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Commercial Flooring News

Red Oak Is Playing Hard To Get

For over one year now getting solid red oak has been a big challenge for consumers, builders, contractors and even hardwood experts in furniture and flooring industries. Why is Red Oak playing hard to get? The simple reason that this floor is so difficult to find is because the supply of the lumber has dried up to almost nothing. Because the furniture category has been devastated by the sharp cuts in consumer discretionary spending the demand for the higher grade veneers and solid wood components disappeared. In the lumber business it is essential for the owner of timber to be able to grade and sell all of their cut lumber through a variety of channels. In a typical timber stand 30-40% of the timber is high enough grade to goto the furniture and other high grade uses and maybe another 30-40% goes to flooring production which has another grading system from clear to cabin grade. The balance is then sold to everybody from pallet makers, toy companies and other scrap buyers. The problem for the supply of this material is that if you can’t sell 30-40% of the high end of the product then you can’t really justify cutting down the tree to begin with. Timber owners typically have a long view of the world so waiting 3-5 years or longer for the market to recover is something they can do. Well once the timber stopped being cut down the saw mills and lumberman stopped working. In the upper mid west of the US and southern mid west of Canada it is estimated 50-60% of saw mills closed at least temporarily. No lumber mean nothing to cut. Without the supply the prices went through the roof as well. So Red Oak which is a very North American style has more or less gone by the wayside as White Oak has become more and more of the market. White oak is harvested throughout Russia and Ukraine and other parts of the world which have a different supply chain dynamic than the uber efficient North Americans. So if you were looking for Red Oak and wondered either why is was hard to find or why it jumped 50% in the last 2 years now you know why.