Why You Should Avoid Buying Tropical Hardwood From a Big Box Store

August 10, 2023 By , ,

We’ve all been there, contractors and homeowners alike: you need something for a project and head to your closest big box store. But where do you shop when you need tropical hardwood for your fence or deck? Is your local big box store the answer, or is it not worth the trouble? Learn why the corporate home improvement store near you might not be so convenient for your hardwood fence or deck needs!

Buying tropical hardwood at a big box store

Big box stores are everywhere, which makes them convenient! After all, stopping in and checking out their supplies is easy, and when you’re busy, the ease of purchase can’t be overstated. Plus, the items they sell tend to be of fairly decent quality. But there can be major drawbacks to buying tropical hardwood at a big box store:

  • Lackluster customer service: We all know retail employees work hard under challenging conditions. However, due to the nature of big box stores, their employees frequently lack the expertise necessary to assist with challenging projects. They may not be familiar with the unique properties of tropical hardwoods, and they likely have little expertise when it comes to installation. Since tropical hardwoods require some special modifications for installation, it’s important to talk to someone familiar with all the ins and outs.

If you have no guidance on the type of wood you purchase and its installation, your project won’t be successful. Plus, have you ever received a subpar piece of wood? They won’t be as concerned with setting it right at big box stores. They may replace it for you, but it can be a hassle.

  • Poor selection: Big box stores may carry a few select types of tropical hardwood, but they’re not the place to go when you want options. These stores need to move products, so they carry the most used lumber. Plus, since big boxes have lots of foot traffic, lumber is picked over quickly, and what remains has been treated roughly as customers search for boards.
  • Out-of-the-box products: If you’re interested in a specific type of tropical hardwood and your big box store doesn’t carry it, they’re unlikely to order it for you. If you need specific dimensions for that wood, most stores will only perform straight, non-angled cuts. Simply put, a big box store won’t be helpful if you need anything out of the ordinary.

The variability of tropical hardwood pricing

You might wonder: in the event you can find tropical hardwoods at a big box store, will it be cheaper? Maybe, but maybe not. Living through the pandemic showed us that lumber pricing is determined by supply and demand, and tropical hardwoods also have some extra challenges.

  • Regulations: Tropical hardwoods harvested from countries like Brazil are subject to numerous regulations aimed at protecting rainforests. Any changes to these rules can cause lumber prices to fluctuate.
  • Seasonal forces: Seasonal or extreme weather events can deeply affect prices. For example, logging and transportation can be more challenging during the rainy season, which can spike prices and reduce supply. The extra demand can also increase prices when home construction season amps up.
  • Exchange rates: Tropical hardwoods are sourced from South America, Indonesia, and other countries. The exchange rates between these countries and the United States fluctuate. When the US dollar is weaker, importing tropical hardwoods becomes more expensive. When the US dollar is stronger, it becomes less expensive to import.
  • Grading: Grade A tropical hardwood, which is more difficult to obtain, is typically more expensive than lesser grades. Grade A is so desirable because the wood has fewer knots and imperfections. Boards that are longer and larger are also more expensive. (If you receive a far less expensive quote than others, ensure that your lumber is Grade A!)
  • Shipping costs: Since tropical wood is transported from South America and locations in southeast Asia, the costs of transportation fees will affect its total price. If fuel prices or freight rates have increased, your wood will be more expensive.

Given all these factors, the best way to know if you’re getting the best price is to receive multiple quotes. Prices always fluctuate, so quotes will give you confidence that your lumber is the best quality for the best deal.

Why buy from Hardwood Decking Supply?

If you’re in the market for tropical hardwood, buy from the experts. We’ve been working with ipe, cumaru, tigerwood, and more for over 25 years so we know these woods like the back of our hand. If you need tips on product selection, installation, or design, our hardwood pros will give you the help you need.

We sell seven different types of tropical hardwood and have the accessories you’ll need to complete your project. Our extensive custom milling services mean you can order exactly what you need. And since we purchase directly from the mill, we cut out the middleman, which means you get the best price possible.


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