How to Start a Lumber Yard

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Start a lumber yard.
Start a lumber yard. (Image: lumber yard image by marilyn barbone from Fotolia.com)

If you’ve got a passion for woodwork, you can service your local contractors and homeowners by starting a lumber yard. Many lumber yards offer tools, hard-to-find supplies and equipment, professional advice, installation and delivery. Others might provide millwork that involves purchasing logs directly from the loggers and cutting them into boards, and architectural millwork such as mouldings, doors, cabinets and counter tops. Make a name for yourself as a one-stop shopping center for quality home improvement materials and top-notch home design advice.

Things You'll Need

  • Business plan
  • Warehouse
  • Industrial shelving
  • Forklifts
  • Commercial trucks
  • Pallets
  • Drivers
  • Skilled craftsmen
  • Design consultants
  • Home design software

Create a business plan that includes your vision and goals for your lumber yard, in addition to information on your local competition, your target audience, anticipated operations, staffing needs and equipment requirements. Depending on the amount of the equipment and the services you will provide, starting a lumber yard can be a costly endeavor. A business plan will help you secure financing from lenders. Contact your local Small Business Administration for assistance in developing your business plan.

Enroll in a woodworking course to learn architectural millwork as well as how to craft crown molding, baseboards, door panels and window panels. You also will learn how to operate woodworking equipment.

Purchase commercial space, at least an acre, for your lumber yard that can accommodate your warehouse, store and showroom. Look for warehouses of at least 20,000 square feet within your service radius. Contact your state's Department of Licensing to learn what requirements you must meet in order to obtain an operational permit for your lumber facility. Purchase liability insurance and obtain a contractor’s license, if necessary.

Purchase forklifts, pallets, commercial trucks, flatbed trucks, industrial shelving, hard hats, safety gear, storage materials, OSHA signage, home layout software and office supplies. If you don't have the funds available, consider buying used or leasing your equipment. If necessary, outfit your commercial vehicles with Department of Transportation decals and have them inspected. Hire drivers with commercial drivers licenses to operate your equipment, if a CDL is required for a particular piece of equipment.

Purchase woodworking tools and equipment such as grinders, saws, sanders and moulders. If necessary, obtain specialized training for your equipment or attend a machinery demo before purchasing your equipment.

Contact loggers or saw mills to purchase high-quality wholesale wood.

Hire a qualified and knowledgeable staff that can assist contractors, architects and homeowners as well as provide expert advice on design and home improvement using computerized layouts. Hire skilled craftsmen, installation experts and interior designers to develop your showroom and offer consultations, drivers and skilled employees to operate your machinery. When necessary, subcontract to contractors and installation experts for special jobs that require specific skill sets that your staff doesn't currently have.

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