West Virginia, at the center of the Appalachian hardwoods region, is third in the nation in the percentage of land covered in forest. Large-scale logging began in the late 1800s and a century later had matured into a diversified industry. During one banner year, 1989, the West Virginia Division of Forestry reported the development of a new or expanded forest products facility each week of the year.
By the turn of the 21st century, West Virginia had attracted several of the new wood products plants being built by industry giants. Two of these, the Weyerhaeuser OSB (oriented strand board) plant at Heaters, Braxton County, and the Armstrong flooring plant at Beverly, near Elkins, are among the largest of their kind in the country. Columbia West Virginia, a subsidiary of Columbia Forest Products, uses all yellow poplar in producing hardwood plywood at the facility it built in Craigsville in 1992. A multi-million dollar expansion in 2011-2012 permitted the facility to attach face veneer to the hardwood plywood.
The new plants use low-grade lumber for flooring. They also use low-grade timber that is chipped and remanufactured into four-by-eight OSB panels or sliced into veneer strips that are remanufactured into defect-free lumber. These plants, annually using hundreds of millions of board feet of low-grade lumber, have made it profitable for the first time to practice sustainable forestry within the state, as foresters remove low-value trees and replace them with vigorous specimens of the same species. In the past, these low-grade and low-value trees did not generate enough revenue to pay their way out of the woods.
The Kingsford Charcoal Plant at Parsons was once the largest briquette charcoal plant in the world and is still a major producer. In addition, American Woodmark has about 300 employees producing kitchen cabinet doors and fronts at its facility in Moorefield. Appalachian Log Structures in Princeton manufactures log homes, which it merchandises globally. Wood flooring is manufactured by Columbia Flooring in Holden and Mulligan Flooring in Ronceverte, in addition to the Armstrong plant near Elkins.
In 2012 Northwest Hardwoods, Collins Hardwood, Allegheny Wood Products, Gilbert Lumber Company, Jim C. Hamer Company, and Inter-State Hardwoods headed the list of major companies that operate 65 sawmills producing both green and kiln-dried lumber. There were another seven companies producing pressure-treated lumber, nine producing rustic products such as rail fencing, 28 dry kiln facilities, and at least 85 producing consumer products such as furniture and millwork.
Last Revised on December 20, 2012
DiGiovanni, Dawn M. Forest Statistics for West Virginia: 1975 and 1989. Radnor, PA: U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, 1989.
West Virginia Division of Forestry. Forest Industry of West Virginia, Booklet. Charleston: 2001.
Cite This Article
Gillespie, William H. and Randy Dye "Wood Products Industry." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 December 2012. Web. 31 October 2014.