but I have built three homes with my local supplier and got to know everyone there. I think that goes a long ways! It does with my clients.
 

allen levine

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Messages
11,012
Location
new york city burbs
I had to buy a small amount of pressure treated today, doing some chairs I volunteered for a PTA fair, to raise money local school district, they loved the idea.
I drove over and spoke with the lumber yard owner, and he said hed never expect me to settle for anything less than IM paying for, but when his workers go for 10 boards of pressure treated, they just pick off the top, they dont examine each one closely.
I asked him if I could pick my own, and he seemed pretty hesitant, insurance reasons, too many people, some piles are so high Id need to climb, and so on, so I thanked him for his honesty.
I drove over to home depot, bought the pick of the lot, beautiful color, and Ill get busy shortly. (btw, on this stuff , HD runs around 30% less)
 

larry merlau

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18,299
Location
Delton, Michigan
I drove over to home depot, bought the pick of the lot, beautiful color, and Ill get busy shortly. (btw, on this stuff , HD runs around 30% less)[/QUOTE]

ok allen but did you look to see where in the tree the board came from? there 4x4 alot of the time center cuts or scrap in most sawmills the center twists worst than angle worm:eek:
 

allen levine

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Messages
11,012
Location
new york city burbs
I drove over to home depot, bought the pick of the lot, beautiful color, and Ill get busy shortly. (btw, on this stuff , HD runs around 30% less)
ok allen but did you look to see where in the tree the board came from? there 4x4 alot of the time center cuts or scrap in most sawmills the center twists worst than angle worm:eek:[/QUOTE]

I dont see any difference in the pressure treated I buy from hd, lowes, or any lumber yard.
I prefer to buy the less expensive lumber at a center where I can pick and choose every piece. Minimizes my waste.(and I get alot of save 10 dollars with 50 dollar purchases, with further increases my discount)
the Home depots of the world serve a purpose. Its somewhere a one time fixer upper can purchase everything he needs inone shot, one trip, and not pay top dollar.
If one is installing expensive cherry kitchen cabinets for a living, I can see where a home depot might not be the store of choice, but if you run out of screws at 4 pm on a saturday afternoon, you can always find what you need at the big store and be back on the project early the next day if you wish.
 
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2,369
Home Depot, Lowes...fooyie with them.

I got such a good reputation with my local supplier that its come to the point that they ask me what I am building so they can get the best building materials. For instance, if I am building something small that needs short boards, I'll take the crooked wood they have kicking around. That helps them keep their yard picked up and their costs down. But if I am building something important, they give me only the best. Since I will take the good and bad...depending on my needs, they are appreciative.

By the way, they also deliver and I have an account with them, so by the time I could get in my car, drive to the BORG, I could have placed a call to my local supplier and have it at my doorstep within the hour. They are cheaper to boot.
 

allen levine

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Messages
11,012
Location
new york city burbs
Im quite sure alot of woodworkers and craftsmen feel the same about the big stores.
Living on the west side of Nassau county, there are 3 Home depots within 20 minutes drive, one being only a 6 minute ride. Lowes only has one location nearby, 20 minutes.
There are a scattering of lumber yards, but I have to think the big stores do quite well with the lumber they do offer.
The parking lots are always filled with large contracting company trucks, and the lines are super long sometimes.
Noone is going to find a piece of cherry in there, but noone goes there for that.
 
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