Chapter 5: Sawmills in the USA

American sawmills have an interesting history. In the early days before railroads were built all over the country, loggers would transport logs from the forest to the mill using creeks and rivers to carry them along. With a growing demand for lumber and the rapid development of the country, more efficient transportation was needed. By the mid-nineteenth century, much of the eastern United States was gridded with railroads. In addition, the end of the century saw the use of the band saw and other improvements in sawmill machinery. Today, sawmills vary greatly in size from small portable sawmills to the enormous facilities spread throughout the country. Modern sawmills can produce hundreds of thousands of board feet per shift.

saw cutting into a board

Sawmills are important to the economy throughout the nation. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the U.S. forest products industry manufactures almost $300 billion in products a year and employs about 1 million workers. Privately-owned forests support over 2 million jobs and provide 91% of the wood harvested in the country.

The United States is a major exporter of forest products, selling products such as wood pellets, sawn wood, pulp for paper, and paper and paperboard. The demand for lumber continues to be strong, and industry experts expect it to grow with new housing construction and remodeling projects. Considering that the average 2,400-square-foot home needs over 16,000 feet of lumber for framing, it’s easy to see why. Additionally, each American consumes the equivalent of a 100-foot tall tree each year in wood and paper products.

In this chapter, we’ll look at some lumber stats and a few of the top lumber producers in the world. If you own a sawmill and want to learn more about improving your production with quality blades, contact us today.

The Number of Sawmills in the USA

According to IBISWorld market research, there are over 3,000 businesses in the United States in the sawmills and wood production industry. This includes hardwood and softwood lumber, as well as wood chips and wood product preservation. The U.S. Lumber Coalition states there are 550 lumber manufacturing facilities in the country.

The Biggest Sawmills in the US

According to a Wood Markets 2017 survey, the top five largest softwood sawmills in the U.S. include the following companies:

  1. Weyerhaeuser
  2. Georgia-Pacific
  3. West Fraser
  4. Sierra Pacific
  5. Interfor

The Largest Hardwood Sawmills in the US

Beasley Forest Products claims the spot as the largest hardwood sawmill in the United States. According to Timberline Magazine, the company produces up to 125 million board feet of hardwood lumber products each year. Beasley Forest Products operates in five states and also runs several other sawmills such as Thompson Hardwoods.

What State Produces the Most Lumber?

According to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Oregon is the top producer of softwood lumber, producing more than 16% of the nation’s softwood.

map of U.S.

Other top-lumber producing states include:

  • Washington
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • California
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Idaho
  • North Carolina
  • Texas

Who Is the Largest Lumber Producer in the World?

According to Global Wood Markets Info (GWMI), the Canadian company West Fraser is the largest softwood lumber supplier in the world. In 2018, West Fraser produced 6.6 billion board feet of lumber products.

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