A Journey to America: Getting acquainted with U.S. softwoods

Interfor lumber yard


Through the airport’s windows, Detroit’s sunset beamed a warm welcome to a group of tired but excited travellers from nine wood trading and processing companies from China, Thailand, and Malaysia. Our U.S. softwood lumber tour has just begun.


Fine products made from Southern Pine

The U.S. South is home to Southern Pine. Other species under this umbrella name are Pinus palustris, Pinus echinata, Pinus taeda and Pinus elliottii, which are usually used in flooring, roof trusses, joists and other structures. It is easy to process and has a very strong nailholding performance.

We arrived at Timber Products Inspection Inc. (TP) in Conyers, Georgia, an independent company that provides professional forest inspection and high-quality assurance services for most wood products. Services include grade certification, pressure treatment, heat treatment, wood and panel structural manufacturing, engineered products manufacturing, sawing and drying. In the U.S. there are a total of four such testing organisations, all using the grading rules published by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB). A wood products manufacturer will be allowed to market their products by obtaining certification from any of them.

 Some distance from TP lies Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., a preservation treatment plant for Great Southern Treating (GST). It is well-known for the Yellawood® brand. Great Southern is one of the largest manufacturers and wholesalers of pressure treated Pine products in the U.S., the company is capable of processing 1.2 billion board feet of Southern Pine annually. Construction projects using GST wood products have a 40-year quality assurance—provided the property does not change.

Every piece of lumber has a yellow tag—or an‘identity card’—that keeps track of the timber’s material grade, degree of treatment and purpose of application. The right timber must be selected for its intended application as the treatment means for wood used above ground and in contact with the ground are different. Misuse may cause building materials to decay or deform.

As sales manager J. Mashburn led the way we arrived at the wood processing section where a double-gate pressure tank came into view. It is a core equipment of the treatment plant with a processing capacity of up to 50 cubic metres of Southern Pine per hour. Staff would select 30 samples from each treated batch for inspection, higher than the 20 samples required by a testing agency. As long as 80% of the samples meet the standard, the batch of materials is qualified. The remaining 20% are separated for secondary processing. It is a ‘double guarantee’ mechanism which allows GST to manage TP’s monthly sampling inspection.



Text and images by Wendy Wei/ Cover image: Representatives from nine wood processing companies from China, Thailand, and Malaysia

This story first appeared in Panels & Furniture Asia Jan/Feb Issue. Read More >