Design & DIY

Lumber is still expensive—can you mill your own trees?

The end cut of a piece of lumber being milled Photo by Chad Higgins

Since lumber prices remain quite high, cottage builders and DIYers are turning to felling and custom-milling lumber from their own properties. “It’s quite beneficial for a lot of property owners who have trees to turn into lumber that they can then use for a project,” says Chad Higgins, the owner of Westcoast Custom Timber in Victoria, B.C. Prices for custom felling and milling timber vary widely depending on the project, but Higgins says it usually costs a third to half of the price that you’d pay to buy the lumber from a retailer.

For Westcoast Custom Timber, for example, a tree that has already fallen might cost as little as $150 to remove and mill; prices could shoot upward to $1,500 if Higgins has to bring in extra equipment and take additional safety precautions to take the tree down. But in general, his clients usually pay between 75 cents a board foot up to $1.05—still considerably cheaper than big box store prices, which were upwards of $1.50 even before the pandemic.

lumber in the process of being milled into planks
Photo by Chad Higgins

Higgins also notes that in order to use the lumber for home construction, a lumber grader or engineer must certify the wood to ensure it’s safe to build with. Ungraded lumber can be used for any building project not intended for habitation, such as a shed, dock, or deck. Getting the grading could cost between $250 and $1,000 for common projects, but it depends on the size. Custom milling services can also be found on sites such as Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace.

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