In the Southeastern United States, Southern Yellow Pine is so common that you may be asking yourself the question, what is SPF lumber? Well, if that’s you, today’s your lucky day.
SPF lumber’s main area of operation isn’t necessarily in our neck-of-the-woods, but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant when you’re looking for pallets, crates, or lumber. Understanding what SPF lumber is, what it’s primarily used for, and its current state in the market can help you make better decisions when fulfilling your company’s lumber needs.
What exactly is SPF lumber?
No, we’re not here to talk about sunscreen here, although we do encourage wearing it. The SPF we’re talking about is an acronym for “Spruce-Pine-Fir,” the species of trees that make up SPF lumber.
SPF lumber can be roughly categorized into two different species in North America – East and West.
In Eastern SPF wood species, there are the White Spruce, Black Spruce, Red Spruce, Jack Pine, and Balsam Fir. Eastern Species of SPF lumber tend to grow slower, increasing the strength of the lumber.
In Western SPF wood species, there are the Engelmann Spruce, White Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, and Alpine Fir. Due to the geographic region these species grow in, think Pacific Northwest, these species are available in larger quantities simply because these species grow to enormous heights.
Both Eastern and Western species are found in the Northern portions of the United States, and in Canada more generally. The Canadians produce the vast majority of SPF lumber for a variety of uses including, wood packaging, construction, structural supports, and more.
What is SPF Used For?
SPF lumber is used much like other types of softwood. As mentioned, wood packaging, construction, and structural supports are just a few of its uses. What sets SPF apart is its strength-to-weight ratio.
Many people that are in the know in the lumber industry will ask for SPF lumber simply because of its strength. Being a softwood, this type of lumber doesn’t weigh very much, but its strength is comparable to, or greater than, some of the hardwoods.
With a great strength-to-weight ratio, SPF lumber is the softwood of choice across much of the Northern United States and throughout Canada, mainly due to its availability. It’s as commonplace in these regions as Southern Yellow Pine is in the Southeastern United States.
What’s Happening with SPF Today?
Over the last two years, SPF lumber has faced many challenges similar to those of other wood species across North America. Both ecological and economic threats have decreased the amount of SPF lumber available across the US and Canada.
Wildfires in Canada’s British Columbia have continued to dimmish the amount of available Western species of SPF lumber. Consuming hundreds of thousands of acres, these fires have stifled the Canadian logging industry, making it impossible to harvest lumber from any areas near the wildfires.
Another threat to the availability of SPF lumber in North America is the Pine Beetle infestation that has killed millions of trees in Canada. These Pine Beetles have targeted both Lodgepole and Jack Pine species, leaving a trail of devastation across North American forests.
The old adage, “the more the things change, the more they stay the same” has never been more applicable. It’s humbling that despite our technological achievements, the same challenges the lumber industry faced generations ago are still relevant today.
Aside from the challenges mother nature has thrown at SPF lumber, the American tariff on Canadian lumber continues to stand. Because of this tariff, the availability of SPF lumber will continue to be sparse as it simply isn’t economically advantageous for Canadian lumber suppliers to export SPF lumber to the United States.
Despite the economic and ecological obstacles that SPF lumber faces, there are now signs that the availability of this softwood is slowly beginning to improve. Over the last few weeks, lumber prices across the board have begun to drop as the North American lumber industry begins to recover from the cumulation of the unprecedented situations we’ve faced over the last two years.
Not complicated at all, right?
Staying informed can sometimes feel like a chore, but hopefully, we’ve simplified what’s happening with SPF lumber right now.
Wrapping it Up
Knowing what SPF lumber is, its uses, and having a grasp of what’s happening with it today can help you make educated decisions when researching, operating, and purchasing lumber, pallets, and crates for your particular applications.