When it comes to lumber, this should go without saying, but it’s not a made-to-order product. Because of that important fact, a person can’t just create any design and expect a given lumber species to always be available with any and all of the sizes and color specifications just because someone dreamed them up. With more and more designs featuring natural wood, rather than engineered products, this is an important distinction.
We highly recommend that before a designer puts an idea down on paper that uses a wood component, a little research is done to ensure that the concept is actually doable. A little foresight on the front end of a project can save a lot of headaches later during the actual build.
Value Engineering, Defined
The term “value engineering” may sound complicated, but it simply means designing projects with the natural limitations of a wood species in view. Sometimes, filling a particular order is absolutely impossible; other times, it’s far from accessible within the allotted budget.
On paper, 10-inch-wide Mahogany mouldings might look a tiny bit better than 9-inch-wide mouldings; however, due to a combination of sawing practices and the need for additional lead time, the 10-inch-wide boards required for the slightly preferable size will mean a huge leap in price from that of the narrower boards.
A lumber-savvy designer would know that a typical Mahogany log yields far more 6- to 8-inch-wide boards, and that because of this it will make much more sense to go with 8-inch mouldings instead of breaking the budget over 2 inches. The issue isn’t about impossibilities as much as determining what would be of greater value to the customer.
Color Matching Challenges
The most significant issue we see when value engineering isn’t considered doesn’t have to do with size; it has to do with color. Especially with large runs of moulding or flooring, color variation is inevitable. When blueprints call for a single piece of moulding to span, say, 20 feet, the designer should realize that while achieving that length may be possible, doing so will require picking through a lot of boards to fill the order. Not only does that scenario add overhead expense to the boards, but it also creates another issue.
Once you find several 20-foot lengths, you’ll probably realize that they don’t match one another very well. This is because, by the time you find that many long boards, you’ve probably had to root through lumber from several different logs. (Each log will only yield so many extra-long or extra-wide boards, after all.)
Most exotic lumber species are tightly regulated, disallowing the physical raw logs from being imported to the U.S.; as a result, a single container of exotic lumber can include a wide variety of coloring, pulling together boards from across a wide growth range.
A lumber-savvy designer will realize that while the lengths can be specified, they will guarantee an imperfect color match, requiring the application of a stain in order to unify the color. Alternatively, shorter lengths or a species with greater color and grain uniformity can be selected.