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Feasibility of Grading Lumber Produced by Independent Mills in the Interior West

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BACKGROUNDMETHODOLOGYHOW LUMBER IS GRADEDTRADE ASSOCIATIONS AND ACCREDITED LUMBER INSPECTION AGENCIESWestern Wood Products AssociationWest Coast Lumber Inspection BureauAPA - The Engineered Wood AssociationAmerican Institute of Timber ConstructionTimber Products InspectionRAW MATERIALVISUAL GRADING VERSUS MACHINE GRADINGCONSTRAINTS TO GRADINGMEANS OF GRADING FOR SMALL INDEPENDENT MILLSAlaska ModelBuilding DepartmentsNiche Markets for Graded LumberCONCLUSIONSGRADING RULES FOR SPECIES OF THE INTERIOR WESTGLOSSARYAPPENDIX A: INFORMATION ON TRADE ASSOCIATIONS AND ACCREDITED GRADING AGENCIESAPPENDIX B: SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION ON THE ALASKA MODELReport: Feasibility of Grading Lumber Produced by Independent Mills in the Interior West Submitted to: Interior West Center for the Innovative Use of Small Diameter Wood MTCM Department Guggenheim Building Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80523 Submitted by: Anthony & Associates, Inc. P.O. Box 271400 Fort Collins, CO 80527-1400 970-377-2453 Fax: 970-377-2469 [email protected] March 2003Feasibility of Grading Lumber Produced by Independent Mills in the Interior West BACKGROUND ........................................................................................................... 2 METHODOLOGY ........................................................................................................ 2 HOW LUMBER IS GRADED...................................................................................... 3 TRADE ASSOCIATIONS AND ACCREDITED LUMBER INSPECTION AGENCIES..................................................................................................................... 7 Western Wood Products Association..................................................................... 7 West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau.................................................................. 8 APA - The Engineered Wood Association............................................................. 8 American Institute of Timber Construction .......................................................... 9 Timber Products Inspection................................................................................... 10 RAW MATERIAL ....................................................................................................... 10 VISUAL GRADING VERSUS MACHINE GRADING ......................................... 12 CONSTRAINTS TO GRADING ............................................................................... 12 MEANS OF GRADING FOR SMALL INDEPENDENT MILLS.......................... 13 Alaska Model ........................................................................................................... 14 Building Departments ............................................................................................ 16 Niche Markets for Graded Lumber ...................................................................... 17 CONCLUSIONS ......................................................................................................... 19 GRADING RULES FOR SPECIES OF THE INTERIOR WEST ............................ 21 GLOSSARY.................................................................................................................. 22 APPENDIX A: INFORMATION ON TRADE ASSOCIATIONS AND ACCREDITED GRADING AGENCIES................................................................... 23 APPENDIX B: SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION ON THE ALASKA MODEL ........................................................................................................................ 25 1Feasibility of Grading Lumber Produced by Independent Mills in the Interior West BACKGROUND Lumber grading provides a standardized means of producing and marketing solid wood products for use by consumers. Grading is done for appearance (architectural or nonstructural end uses) and for structural uses (construction). Grading is typically conducted under the auspices of industry trade associations for a membership fee. Trade associations establish grading procedures and quality assurance methods; provide technical data and grade stamps; and coordinate marketing and consumer information on graded lumber. For small, independent mills in the Interior West, grading has not been viable due to technical and economic factors. Graded lumber represents a market opportunity for wood from small diameter trees. This report addresses factors that currently prevent mills from taking advantage of this market opportunity, an opportunity that will increase as additional timber resources become available due to fire mitigation efforts throughout the interior west. Grading for structural uses was the focus of this report, but nonstructural applications were also considered. METHODOLOGY The goal of the project was to assess the feasibility of grading lumber produced by independent mills in the interior west. Aspects affecting large timber companies, which readily have the ability to grade lumber, were not considered. The investigation focused on technical aspects of grading. Economic and market factors were also investigated to the extent they impact the technical issues. Questions that were addressed included: • What infrastructure is needed at the mill to produce lumber with quality consistent with that currently available to consumers? Infrastructure requirements may include milling equipment, dry kilns, grading equipment and labor. 2• What qualities do customers require of graded lumber? Can the mills produce lumber with the qualities desired by the end-users? • What mechanism could be used to grade the lumber; i.e. what are the merits of visual grading (labor intensive) versus machine grading (capital intensive) in these mills? • Can the mills form a liaison with industry trade associations that reflects their constraints; i.e. can a relationship be established that benefits independent mills while offering favorable public relations to the trade associations in light of the IWC’s goal of reducing wildfire risks? • Is there a means for the small mills to capitalize on trade association efforts to promote and support graded lumber? Can independent mills capitalize on the marketing efforts of the forest products industry in either broad or niche markets? • What are the economic factors that drive the viability of a grading operation in an independent mill? If lumber grading is technically feasible in independent


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