Commissioner Richardson tours Kennebec Lumber. Photo by Ramona du Houx

January/February 2008

Article by Ramona du Houx

Nestled away in the heart of Solon is one of the best-kept secrets of Somerset County. Kennebec Lumber, which started operations from the ground up in 2000, specializes in hardwood, green, and kiln-dried lumber. Seven years later their hardwood flooring and other lumber products are in demand around the world. Their Maine Traditions Flooring line exhibits what their special treatments to logs can achieve.

“We’re proud to be able to announce that we are expanding,” said company co-owner Denis Carrier. “This expansion will allow us to continue to compete in the global marketplace and meet today’s challenges.”

A new building will be built, state-of–the-art machinery purchased and 10-15 new jobs that average $17 per hour will be created.

Last November Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development John Richardson certified Kennebec Lumber for Pine Tree Zone (PTZ) benefits, which gives the company tax incentives and has helped make the expansion possible.

“The DECD is pleased that PTZ is able to offer continued support to the manufacturing industry. Kennebec Lumber’s expansion will provide excellent new jobs to Somerset County,” said Commissioner Richardson. “With more companies conducting business in the global economy, the PTZ program is an invaluable tool to help Maine companies grow their businesses at home and around the world.”

Kennebec Lumber prides themselves on their quality products. “Quality comes first. If the wood doesn’t dry right, we can’t use it,” said Carrier. “Our kilns are the newest, most advanced products from Europe, providing a superior kiln-dried product with total processing control. Employee dedication and constant operational improvements allow us to deliver quality lumber to our world-class customers and ensure we’ll be here for generations to come.”

The excellent workforce is aided by state-of-the-art equipment. With computerized controls that analyze the wood by scanning, every section of a log is utilized. After the computer takes all the specifications of the log, bin sorters separate the logs for precise color, length, and width. “This ensures our customers get consistent quality and yields,” said Carrier. “We don’t waste any good material, which helps maximize our profits.”

When lumber dries it shrinks and sometimes cracks. Kennebec Lumber takes preventive measures, so their green logs dry in climate-controlled warehouses that are continually monitored.

The company’s kiln drying has been enhanced by a revolutionary European production process called “thermo treating.”

“We begin with regular kiln-dried lumber and place it into a specially built “torrification” kiln. The process gives the lumber a deep, rich, brown color, suitable as a replacement for walnut, mahogany, and other exotics at a much more competitive price. And more importantly, it alters the wood to make it extremely stable, moisture resistant, and decay resistant. These attributes are very appealing to window, exterior door and cabinet manufacturers, boat builders, and makers of hardwood floors designed to be installed over radiant heat and concrete subfloors. Our Maine Traditions Flooring line has successfully delivered this product throughout the industry,” said Carrier.

The process takes what some consider average trees and, by bringing out their best qualities, turns them into works of art. Over 50 percent of their products are Maine hard maple.

“Thermo treating has enhanced our products by giving us the ability to take a native Maine species and allow it to compete with more expensive and less sustainable South American products,” said Carrier.

While many lumber companies are shipping logs overseas without treating them, Kennebec Lumber is adding value to a Maine resource. By taking fresh-cut trees and turning them into logs ready for woodworkers, they have created a niche in the world’s marketplace for their quality products.