Inland standard and better 2×4 lumber is feeling pressure from two sides

In the midst of a challenging North American lumber market, 2x4 is seeing the biggest threats

Amid a sluggish trading pace in the Inland lumber market in recent weeks, 2×4 has often been singled out as the weakest width in dimension.

Within that, producers have noted Std&Btr (standard and better) wood as being the most difficult to sell. That has been reflected in part by the price gap to #2&Btr (and better) in both Fir&Larch (Douglas Fir and Western Larch) and White Fir/Hem-Fir. A gap that is normally around $10 has expanded to $25-30 lately.

#2&Btr 2×4 has been under downward pressure in recent weeks, with most mills offering discounts to clear lingering excess inventory. #2&Btr 2×4 usually overtakes 2×6 around this time of year, but that hasn’t been the case so far in 2023. In some species, 2×6 still holds a triple-digit premium to 2×4.

Given the drop in #2&Btr 2×4 prices, the ongoing premium to Std&Btr has highlighted the weakness of the latter. One producer noted that given the difference in quality between the grades, paying a little more for the better item is an easy choice for many buyers. “#2 is readily available right now, and the spread isn’t that bad, so it just makes sense to buy the #2,” another producer said. “If the spread gets closer or there’s less #2 available, then we will see more interest for Std&Btr.”

The price range between Std&Btr 2×4 and Utility 2×4 also has narrowed sharply. As recently as late December, Fir&Larch (Douglas Fir and Western Larch) Std&Btr 2×4 held a $295 premium over Utility 2×4.

In early March, the premium narrowed to $125 as lower grades have held relatively firm in recent weeks while upper grades have faltered significantly. The range is even tighter in White Fir/Hem-Fir, falling from $200 in late December to $110 in March.

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