Export lumber is packaged to thickness and generally sorted to length where possible, although in reality there is often more than one length in a bundle. For example, a bundle of 10' (3.05m) lengths may well contain a percentage of 9' (2.74m) lengths.
Presentation is an important marketing factor and most export material is trimmed both ends, end waxed or painted to protect against splitting, and marked with the exporter's brand or logo.
The availability of all American hardwood lumber for export is influenced by domestic availability and by the export demand in individual countries for certain species.
The market for hardwood in the United States is dominated by the thinner sizes. Therefore, for most species, 4/4" (25.4mm) represents a significant percentage of production. In cases where thicker material is required, such as joinery applications, it is usual to laminate thinner sections, in contrast to the approach of many other countries. This often leads to a more stable and cost effective product, and does explain why thicker material in some species is more difficult to source.
One of the reasons that the USA is able to offer significant volumes of higher grade material for export is that there is a strong and sustained domestic demand that is able to utilise the lower grades. Therefore, some species that are limited in their domestic use may be available for export only in mixed parcels of higher and lower grades.
Availability of logs will of course have the strongest influence on what lumber is produced by the industry. For example, red oak is the most widely used hardwood in the USA because it is the most widely grown in the forest. Whereas species such as sassafras and elm are limited in the forest, which affects lumber availability.
The table below indicates lumber availability for the main commercial American hardwoods. This information is cross-referenced with the AHEC publication 'Species'.
SPECIES EXPORT AVAILABILITY - LUMBER Alder Readily available in some markets but limited in others Ash Good availability, often sold by region - Northern or Southern Aspen Limited due to low demand Basswood Volumes can be limited but available in a full range of specifications Beech Very limited due to low demand and wide availability of European beech Yellow birch Limited due to low demand, but increasing Cherry Widely available in a full range of specifications and grades Cottonwood Maybe limited in some markets where demand is low Elm Limited Gum Limited in some markets due to low demand. Increasingly popular Hackberry Limited due to low demand and concerns about internal staining Hickory Limited due to low demand. Available from specialist importers in thin stock only Pecan Limited due to low demand. Available from specialist importers in thin stock only Hard maple Widely available. Higher grades available selected for white colour (sapwood) Soft maple Availability is improving as demand increases Red oak Good availability. Often sold by region - Southern or Northern White oak Very widely available all grades and specifications. Most important hardwood export Sassafras Extremely limited Sycamore Limited due to sporadic demand Tulipwood Widely available in a full range of specifications Walnut Readily available - growing stocks increasing Willow Limited due to low demand
Other available species
There are a number of additional species that are commercially available in small volumes but are generally considered as rare. They include: black locust, butternut (white walnut), persimmon and tupelo. There are also a number of important commercial coniferous softwoods that grow in the hardwood forests of the eastern United States, which are: cypress (Taxodium distichum), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and the southern yellow pines (Pinus spp.).
American hardwood lumber exporters distribute their product in export markets, generally in accordance with the timber trade structure established there.