Several wood reclamation firms in the New York City area are struggling to sell refurbished wood leftover from Hurricane Sandy’s devastation from over a year ago. Boardwalks, offices, and homes that were hit hardest by the storm rendered a bounty of materials for reclamation firms to scoop up and flip for a profit, but in the months since Sandy hit they are having a hard time selling the wood debris.

Everything from planks to wooden beams that once held up roofs are sitting in stockyards waiting for sale. This in contrast to an industry that once sold hundreds of thousands of feet of refurbished wood per month in the days before the financial crisis. Many business owners who work in the industry recall being able to sell off large bulk orders of lumber to eco-conscious consumers from all over New York. But that was back in the day when the wood debris itself was cheap to get and could easily be moved in a matter of days or weeks.

The price of wood debris in the New York metro area has skyrocketed thanks to pent up consumer demand within the state. And the introduction of so much wood refuse from Sandy has only increased the lag in sales between wood scrap collectors and reclamation companies. Many of the firms who do the actually refurbishing have turned to wood markets south of New York where the supply of wood is better and prices are generally lower.

The amount of work that goes into refurbishing a single piece of lumber ends up increasing the price that the end-buyer pays for it. In most cases, refurbished lumber is twice as expensive as wood from freshly cut trees. Every piece of lumber has to be worked on to remove nails, fasteners, and other extraneous pieces of material that are stuck to the wood.

But for most purchasers of reclaimed wood, the price is part of the reason they choose recycled wood over fresh-cut lumber. The story behind where a piece of lumber came from is part of the allure of fashioning a new kitchen table or bookshelf from wood that was once used to support a factory ceiling. And the fact that the customer pays a premium price for that newly re-purposed wood adds to the value the consumer sees in reusing lumber that would otherwise be scrapped.

Despite the lagging sales for Hurricane Sandy wood, reclamation firms are still able to sell their wares given enough time. In the end, their business keeps construction dumpsters less full and helps preserve forests around the country.

Source: Crain’s