We receive numerous inquiries from people exploring the possibility of milling their own urban logs, and this section is intended to answer the most common questions. If you still have questions after reading this, please contact us and we will do our best to help.
One of the most common questions we receive is “do you want to buy my logs?”. In 95% of the cases the answer is no. We do occasionally buy high value logs such as walnut, maple and elm, but our sister company Ponderosa Tree Service supplies us with more logs than we can keep up with.
In many other cases, people are simply inquiring about the details of having logs from a tree that is being removed from their property milled into usable lumber or slabs.
We encourage this and try to help whenever possible, but the practicality of this usually hinges on the access, specifically how difficult it is to get large sections out of the yard and onto a big truck.
When we salvage logs we typically do this with a crane, lifting the section from the air while the climber cuts them, and setting them into the truck as they come down. Most trees are not removed with a crane, so there is usually a cost/benefit analysis to determine practicality of the salvage operation. The closer to the street, the easier this is.
The work area must be clear of overhead wires and trees, and the crane needs a large, reasonable level space to set up. This machinery is heavy and sometimes this comes with a risk of damaging the driveway surfaces so this also needs to be assessed. Most arborists/estimators can tell you if it’s possible and what, if any, additional work this will require.
Determining the future value of the salvaged wood can be roughly estimated, but wood has very little or no value in log form. It’s not until it’s been milled, stickered (spacers between the slabs) and dried before is it even ready to begin processing.
It must “air-dry” at least six months before it can be kiln dried, and if air-drying without a kiln, it usually takes two years. Some softwood species dry faster, some hardwoods even slower. We try to stack wood in a sunny part of the yard with good air-flow, while protecting just the top from direct rain and sun.
It’s an unfortunate reality that for common sizes (2x4s, 2x6s etc.) milling urban lumber can end up costing more than buying it from a discount retailer. That is because of all the handling labor associated with urban logs as opposed to automated processes of the larger lumber companies. We often find that slabs and large custom beams are the highest value urban salvage products.
Our favorite quote on this topic is “what you have is a bunch of grapes, you do not yet have a bottle of wine”.