We get this question a lot. All the time. And the short answer is: Not always.
In fact, oftentimes our FSC certified, locally harvested wood products are less expensive than the same non-certified products, sourced from who-knows-where, at nearby Big Box stores.
Case in point: Folks are always surprised at how cost-effective our plywood options are. All of our plywood is FSC certified, locally manufactured, and contains no added urea formaldehyde. We can trace it right back to the mill that makes it and the forest that provides the wood. And because the supply chain is so short, our plywood is often less expensive that the non-certified, mystery-origin plywood at other retailers in the Portland area.
Now with some products, FSC certification will add a bit onto the cost. Most rough estimates generally say between 10% and 20%. This is because the mills that provide FSC dimensional lumber (commodity products like 2x4s and 2x6s) add a certain percentage to cover the costs of the auditing and additional paperwork required to maintain the chain of custody.
So with 2x4s, 2x6s, and other framing lumber, in general most projects should budget a little more to be able to use FSC wood. These products can be combined with less expensive FSC products (such as plywood) to help spread the additional costs out over the budget and minimize or negate any extra costs.
Other FSC items that do not necessarily cost more are our FSC cedar and hardwoods. Because we work directly with local mills, we eliminate the middle men, which works out better for our customers (and helps us ensure that our mills are operating in ways that meet our Triple Bottom Line goals).
Here are some ways that you can minimize any added costs of building with FSC lumber:
- Order in advance. Any time material has to be rushed to a jobsite to meet a tight deadline, there will be added costs for shipping. Especially if it's an unusual item (24' beams or 2x14 lumber, for instance). By getting orders in well ahead of time, shipping can be minimized.
- Design the project to use standard materials. While we are able to offer highly customized dimensions and specialty items for projects, these are going to cost more whether or not they're FSC certified. By designing around standard sizes and planning your project to make use of in-stock items, you can help keep the costs down. Ask for a copy of our price list to see what standard sizes are.
- Explore alternatives. Sometimes using unconventional materials can help reduce overall project costs considerably. For instance, maple is a very beautiful hardwood that is often used for cabinetry, furniture, and other interior finishes -- but alder is a less expensive option with a nearly identical look.
We began our urban log wrangling adventures in the fall of 2013, standing before a monster myrtlewood measuring four feet at the base, planning our attack.
Intrigued by the idea of urban forestry, my friend and now business partner Daniel Baca and I had recently purchased an Alaskan Mill. With only a few cuts under our belt and an under-powered electric winch, we were as green as the first crooked slab we’d cut that day.
Fast forward to the fall of 2016 and our business has matured alongside our stacks of air-dried lumber. Daniel and I joined forces with Mark Parisien to start urban lumber company Epilogue LLC. Now equipped with a Lucas Mill we have slabbed out several hundred such monster logs to date.
But back our our first adventure…
The myrtlewood was a beast, its lumber promising. Its challenge? No access. The tree’s owner had called some other companies who had passed for this reason.
After an hour of set-up we were ready to make our first cut. Our new Logosol chainsaw mill, outfitted with a double-ended bar and two chainsaw powerheads, had walked a bit on our trial run a few days back. Dials now tweaked and fingers crossed, we proceeded full throttle into the belly of the beast. “Double Cobra” we hollered as we plunged into the log.
Double Cobra would thenceforth be our name and battle cry; a place-holder until we would refine our approach and become the strictly professional urban lumber troupe now known as Epilogue LLC.
Five loud and stinky minutes later we had our first cock-eyed slab. Nuts! The bar was walking again. What started as a three inch cut became four inches by the end. A mile outside the margin of error for many a skilled craftsmen known to round to the nearest 32nd of an inch. I could hear my Dad, a contactor for 40 years, weigh in. “Did a beaver make that cut?”
We argued as to the cause. Was it two powerheads with different amounts of power? Too much flex in the bar? Who knows. We just kept going. “Double Cobra!”
Several hours later we had seven slabs from the main log and managed to wrestle around one of the leaders and cut three more. By sundown we somehow managed to move and flat stack all the slabs, the largest weighing about 250 pounds (photo at left). Moving them just a few feet was difficult if not impossible but getting the slabs out of the backyard was a job for a few more hired guns.
We now had a dozen or so spalted myrtlewood slabs, numb arms, aching backs, and a hunger for more!
Three years have passed and the adventures continue. And so have the challenges, whether it’s a wild goose chase leading to worthless wood, a perfect log full of nails, or a test of patience as we wait for our lumber to properly dry for yet another year.
But every time we open up a log to reveal its distinct beauty, it’s worth it. It also feels good to save a few of these giants from the firewood pile.
Epilogue LLC’s new showroom at Sustainable Northwest Wood has those beautiful myrtlewood slabs ready for sale along with a variety of hard and softwood pieces ready for your crafty hands! Slabs have been patiently air-dried for one to three years depending on species and thickness, kiln-dried to below 10% moisture content, and surfaced on both faces to 120 grit.
*Crooked slabs courtesy of Double Cobra Milling.
Do you have an urban hazard tree that you'd like see turned into lumber rather than chips? If so, here are a few things to consider:
1. We don’t buy logs, other than an occasional black walnut log. Why don’t we pay money? A load of logs bucked to saw log lengths free of metal is worth money. A log or two coming from a yard of variable quality is time consuming and expensive to pick up. A standing tree may be filled with metal, concrete, and have defects that can’t be oberved until the tree has been removed.
2. A few photos showing the whole tree including the trunk and where it branches out is very helpful. The limbs and leaders generally don’t make good lumber. The trunk is what we are primarily interested in. If the trunk has a lot of branches or it is growing at an angle, we will probably pass.
3. It’s easier to coordinate directly with the tree company doing the removal. We need to know the removal date, and the address of the property. Also, crane removals are much easier to execute.
4. In general we are looking for hardwood species such as Black Walnut, Elm, Maple, Sycamore, Cherry, Oak, and Black Locust. There are some more unusual species such as Catalpa and Silk tree just to name a few. We also mill Deodar Cedar. At this time we don’t take Doug Fir or other native softwoods. We are looking for trees at least 24” in diameter.
5. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our apologies up front if you contact us and we are unable to respond. We do our best to get back to people but sometimes we are just overwhelmed with calls.
In the late 1800s, pioneers that arrived to settle in central and eastern Oregon, southeast Washington, northern California, and southwest Idaho saw a very different landscape than the one we know today. Rolling grasslands and sagebrush steppe provided adequate breeding habitat and forage for wildlife species like mule deer and sage grouse. Only the occasional Western Juniper tree was visible on the ridgelines.
Following this time, a period of overgrazing of domestic livestock compounded by federal fire suppression policies allowed the tree to thrive. Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) is a natural survivor and is well adapted to the high desert. Wildfire is its only natural predator, and without a regular fire cycle to clear out new seedlings, its presence has increased exponentially over the past 150-180 years from its historic recorded range of 1 million acres to nearly 9 million acres today.
RENEE MAGYAR serves as Sustainable Northwest’s communications director. She can be reached at 503-221-6911 ext. 116 or email@example.com
A recent office remodel in downtown Portland was designed with elaborate custom casework that called for one-of-a-kind oak panels. The project architect wanted to use a locally-grown wood that would reflect a sense of place and add warmth and visual appeal to the space.
We were pleased to supply custom panels and slabs of solid Oregon white oak, milled to precise specifications, for the casework, interior panelings, and other office furnishings.
The results are stunning: Modern yet warm, inviting, and reflective of the special personality of the oak selected for the project!
More photos are available here.
Here's an interactive map that shows where to buy our juniper landscaping timbers. This map shows all of our current dealers in Oregon, Washington, and California.
If you're in an area outside the regions covered by this map, please let us know and we can discuss ways to get you the wood you need.
We are fortunate to work closely with two different, yet not entirely dissimilar, communities. Each day we work with lumber producers from small rural communities far from urban centers. Each day we also work with contractors, homeowners, and woodworkers in urban communities all over the region, and the country. It is through our work with these diverse groups that we are reminded of all that we have in common and all of the goals we share with our fellow citizens, both rural and urban.
Many of the products we offer are shining examples of urban-rural collaboration. Juniper is one such example: The juniper industry is made possible through the hard work of ranchers, loggers and millers in the Eastern half of our state, but most of its users live in big cities, in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
At Sustainable Northwest Wood, we understand that this widespread urban support of triple-bottom-line products sourced through rural producers is how we rebuild our rural economies. It is how we heal the wounds caused by job loss, industry attrition, and the other undesirable effects and unintended consequences of a globalized world. We look forward to expanding urban-rural collaboration in the coming years.
We are proud to stand in the "radical middle," working hard to support our rural producers, to provide quality service and products our urban customers, and to celebrate our shared goals and successes.
The way forward is together. Please join us.
- 5/4 #2 S4S Restoration Juniper, $1.00/lf
- 8/4 Juniper Live-Edge Slabs overstock, $60/each for all sizes
- 1x4 Economy-Grade Douglas Fir, $.30/lf (FSC 100%, full-sawn, rough)
- 1x6 Pre-Primed Albus trim, $1.00/lf
- 3x10 Douglas Fir Beams, $1.20/lf (FSC Mix Credit, 2&Btr, 16' and 20' lengths available)
- FSC I-Joists, $2.75/lineal foot (9 1/2" and 14" widths, random lengths)
- FSC Glulams, miscellaneous sizes, 50% off
- FSC Western Red Cedar, misc. beams and lumber, $1.50/board foot
- Campground Blue Pine, misc. beams and lumber, $1.50/board foot
- Hardwood veneers, $.10/sf(Oregon White Oak, Pacific Madrone, and Salvaged Walnut, quarter-sawn, 1/40th" thick, widths 6" to 14", lengths 6' to 10', some pieces may have minor water damage)
- Firewood bundles, $50/each (1/2 cord bundles, wrapped and ready to go)
Great news for gardeners and landscapers in Southern California: Jones Lumber in Lynwood is now stocking our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers! Stock up here for all your raised garden beds, retaining walls, and other landscape projects.
Juniper performs exceptionally well outdoors and will last longer in ground-contact applications (30+ years!) than any other Pacific Northwest native species, including cedar and redwood. It is also a great substitute for chemical-laden pressure treated wood, making it an ideal wood to use for raised garden beds, retaining walls, trellises, arbors, and other installations.
Our Restoration Juniper is sourced from grassland restoration projects throughout the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of wildfire suppression have allowed it to take over what was formerly a grassland ecosystem. Its out-of-control population growth and thirst for limited water supplies lead to erosion and a loss of biodiversity.
Many acres of juniper are now being cut as part of a collaborative program to restore the grasslands, the groundwater supplies, and the habitat of critical species including the sage grouse.
Jones Lumber is stocking the following Restoration Juniper products:
- 2x6x8 surfaced lumber
- 2x6x8 rough lumber
- 4x4x8 rough timbers
- 6x6x8 rough timbers
Click here for more information about juniper, its exceptional durability, and its special story.
But there are so many options for choosing what wood to use for retaining walls. You know you want something durable, affordable, and non-toxic. But what?
Wood retaining walls must be:
- Chemical free, not soaked in creosote or pressure-treatment chemicals
- Extra durable in ground-contact settings
- Non-toxic alternative to carcinogenic railroad ties
- More affordable and longer lasting than cedar or redwood ties
- Responsibly sourced
Luckily, we have the perfect solution that fulfills all these criteria: our Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers.
Chemical-free: These untreated, completely natural timbers are ideal replacements for creosote-laden railroad ties and pressure-treated wood.
Extra durable: Juniper gets its remarkable durability from a high content of aromatic compounds that make the wood resistant to microbial decay for many decades. Juniper can last up to 30+ years in ground contact settings, according to studies from Oregon State University.
Affordable: Our juniper landscaping timbers are also far more affordable than using cedar or redwood, other long-lasting species that come with a high price tag. In fact, juniper lasts far longer than these species -- providing a lot more bang for your landscaping buck.
Responsibly sourced: Restoration Juniper landscaping timbers are sourced from grassland restoration projects in the high deserts of the West. Juniper is a native species, but decades of fire suppression and the unintended consequences of livestock grazing have allowed this species to grow unchecked, claiming millions of acres of sagebrush steppe and turning it into dense woodlands. These juniper woodlands suck up groundwater and are contributing to the decline of several key species, including the sage grouse. A collaborative group involving ranchers, loggers, environmentalists, and state government agencies is working together to harvest juniper trees, restore the grassland ecosystem and water supplies, and build a market for the wood. Your purchase of juniper lumber supports this effort.
Beautiful: Juniper also provides a rustic, organic look that is perfect for modern gardens and landscape design.
Please contact us to learn more about Restoration Juniper for retaining walls and other exterior uses.
Photos, from top: A recently-constructed residential retaining wall built with 6x6 juniper landscaping timbers shows juniper's rich colors and grain patterns; steps and a small retaining wall built out of 5x5 juniper timbers show off the silver patina that will develop over the years if the wood is left unstained; a large retaining wall built with 6x6 timbers stands at the University of Washington-Tacoma (photo credit Place Studio).
When most people think of Indow, they think of energy-efficient thermal window inserts, not lumber. But Indow uses a lot of wood to carefully crate their window panels for shipment across the country.
Indow is a Portland-born manufacturer of lightweight, attractive acrylic window inserts that homeowners can self-install to add energy efficiency and noise insulation in their homes. Indow's mission is helping people achieve environmental and financial harmony, reducing carbon emissions while reducing expenses. So they totally understand the benefits of FSC forestry.
The wood that Indow was previously using was low-quality, splitting at the ends and generating a lot of useless waste. It was of dubious origin and had no environmental certifications. Dissatisfied, Indow decided to find a better solution that more closely aligned with their mission and values. They reached out to us to see how we could help.
We partnered with our friends at Collins to find a higher-quality wood product with FSC certification. We now supply Indow with FSC certified Sugar Pine, sourced from a regional forest, in a higher grade, at an even better cost.
Indow now uses wood that matches their values of local manufacturing and environmental stewardship, and they're saving money doing it. We can call this a win-win-win.