About a month ago, I had a black walnut tree felled in my back yard (downtown Lansing, Michigan).
The tree had to come down for many reasons:
- juglone from the roots was poisoning the neighbors' yards as well as my own;
- the walnuts were a safety hazard in autumn (at least one dog seriously injured);
- the tree hosted venomous caterpillars;
- at least one neighbor was severely allergic to the pollen.
I did not want the wood go to waste, so I had it sectioned for milling, and my original purpose was to create stair treads and risers (4 floors, basement to attic) as well as some hardwood flooring in a grand stairwell of my 1911 American Foursquare. I used a metal detector probe on the entire length of the tree, and found a single drywall screw, which I removed.
Two of the arborists that I got estimates from (for felling the tree) wanted more than $2,500 to bring it down, but only if they could take the timber. Ultimately, I found an arborist that brought the tree down for $1,500 and was willing to section and leave the timber.
After it was felled, I learned that the value of this wood (33" diameter at stump; 28" at 8'; 26" at 16', containing 1,250 board feet) could be worth between $10,000 and $15,000 if milled to veneer. I have two 9'6" butt logs at 28"+ an 8'6" butt log at 26" and six 8' branches that are 10" to 12". Counting the rings, the tree was much younger than I expected (40 to 50 years, so dating from 1970-1980; only of note because I received a lot of "don't do it, its been there for over 100 years" comments).
- I don't know if I'm doing the math right on the board feet.
- I'm not certain how to price veneer vs. lumber.
- I don't know how to determine whether 10" logs are suitable for veneer or lumber.
I'm having a hard time valuing this timber, and I don't want to make a mistake. I feel that I have two choices:
- mill the timber for the stairwell to add a unique feature to the house;
- sell the timber for veneer to fund other home improvements.
I already sold 1.5 cord of the walnut for firewood for $150 (from branches less than 6" diameter), which was probably half of what it was worth. This whole experience has left me feeling like anyone dealing in wood is a scam artist, and I don't want to make a bad choice with the timber.
This isn't a "what should I do" question, but rather a "help me value this" question.
I want to quantify the board feet and quality of the logs (veneer vs. lumber) before I make my decision on whether to sell or mill the logs.
- How do I calculate board feet from these logs?
- How can I determine veneer quality vs. lumber for individual logs?