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The Cold Hard Truth: Selling Walnut Yard Trees

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From: Valerie S.
City:
Dubuque, IA
I have a sizeable, mature black walnut tree that has become decadent in its old age. The crown is sparse and I fear that this tree has only several years left. I would love for the prized wood to be used as lumber rather than consumed as firewood or utilized as mulch.

I wanted to know if this particular black walnut tree has any timber value and how does an older lady like me go about finding out who is willing to purchase it?

 
Extension Message
From: Jay Hayek
Extension Specialist, Forestry
Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences
jhayek@illinois.edu
Wow, this is an EXTREMELY popular question, both within and outside the state of Illinois!

So, “Is my yard tree worth anything and how does one go about selling their yard tree(s)?” The first thing I always ask people is why do they want to remove and sell their yard tree. Is it because the tree is a liability or hazard? Is your tree declining in vigor or unsightly? Is it interfering with your house, deck, patio, driveway, grass, view, fence, neighbor, septic system, sewer, etc.? I am quick to remind people that most yard trees often add significant value to an individual property – especially to homes situated in urban neighborhoods. Therefore, please think twice before taking a chainsaw to your mature yard tree(s).

“So, is my black walnut yard tree worth anything?” Well, that is indeed the million-dollar question! The honest truth: it depends! In reality, here is what every homeowner needs to understand about his or her yard tree, regardless if it is a black walnut, oak, black cherry, hickory, or sugar maple:

First, no one is going to pay a homeowner to physically remove one of your yard trees! Hello people: the physical act of removing a yard tree is a “service” provided by a certified arborist. A service requires payment, i.e., you pay a certified arborist to remove your yard tree, not the other way around!

Secondly, certified arborists are in the business of tree removal and tree care – they are not loggers, nor are they in the business of buying yard trees from homeowners.

Similarly, loggers are in the timber business and they buy standing timber from woodland owners –- they are not certified arborists, nor are they in the business of buying or removing yard trees from homeowners.

Finally, can you market the merchantable sawlog portion of your yard tree after the certified arborist has taken it down? Possibly – if the main stem has value as a slab or sawlog for making conference tables, executive desks, flooring, or gunstocks. This task will require some significant effort on you part, as you will need to find and locate a willing buyer.

Some options: (1) Contact a custom portable sawmill operator; (2) Contact a local woodworker who specializes in high-end or niche markets; (3) Market the tree to a local woodworkers club; or (4) Place an advertisement in your local newspaper or Craigslist.

Illinois Custom Sawmill Directory: http://www.illinoisurbanwood.org/documents/ILCustomSawmillsDirectory2011.pdf

 
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