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How to use trees from my land?

Steve H | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

i have a lot of big trees, i’m guessing pine, i’m not a tree guy. anyhow, unfortunately some are going to have to come down to make space for my house. don’t worry, there are plenty left.

anyhow, its a shame to chop them up and burn for fire wood, i expect it will be beautiful wood.

so besides maybe siding or interior paneling, any ideas what i can do with the lumber if i cut it up? i’d like to use it for structural building but i think i can only use graded lumber, i’ll check with my building department but i’m pretty sure they’ll tell me if i want to use it, get it graded.

any thoughts about using your own lumber?

thanks

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Replies

  1. Trevor Lambert | | #1

    It's apparently not all that difficult or expensive to get your own lumber graded.

    https://youtu.be/UWgG5pmhdik

  2. AlexPoi | | #2

    Try to sell them to a local mill. That's what my dad does. If it's hardwood, you can sell it online to some wood workers.

  3. Tyler Keniston | | #3

    Since you're not a tree guy, I assume someone else is taking them down?
    Usually, those geared to take em down are also tapped into the markets and will (should) know how to get use out of them.
    Of course markets aren't perfect, and you may wish to make use in a non-market context. It really depends on the trees.
    Softwood wouldn't go firewood anyways. If it's not sawlog, pulp is a common (but struggling) market.
    If they're decent soft timber, sell to local mill? Hire portable band mill to slice to your specs?
    If you can't get approval to use as structural, you may still be able to use as siding, flooring,etc.
    White pine isn't commonly structural, though you will see timber frames out of them (they need oversizing).

  4. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #4

    The type of tree matters a lot. White pine is not very strong, as mentioned above. It can be used, but typically requires larger sizes, especially for beams. OTOH, Hemlock and fir are very strong and are commonly used for structural applications. Same with Southern Yellow Pine and a few other similar species. And that's just for softwoods (evergreen). Hardwoods are generally used for finish, trim, millwork and/or furniture and cabinetry. For exterior applications, some are far better than others in natural rot resistance.

    If you're clearing a site for a house, you're probably cutting down a LOT of trees, and if they're big trees, you're going to be paying a tree guy quite a bit for this service. Interview several and ask them for more information. They should be able to talk intelligently about what kind of trees they are, what quality they are, and whether there are any local mills that will take them. Depending on the type of mill, they may work to your specifications, or at least maximize the size(s) of lumber you need. You're already aware that grading may be required for structural lumber. And beyond felling, transportation, milling and grading, they still have to be dried for most applications. Your mill might be able to help with that, too.

    Having a stand of tall, healthy timber is a good thing and using it locally is even better. It might take some research, but you might end up saving a bit of money and have the bragging rights of building your house from trees grown on your own land.

  5. Expert Member
    Zephyr7 | | #5

    Any tree guy worth any money to do tree work will be able to tell you what kind of tree it is by looking at the leaves or needle patterns if it's a pine tree. If you have some experience, you can often tell the species by the bark. I can, for example, tell the difference between red oaks and white oaks by looking at the bark even if there are no leaves no the trees. A lot of the time looking at the leaves is easy (red oak leaves are pointy, white oaks have rounded leaves, maples look a little like the canadian flag leaf, etc.). If you want to tell the difference between types of maple tree it gets more complex. There was some mention of white pines, those have little groups of 5 thin needles in each "needle". It's easy to see what I'm talking about if you have one to look at.

    Since I love the trees, I'll say try to plan your site to minimize how many you have to take down. Of those you DO have to take down, try to priorize any diseased trees and take those down first. Sometimes you can save healthy trees by removing diseased trees early, this is especially true with oak wilt and some of the borers that get the pines. If the tree has borers. you should chip the wood -- it's more imporant to detroy the invasive boring beetles than it is to try to use the wood for building. You want to protect your other trees as a priority.

    With any good wood that comes down, you may want to consider using it for furniture or shelving. This avoids the need for grading, and allows the use of nearly any type of wood. You can also do fun things with a "live edge" if you like that look, or interesting grain patterns. You can even get really creative and hollow out a big log to make a subwoofer enclosure (oak works well for this). You'll need a good wood worker for this, but you can turn your trees into art. I had a neighbor who had a chainsaw sculpture make carvings from old logs, and then used the carvings outdoors.

    The classic use is probably shakes for roofs and sidings, but some types of wood won't hold up long when used this way. There are lots of options. Be creative, and ask around for people willing to work with what you have.

    Bill

  6. Steve H | | #6

    OK, thanks all, there is a grading service in North Carolina where I am so will check with them.

    I guess i also need to figure out what kind of trees i have.

    i just found this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSeqWF_NVoE
    and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQOnV9RhZu0
    and ordered A Field Guide to Eastern Trees
    i guess that's the starting point

    but i'm thinking i have White Oak based on the second video, i guess that's not useful for structural anyhow

    in fact i don't have any evergreens so i guess that rules out Pine, Spruce and Fir, the most common structural lumber. but it seems oak can be used for just about anything including structural

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #12

      Here is an article with a good pic of both a white oak leaf and the bark:
      https://naturalresources.extension.iastate.edu/forestry/iowa_trees/trees/white_oak.html#:~:text=White%20oak%20leaves%20are%20simple,dull%20green%20and%20paler%20below.

      White oak grows very slowly relative to most other trees (including red oak). It's more resistant to oak wilt too -- generally with a red oak, as soon as you see signs of oak wilt the tree is done, it is going to die. All you can do is to try to save the other red oaks around it. With a white oak, if you act AS SOON AS you see ANY sign of oak wilt, you can usually save the tree. Oak wilt is a fungal infection that basically plugs up the veins of the tree and kills it.

      White oak is among the more valuable species of wood. A neighbor to my North recently sold a bunch of his white oak trees, some firm came out an harvested a lot of the larger ones. This neighbor is on about 40 acres, heavily wooded with white oaks. They probably took out 100 or so trees, and you'd never know it if you looked from a distance. I don't know how much he was paid, but there are a lot of board feet inside of a tree that is 12-18 inches in diameter.

      I would start by asking some tree guys, they might know places that will buy the logs. Another option is to see if you have any local mills and call them. The tree guys that mostly work in urban areas probably won't be familiar with this sort of thing, but in the more rural areas it's not uncommon to harvest hardwoods.

      Bill

      1. Expert Member
        Peter Engle | | #16

        FWIW, oak and chestnut used ot be primary structural materials for timber framing. It is super strong, but it's also very heavy. It's use for structural timbers went down as its value for furniture and other uses went up. If you've got a bunch of it and wanted to use it for exposed interior timber frames, it would be awesome.

  7. Trevor Chadwick | | #7

    around here you call a logger and get an estimate. If there is enough value in the timber, they log it haul it to the mill, and take a percentage of the check from the mill.

    For lumber, you either have it hauled to a mill, or find a guy willing to come and saw it on your property. Around here they charge $0.25 to $0.50 per board ft.

    1. Expert Member
      DCContrarian | | #8

      I would definitely start with calling a logger. Keep it simple, just ask him what he'd pay you to take your trees. That gives you a reference point of whether you're really talking about something that's valuable. He may say he doesn't want your trees, that's useful information too. Be warned that logging is something of an outlaw business and you have to watch out that you aren't short-changed and that they don't damage your property.

      Even though lumber prices are really high right now, a 2x4 8' at Home Depot is $6.75. That's $1.27 per board foot. For that price you're getting wood that has been kiln dried, culled, stamped, graded and delivered. I doubt you're going to come out ahead if you're paying $0.50 for sawing plus the cost of felling.

      I do know that around me when they clear a site for a house they send the trunks to a lumber mill. I don't know if they get any money or if it's just a cheaper way of disposing of them.

      1. Trevor Chadwick | | #9

        Depends on what the trees are.. There can be good money to be had.
        this mill in NC (no idea where the op is in the state) is paying up to $1 per bd/ft

        https://sunrisesawmill.com/Log-Prices/

        1. Steve H | | #10

          I'm in Boone with is an hour or so north of Asheville, but i have no way to transport them there, interesting however

        2. Expert Member
          DCContrarian | | #11

          $1 a board foot for veneer grade cherry, walnut and white oak. That's stuff that's $10+ BF one it's milled and dried. For #2 white pine -- which is probably what you're looking at -- more like $0.15.

          One of the things I've read is that the run-up in lumber prices is not caused by a shortage of trees but by a lack of mill capacity. Prices for logs haven't really risen.

  8. Mark B | | #13

    As Trevor said, you might be able to find someone local who can saw up your trees on-site. See here-

    https://woodmizer.com/us/Find-a-Local-Sawyer

  9. Walter Ahlgrim | | #14

    I am not sure if you have anything of value on your sight or not.

    Your idea of a big tree and mine could be very different.

    Understand turning trees into lumber is not fast or easy work. Any tree that grew within 30 feet of a house, barn or fence row is very likely to have nails and wires inside that will destroy saw blade making even a large oak worthless. Once you have them sawn into boards they need to dry in the air that will take at least one full year before the wood is usable.

    I agree the Wood Mizer site is a good way to find someone willing take chances with a few 14 inch trees.

    Walta

  10. James Someone | | #15

    I read an article recently about timber farms from Texas to North Carolina that were subsidized by the US Govt for decades, and now stands a glut of trees ready for mill with little financial incentive to harvest.

    Large tracts of timber (Pine) making only $22 PER TON, with many timber stands becoming too far away to get a trucker to haul now that many mills have been consolidated. The choke point.

    Since you're in Boone, any steep slope on the land? Its rugged terrain usually requiring additional engineering.

  11. Andy S | | #17

    I can't speak to Steve's situation since I don't know what trees you have, but I did something like this a couple years ago when we were getting started on our house. We had a few big cedars that had to come down to make room for the house so I had a local guy with a Wood Mizer bring over his mill and we were able to get a huge amount of wood out of those cedars.
    Those trees are now the 12" x 20' planks used for the vertical board and batten siding and the big soffits. We milled some 2x for the fascia, bellyband, window trim, deck railings, and quite a few other things as well. After all that I still have a decent sized stack of cedar for future projects.
    I'd guess that I got $25,000 worth of material for $2500 in treework and milling. The downside is that I did have to spend countless hours stacking, sorting, cutting, cleaning, sanding, and stressing over wether I really had enough material and which pieces I should use. But then again, I did wind up with a house that is nicer looking and less expensive than one with fiber cement siding.

  12. Daniel F. Vellone | | #18

    I was in a similar situation: building a new home on heavily wooded acreage and wanting to use the timber. The issue is the expense of of felling, and transporting to the mill. That cost can often negate the savings in using your own trees. For example, I planned on felling enough red maple for the hardwood flooring in our house - around 1400 sq' of flooring was required. That required a fair amount of logs at an average of 10' length. I could do the felling and skidding to a landing myself, and would have to hire someone to haul them to the mill. When I checked with the sawyer about what my savings would befor the finished flooring if I provided the logs for the job he told me 400 dollars. The greater expense is in the sawing, kiln drying, and milling, and whether he sources the timber off his acreage or purchases it, I just can't compete. 400 dollars was definitely not worth it for me.

    Now, the other option that many folks take is to hire someone with a portable mill to come saw on site, and if you don't have to hire someone to fell and skid that could be a good deal, but then you're left with a lot of green, rough sawn lumber. You'd have to sticker it and keep it under cover - not tarped - for a good long while, and then you're left with rough sawn. If you want 2x material for framing, rough sawn can be challanging depending on the sawyer's quality of work, but can be a good route to take if you're into it. If you want dressed lumber you need a big jointer, planer and shaper, and a lot of time.

    If you're timber framing and have pine, having a sawyer come to your site may be just the thing, but again, the skill of the sawyer is key. If those timbers that need careful layout for mortises and tenons aren't pretty darn true it'll compound the amount of work you need to do many times over. But again, if you have to hire someone to fell and skid (and haul, if you're sending it to the mill) that expense will eat up your savings pretty quick.

    As far as certification, it's likely up to your local building department, though in my experience they will accept certification by the mill that processes the lumber. It's remarkable that all the #2 that lowes and hd sell qualifies as #2, and a reputable sawyer will sell you nothing that they couldn't certify as #2 or better.

    Daniel

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