September 14, 2011

The economics of milling

Given the fact that we had to cut down some trees to build our house and new cabin, we were keen to make use of the timber. The question remains, however, on the economics of milling your own timber.

Our Rose Gum was initially milled into flooring and wall linings. This required a Lucasmill on site, plus sending away for kiln drying and profiling into tongue-and-groove boards. 

The recovery rate was not high. The timber for profiling can only be taken out of the larger logs, as both the soft outer wood (sapwood) and the centre of the log, which may later split, are not suitable for profiling. So apart from the large trees that were suitable for profiling, there were several that was simply cut into slabs or large beams. Even among that timber which was profiled, there was quite a bit that was badly knotted or split, and ended up being unusable for walls or floors.

In addition, the timber was not nearly as easy to work with as new timber from a plantation. Many of the trunks were bent, which resulted in bent boards which were very difficult to put in.

We did a costing of the milling and profiling, as compared with the final area of flooring and wall linings we ended up with. On a $/m2 basis, it was not much better value than buying the flooring commercially. There were, however, other advantages:
  • We made use of the timber that had to be cut, rather than mulching or burning it.
  • There is a natural connection between what we are building, and what grows here.
  • We got timber that is quite different to what is commercially available.
  • We have additional beams, posts, stair treads and slabs which have been used around the house, creating an individual style.

Is milling your own timber worthwhile? On a small scale, possibly not. Profiling is expensive, but if you had a large quantity that could be rough sawn into framing and construction timber, then maybe the savings would be there. And if you are keen to use timber in interesting and creative ways, then having your own supply is definitely a bonus. 

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the feature details on the staircase railings! Nice work treehuggers! :)