Especially with the shortage of Ipe this decking season, African hardwoods are worth consideration as decking possibilities. Species such as African Mahogany, Sapele, and Utile (a.k.a. Sipo) are all excellent tropical hardwoods that offer the beauty and resilience that your decking clients want.
These African species boast superior stability, making them ideal for exterior applications, while also responding well with moulded detail work. The kind of versatility these woods provide add value, especially for those who may want matching doors or windows leading to their decks. In addition, wider and longer boards are easy to come by, and African forests are managed well, making the supply chain easy to trace and documentation easy to come by.
For those used to working within the South American lumber market, though, some situations regarding the African market need to be understood. First, the entire continent is constantly undergoing civil wars, leading to wide scale depression of the lumber market (and many other markets). Basically, since 2008, the US has been the only country with notable buyers, so African saw mills have responded to the decreased demand.
Now, however, the global lumber market is seeing issues with South American lumber species such as Ipe and Genuine Mahogany. As global demand for African hardwoods continues to rise, the African saw mills will be unable to adjust as quickly as we’d like them to. The slowly increasing production will undoubtedly mean delays in shipments as well as availability of off-grade lumber and odd-sized boards.
Another idiosyncrasy of the African lumber industry is that it’s historically been more likely to export logs, rather than sawn lumber. Mainly, this situation is due to the lack of knowledge and know-how regarding proper drying and efficient sawing techniques. Still, they have their work cut out for them: After felling trees deep within the forests, they have to float or truck them hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to sawmills close to ports.
In order to comply with Lacey Act regulations, most buyers prefer sawn lumber. On the African end, though, getting the logs to mills in port cities can be difficult due to rapids in the rivers before they reach those cities. Instead, transportation has to occur via trucks, which must traverse unreliable roads through sometimes war-torn areas. As much as 2 months extra time-frame is the result.
Amazingly, African forestry companies are persevering and finding ways to respond to the rising demand for African hardwoods. In size, the African lumber market dwarfs the South American one, providing the savvy buyer with numerous options from which to find the precise mix of quality, sustainability, and cost desired.
Here at J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber, our dedicated African buyer has forged relationships with numerous African sawmills, enabling us to continue maintaining a strong supply of African hardwoods in our lumber yards. As the issues with Ipe continue to mount, we plan to continue to stock a variety of high-quality African hardwoods for our many valued customers.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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