What Are The Most Profitable Trees To Grow For Lumber?

Do you have a large wooded property and need to clear the land? Ever thought about selling those trees for timber?

Or maybe you have some extra land and want to grow a long-term crop for retirement.

Trees are an important commodity in the construction industry. Lumber is used to build our homes, furniture, and buildings. And when prices in the housing market go up. The price for timber usually follows. 

Have you ever wondered if you could sell the extra trees on your lot and make a profit? If you have a good number of hardwood trees on your lot, then the answer may be yes.

What Type Of Trees Are Used For Lumber?

man loading a stack of hardwood lumber panels

According to Farming Magazine, about 80% of all timber is sourced from softwood trees. The other 20% is made up of the hardwood variety, and if you’re looking for the most profitable trees, hardwood is where the money is. 

Hardwood Trees

Deciduous trees like oak, hickory, birch, and cherry fall into the hardwood category and are excellent sources of lumber. 

Hardwood makes a more durable product since they take longer to grow, developing a denser wood. The denser the wood is, the stronger and more durable the lumber is. 

One of the most common applications for hardwood in construction is to make floors. Floors made from hardwoods are easier to clean, less likely to scratch, and have better resistance to fire than their softwood counterparts. 

Many hardwood trees also have a beautiful grain that is popular in upscale applications. Their strength and beauty lead to higher quality lumber that fetches a higher price. 

A few of the hardwood applications in addition to flooring are cabinetry, fencing, decks, and sporting or musical equipment. 

Softwood Trees

Conifer trees like pine, cedar, and spruce fall into the softwood category. Softwood trees grow relatively fast, are lighter in weight. They make up the lion’s share of lumber used in the housing market and are used in roofing, doors, windows, and furniture. 

Since softwood trees grow faster and are more readily available, the market price for trees in this category will be lower.

The stronger hardwood trees take longer to reach maturity and are in higher demand.

The 5 Most Profitable Trees To Grow For Lumber

Want to know which trees will command the highest prices? Here are five of the most profitable trees that are sold for lumber.

1. Red or White Oak

large oak tree with sun shining through the leaves

Oak trees are very popular in the lumber market due to their strength and hardness. They also have an attractive grain. 

Oak has been used for centuries to build fine furniture, buildings, and ships. It was used to construct famous buildings such as London’s House of Commons and the Viking’s longships. 

The Northern Red Oak is considered the most valued of the oak species. In addition to lumber, the trees are also planted in gardens and parks. 

A mature red oak tree can grow to a height of between 60 and 75 feet. White oaks range in size between 50 and 80 feet. Both are best grown in full sun. 

2. Black Walnut

the yellow foliage of a mature black walnut tree

Black walnut trees are grown commercially for both lumber and nuts. The grain of black walnut wood makes it a popular choice in the construction market.

Walnut wood is used to build furniture, flooring, coffins, and the butt of long guns. It is popular among woodworkers since it holds its shape after seasoning. 

Black Walnut trees thrive in full sun and grow to a height and spread of between 50 and 75 feet.

3. Sugar Maple

red maple tree in the fall

As the name implies, the Sugar Maple is most well-known for making maple syrup. If you stick a spigot in a Sugar Maple tree, it will slowly fill with a sweet sap that can be used to make the maple syrup we put on our pancakes.

The Sugar Maple is also used to manufacture various sporting and entertainment products. Musical instruments such as guitars, drums, and pianos are all crafted from sugar maple wood. The trees are also used in the flooring of basketball courts and to make baseball bats. 

The Sugar Maple tree will reach a mature height of 50 to 75 feet tall with 40 to 50 feet spread. 

4. Black Cherry

Mature Black Cherry Tree ripe with fruit

The Black Cherry is a deciduous tree that is found on the edge of forests and fields growing alongside black walnut and locust trees. 

They grow between 50 and 80 feet tall, producing small white flowers in the spring that bear bunches of reddish-black fruit.

Black Cherry is most well known for its dark coloring and tight grain. Referred to as cherry wood, this tree is used to build expensive cabinets and household furnishings. 

While useful for lumber, these trees are not recommended if you have livestock on the farm. The wilted leaves contain cyanide and can be poisonous if accidentally eaten by animals.

So, if you have animals on your farm or homestead, keep cherry trees at a safe distance from your pastures or remove them. The good news is if you have a sizable number of Black Cherry trees, you can make a tidy profit by selling them for lumber.

5. Hickory Trees

hickory trees growing on a wooded property

Hickory trees are found in the Eastern United States and do well in humid climates. While they normally grow between 60 and 80 feet, they can sometimes reach heights of up to 120 feet.

The trees are shade-tolerant and easy to grow. Hickories produce both seeds and nuts that can be harvested in addition to the wood. 

Hickory is one of the strongest woods used in the construction market. They are 30% stronger than oak trees. And not only are they tough, but hickory wood is also very shock-resistant. 

The stretch and shock absorption qualities make it a popular wood for sporting equipment and tool handles. Hickory is used to manufacture skis, axe handles, bows, golf clubs, and even walking sticks.

Hickory wood is also a popular wood for cooking barbecue since it has a smoky flavor that enhances the taste of the food and can be used to smoke meats.

Comparing the Profitability of Trees For Lumber

The value of lumber is determined by the market price of each species by region. The unit by which they are measured is the stumpage price, or the value of a tree while it is still on the stump. The stumpage price is multiplied by the volume of trees available to get a ballpark estimate of the value of the trees on the lot. 

Multiple factors are involved in the on-site valuation for a given lot when you get ready to sell, including age, quality, volume, and accessibility.

The following chart provides a demonstration of which tree species commanded higher market prices in the 3rd quarter of 2021. This data is an extract of the Northeastern States Market Timber report.

3rd Quarter, 2021 Price by Species (Northeast)

Species Average Stumpage Price
Northern Red Oak $726
White Oak $646
Mixed Oak $533
Black Cherry $696
White Ash $296
Hard Maple $510
Soft Maple $418
Yellow-Poplar $346
Misc. Hardwoods $138
White Pine $65
Hemlock $99
Data Source: Penn State Extension Office

Market reports are published on a quarterly basis. Much like the stock market, the prices go up and down. They are driven by the underlying demand for the products. For example, as housing or furniture demand goes up, so will the price of lumber. 

Read Related: 15 Ideas for Your Small Hobby or Backyard Farm

Helpful Tips When Trying to Sell Trees for a Profit

house in the country surrounded by trees

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when you start to think about selling your trees for lumber. 

How Do I Find Out What My Trees Are Worth?

The best way to get an estimate for the value of your trees is to contact a forester. The quality, size, and volume of trees you have available to sell will affect the price. 

Larger more mature trees will fetch a higher price. Part of the discussion will be the best time to sell. The longer you wait, the trees will grow bigger and become more valuable. That is of course if the market stays strong. And that is where a bit of speculation comes into play.

It’s Better To Sell Multiple Trees

Harvesting trees requires experienced loggers and heavy equipment. Bringing in a team to harvest a single tree would be costly. There is a good amount of coordination when selling trees for lumber. 

The more trees you have available for sale, the easier it is to offset these costs, and more likely it will be a profitable venture.

Connect With A Forestry Professional

To get the best price, it is advisable to hire a professional forester to aid in the sale. A professional forester will know the local market and negotiate the best price for your lumber.

They will also be able to coordinate how many and which trees should be cut down.

A forester will be able to give you an accurate assessment of the quality of your lumber. He will examine the site can also provide instruction for taking care of the trees if there are any problems.

While partnering with a forester will cost a fee upfront, you will earn more overall and be much more likely to have a safer and less stressful transaction. 

Final Thoughts

If you have a wooded plot of land on your farm or homestead and want to make some extra money, selling trees for lumber could be a viable option.

Or if you have a few acres of vacant land, growing trees can be very profitable. Trees are an excellent cash crop for the landowner. But keep in mind, this is a long-term strategy since it can take decades for a tree to grow to maturity. It does, however, make an interesting retirement plan for some or an investment for future generations.

Growing trees for lumber isn’t the only option. You can also make a good profit growing ornamental trees or fruit trees for gardens and nurseries. Christmas tree farms are a popular side income for landowners. 

So, if you are looking for new ideas to make your homestead more profitable, selling trees should definitely be on the list.

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