One of the key characteristics that sets J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber apart from the competition is our commitment to quality. Since we’re so passionate about this issue, we’re also passionate about helping our customers understand how grading systems work. In recent years, we’ve noticed a confusing trend in prices that actually corresponds to some very concerning trends in grading. We discussed those in Part 1. But as we mentioned at the close of that post, there is a positive side to this frustrating situation.
The Current Grading Dilemma
Just to review, here’s the scenario we’re dealing with: An increased amount of lower quality plywood and millwork is flooding the market. Those inferior products have become accepted as normal, and there are some who are wistful in remembering “the old days” when there was better quality lumber to be had. But everyone resigns themselves to paying for inferior quality and to start shopping for lumber products, simply based on price. (Plywood pricing, in particular, is a very poor indication of quality, but when grading becomes almost meaningless, it’s all people have to go by. Of course, no one wants to pay more than they have to, especially for inferior products.)
The Part Many Buyers Don’t Realize
Many manufacturers out there still do care about quality. Instead of seeing the widening grade categories as excuses for slacking off, they see the shifts as opportunities to exceed expectations, producing above-grade millwork and plywood. Since those products are technically in the same category as inferior products, though, people don’t want to pay more for them. (Remember, price instead of grade is becoming the biggest factor.) So it all becomes a bidding war, and those producing inferior quality wood products can afford to lower their prices, so they win.
The Way To Win the Game
Despite the generally lower expectations and price-focused market, J. Gibson McIlvain is a rare supplier that realizes that a niche market exists for above-grade materials. We have many discerning customers who still care about quality, so we make it a point to seek out plywood manufacturers that have equally high standards.
Since we do our millwork ourselves, we can apply the highest quality control measures, producing the most flawless products possible. Of course, there are extra expenses associated with such careful selection and production; for some, it’s difficult to pay more for what grading scales consider to be “the same product.”
At the end of the day, all we can do is ensure that we discover and secure the highest quality products for our customers; it’s up to them to realize that they’re paying for superior quality. Ideally, the grading entities would stop widening grading categories and, instead, add categories when appropriate.