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Boise Cascade Co (NYSE:BCC)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 23, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning. My name is Celine, and I will be your conference facilitator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to Boise Cascade Fourth Quarter 2020 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Before we begin, I remind you that this call may contain forward-looking statements about the company's future business prospects and anticipated financial performance. These statements are not guarantees of future performance, and the company undertakes no duty to update them.

Although these statements reflect management's expectations today, they are not subject to a number of business risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in this call. For a discussion of the factors that may cause actual results to differ from the results anticipated, please refer to Boise Cascade's recent filings with the SEC.

It is now my pleasure to introduce you to Wayne Rancourt, Executive Vice President, CFO and Treasurer, Boise Cascade. Mr. Rancourt, you may now begin your conference.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, Celine. Good morning, everyone. I'd like to welcome you to Boise Cascade's Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Call and Business update. Joining me on today's call are Nate Jorgensen, our CEO; Mike Brown, Head of our Wood Products operations; Nick Stokes, Head of our Building Materials Distribution operations; and Jeff Strom, the incoming Head of our Building Materials Distribution operations. Nick has announced his retirement for March of this year. Turning to slide two. I would point out the information regarding our forward-looking statements. The appendix of the presentation includes reconciliations from our GAAP net income to EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA and segment income to segment EBITDA.

And with that, I will turn the call over to Nate.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Wayne. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us on our earnings call today. I'm on slide number three. Our fourth quarter sales of $1.5 billion were up 34% from the fourth quarter of 2019. Our net income was $26 million or $0.66 per share compared to net income of $14.6 million or $0.37 per share in the year ago quarter. Fourth quarter 2020 results include noncash pension settlement charge of $6.2 million or $0.12 a share after-tax related to the elimination of our qualified defined benefit pension plan. Fourth quarter 2020 results also include a $38.8 million income tax expense or $0.98 per share related to the release of stranded tax effects upon elimination of our qualified defined pension -- benefit pension plan. In fourth quarter 2020, total U.S. housing starts increased 12% compared to the same period last year. Single-family housing starts, the primary driver of our sales volumes increased 30%.

Given the extraordinary market conditions caused by an ongoing imbalance between industry supply and then product demand for wood-based commodities, both businesses delivered higher-than-expected operating and financial results during the period. Our Wood Products manufacturing business reported segment income of $40.8 million in the fourth quarter compared to $8.1 million in the year ago quarter. Wood Products continued its focus on establishing pre-COVID-19 manufacturing production levels in response to strong end product demand, particularly for our EWP business during the fourth quarter. Our Building Materials Distribution business reported segment income of $67.1 million on sales of $1.3 billion for the fourth quarter compared to $26.3 million of segment income on sales of $1 billion in the comparative prior year quarter. BMD sales and income were strong, and our long-term strategy and commitment to consistently carry a broad-based of in stock products, supported by high service levels that a solid financial position continues to deliver value to our vendor and customer partners in the supply chain as well as our shareholders.

Wayne will walk through the financial results in more detail, and then I'll come back and provide our outlook before we take your questions. Wayne?

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, Nate. I'm on slide four. Wood Products sales in the fourth quarter, including sales to our distribution segment, were $358.7 million compared to $296.3 million in fourth quarter 2019. As Nate mentioned, Wood Products reported segment income of $40.8 million in the fourth quarter compared to $8.1 million in the prior year quarter. Reported EBITDA for the business was $54.5 million, up from EBITDA of $22.7 million reported in the year ago quarter. The increase in segment income was due primarily to higher plywood and lumber sales prices as well as higher I-joists sales volumes. These improvements were offset partially by higher wood fiber costs as well as lower net sales prices of EWP.

BMD sales in the quarter were $1.3 billion, up 35% from fourth quarter 2019. Sales prices and sales volumes increased 26% and 9%, respectively. The business reported segment income of $67.1 million or EBITDA of $72.9 million in the fourth quarter. This compares to segment income of $26.3 million and the EBITDA of $31.6 million in the prior year quarter. The increase in segment income was driven by a gross margin increase of $45.4 million, resulting primarily from improved gross margins on commodity products as well as higher sales of general line products and EWP compared with fourth quarter 2019. This margin improvement was offset partially by increased selling and distribution expenses of $4.1 million. The amounts for unallocated corporate costs and other items impacting our reported adjusted EBITDA can be found in the tables of our earnings release.

The net of those items was negative $14.3 million in fourth quarter 2020 compared with $9 million in fourth quarter 2019. The increase was due to a noncash pension settlement charge of $6.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 related to the elimination of our pension plan. Turning to slide five. Our fourth quarter sales volumes for I-joists were up 27%, while sales volumes for our LVL were down 2% compared with fourth quarter 2019. Demand for EWP continues to be strong as we move into 2021, fueled by increased housing starts and a higher proportion of single-family starts. Pricing in the fourth quarter for I-joists and LVL were down 2% and 1%, respectively, compared with third quarter 2020 due to temporary price protection arrangements. Wood Products announced multiple list price increases for both LVL and I-joists late in 2020. We expect to see the benefit of the list price increases phase in over the next several quarters. Turning to slide six.

Our fourth quarter plywood sales volume in Wood Products was 305 million feet compared to 315 million feet in fourth quarter 2019. The lower volume for plywood sales reflects our continued work to optimize veneer into EWP production as well as periodic short-term disruptions related to COVID-19. The $407 average plywood net sales price in fourth quarter was up 62% from fourth quarter 2019. Plywood pricing in October and November 2020 fell sharply due to improvements in industry plywood production effectiveness, increased imports and shorter lead times for orders, particularly in the Southern U.S. However, plywood pricing rebounded in December 2020 and has continued to increase and remain at elevated levels in early 2021. Moving to slide seven. BMD's fourth quarter sales were $1.3 billion, up 35% from fourth quarter 2019, with prices up 26% and volumes up 9%. By product area, BMD's commodity sales increased 62%, general line product sales increased 16%, and EWP sales increased 15%.

Gross margin dollars generated improved by $45.4 million in the fourth quarter compared with the same quarter last year. The gross margin percentage for BMD was 13%, consistent with fourth quarter 2019. Fourth quarter 2020 gross margins decreased from third quarter 2020 due to the sharp decline in commodity wood products prices during the first two months of the quarter. BMD's EBITDA margin was 5.5% for the quarter, up from the 3.2% reported in the year ago quarter, primarily due to deleveraging of selling and distribution costs. slide eight shows the sharp rise in lumber pricing in the second and third quarters of 2020. In fourth quarter 2020, lumber pricing fell sharply during October and November before a strong pricing rebound in December.

Strong demand when coupled with capacity constraints created supply demand imbalances in the marketplace and historically high pricing levels for commodity, lumber and panel products. Pricing movements from the current levels in 2021 will likely be determined by the strength of end market consumption and industry operating rates. On slide nine, one can see the same pricing pattern for the random lengths composite panel index, which decreased during the first two months of the fourth quarter as many manufacturers work toward restoring their production to near pre-COVID levels. Imports increased and customer orders were able to be filled in shorter time frames. However, panel pricing rebounded in December 2020 with mild winter weather, better-than-expected demand and continued industry operating challenges. Pricing has continued to increase and remain at elevated levels in early 2021.

On slide 10, we have set out the key elements of our working capital. Company net working capital, excluding cash, income tax items, accrued interest and dividends payable increased $79.9 million during the fourth quarter. Accounts payable and accounts receivable decreased with the seasonal deceleration of sales and purchases. Inventories increased due to strong end product demand and a slight improvement in the supply chain. Consistent with our historic patterns, we expect working capital increases to use cash in the first quarter of 2021. The statistical information filed as Exhibit 99.2 to our 8-K has the receivables, inventory and accounts payable data broken down by segment for those that are interested in the detail. I'm now on slide 11. We finished fourth quarter with $405 million of cash. Our total available liquidity at December 31 was approximately $751 million, which reflects our cash and availability under our committed bank line.

We had $444 million of outstanding debt at December 31, 2020. In December 2020, we eliminated our qualified defined benefit pension plan through lump-sum payments to participants in transferring the remaining liabilities to prudential insurance. We recorded a noncash settlement charge of $6.2 million in conjunction with the transactions. In addition, our balance sheet included the stranded tax effects of our underfunded pension at the time of our conversion from a limited liability company to a corporation in 2013 and the adoption of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. The stranded tax effects of $38.8 million were required to be released into income tax expense during fourth quarter 2020 with the pension plan elimination. Our effective book tax rate is expected to be between approximately 25% and 28% going forward.

We expect capital expenditures in 2021 to total approximately $80 million to $90 million. This level of capital expenditures could increase or decrease as a result of a number of factors, including acquisitions, efforts to accelerate organic growth, exercise lease purchase options, our financial results, future economic conditions and timing of equipment purchases. I'm pleased to note that we returned $79 million in regular and supplemental dividends to shareholders in 2020. We remain well positioned with sufficient cash in reserve to support our internal growth initiatives, anticipated working capital uses as well as opportunistic acquisitions as we move into 2021. Our objective remains to successfully grow our business while generating appropriate returns on shareholder capital.

Nate, I will turn it back over to you to discuss our business outlook.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Wayne. I'm on slide number 12. While there continues to be a heightened level of economic uncertainty given the pandemic, low mortgage rates, continuation of work from home practices by many in the economy and demographics in the U.S. have created a favorable demand environment for new residential construction, which we expect to continue in 2021. Furthermore, with many homeowners spending more time at home, repair-and-remodel spending may remain elevated as homeowners invest in existing homes. The February Blue Chip consensus for U.S. housing starts is $1.51 million for 2021. Although we believe the current U.S. demographics support the higher level of forecasted housing starts and many national homebuilders are reporting strong near-term backlogs, the impacts of COVID-19 on residential construction and repair-and-remodeling activity are uncertain.

Aside from higher OSB input costs in I-joist, we continue to see favorable cost improvements and efficiencies in our manufacturing operations. Wood Products continues to make an effort to restore production rates to pre-COVID-19 levels in response to strong end product demand, particularly for our EWP business. There is continued focus on innovation to reduce our costs as well as establishing products and services to address market opportunities in the commercial use of mass timber. As previously announced, we have reduced production at our Elgin, Oregon plywood facility as we continue to work with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to resolve items associated with the management of our wastewater permit levels.

With the recent winter weather over the last week, we have experienced production losses in our southern manufacturing operations as well as distribution center disruptions. We expect that to be short-term and have experienced no significant facility damage. In the distribution arena, BMD has done a terrific job of executing and responding to market opportunities, both at the local and national level, effectively managing the impacts of commodity price challenges will remain in the forefront of our distribution group in 2021. Strong demand when coupled with capacity constraints has created supply and demand imbalances in the marketplace and has resulted in higher than normal pricing levels for commodity lumber and panel products. As a wholesale distributor, a broad mix of commodity products and a manufacture of certain commodity products, our sales and profitability are influenced by changes in commodity product prices.

With uncertainties in demand and difficulties in judging the appropriate operating rates, commodity wood products pricing could be volatile in the months ahead. We will react appropriately. As we wrap up our formal comments, I'm going to express my appreciation for the focus, our associates and managers have maintained on safety, taking care of one another and the communities in which we operate as well as our customers and other key relationships. Their performance to the pandemic as well as last year's hurricanes in Louisiana, the wildfires in the West has simply been inspiring. We will continue to be guided by our values of safety, integrity, respect and pursuit of excellence. We will successfully get to the other side of this pandemic by centering on the health and safety of our associates and making sure we use our operating and financial strength for the benefit of our customers, suppliers, communities and shareholders.

Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Nick, on 42 years of outstanding service and dedication to Boise Cascade. The impact Nick has made on BMD and the company is clear. The BMD culture reflects his passion, commitment and drive for excellence. His energy, experience and relevance, along with his wit and many unique expressions will certainly be missed in Boise Cascade. Nick has set a very high standard for our organization. I have full confidence in Jeff, building on the success and momentum in BMD. We move forward with great clarity on what has made BMD successful and what we'll maintain that -- and we will maintain that disciplined-focused approach as we move forward as a team. Nick, all the best to you and Carol as you move into your well-deserved retirement.

At this time, we welcome any questions. Operator, would you please open the phone lines.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have our first question coming from the line of George Staphos with Bank of America. Your line is open.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thanks everyone. Good morning. Nick, congratulations to you. Thanks for everything. And Jeff, we look forward to working with you as well. Congratulations on the performance this year as well, guys. two questions, and I'll turn it over, one short term, one longer term. Can you give us a bit of color in terms of -- I mean, it's not significant, but there was a bit more decline in pricing in I-joist in the fourth quarter versus what we're seeing in the prior quarters and also versus LVL.

What was causing it? Was that just a mix issue or something else? And then on the balance sheet, using -- looking at the balance sheet and considering where you might apply capital over time, you enumerated all the normal targets. Can you talk to us about how you see acquisitions evolving for Boise over time? Would you be interested in perhaps being opportunistic in wood products? Are there something attractive and attractively priced? Or is it really going to be more about growing BMD out? Thank you.

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

George, it's Mike. How are you doing?

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Good morning to you too.

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

So, the whole issue around the price declines that you referred to. I think Wayne may have made some commentary actually last quarter around this. But last year was sort of a year of a couple of different stories. Earlier in the year when we thought demand was falling off dramatically, we went out into the marketplace to sort of shore up the situation. And as a result of doing that, we were -- we put in place some programs to ensure the demand would be there later in the year. As it turned out, the world sort of changed on us somewhat. And of course, the demand later in the third and fourth quarter particularly took off. As it relates to the differential decline, we have some price protection plans in place that allow the dealers to forecast to the builders, what the expected next quarter's pricing will be for the products.

And as a result of that, we mix those two things together, you end up with a situation where, at the end of the year, our pricing was down relative to what most people had originally anticipated it should be. We expect to see, obviously, going forward, some modest increase in the coming quarters as the price protection falls off and the price increases start to take effect. There wasn't anything particularly significant that made the I-joist number a little bit different to the LVL number. It's just the combination of, obviously, I-joist demand was up quite significantly relative to the prior quarters and also relative to LVL.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

To sum together, I guess, it was a high quality problem, right? The more volume you had, you exacerbated the price.

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. That's it.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Understood. Should we -- just if I can interject quickly, should we expect some year-on-year improvement starting in the first quarter. I don't know if you want to get that fine with the guidance, but just qualitatively, what would you expect?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

I think we'll see some modest improvement in each of the quarters as we go through the year. I wouldn't expect it to all come at once because it never does with our price protection programs. And I think Wayne probably has a fairly clear set of commentary he might like to add on how he sees the price protection rolling off and the impact it might have on EWP product lines.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Well, if you look at a 2% sequential increase in pricing from fourth Q to first Q. George, it would still leave us slightly below the Q1 2020 number. So it will probably be somewhere close to flat, but I wouldn't expect big improvements relative to Q1 of 2020.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Understood.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

And then, George, maybe...

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Yes, go ahead.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Sorry, George, it's Nate. Yes, just to your question on acquisitions over time and how we're thinking about that. I think we're committed to growth, really in both businesses. I think for starting with BMD continue to look at expansion of our footprint within our current locations, in terms of products and services, some geographic opportunities as well as continue to grow our millwork, specifically our door segment. And we've announced a couple of those -- our Houston, it was our most recent. So that will continue to be an important part of our path forward relative to BMD. And I think for Wood Products, we'll continue to focus on innovation in terms of the work that we're doing in our facilities.

But the opportunity that I mentioned around mass timber, we think that, that's an important opportunity for our company and our industry, and we would see investments in that area moving forward as an organization. So, I guess I would just kind of summarize it, as we described in the past, we'll continue to evaluate opportunities for the best use of capital in support of our strategy, but growth remains an important one as we move forward.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

If I could just ask one last thing there, and I'm double-dipping here. Would you, therefore, not that you're ever going to roll out anything, but would that tend to deemphasize growing via acquisition in Wood in areas that you're already in. Since it seems like you're trying to, as you mentioned, leverage innovation and mass timber being one example of that. Or is that too fine a point and can't rule out anything?

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. I think, George, probably a little too fine a point. I mean, I don't think we'll rule out anything. Obviously, our commitment is to continue to supply our customers a range of framing materials product services that they expect from Boise Cascade. So, I wouldn't probably get it too fine a point on that. But in terms of some of the things that we're kind of leaning into specific to Wood Products, it would be -- certainly, mass timber and that opportunity is something that we think is going to be important moving forward.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Thank you very much Nate. I'll turn it over.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks George.

Operator

We have our next question coming from the line of Mark Wilde with Bank of Montreal. Your line is open.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Good morning guys. I'm looking at your stock price, thinking no good deed goes unpunished. Anyway, I guess to start on, I'm just curious with these prices for both panels and lumber up in nosebleed territory, are you seeing any signs of either material substitution or conservation by builders in response to the higher prices? I know going back 15 years ago, there was a lot of talk about steel studs. I don't know whether in kind of light commercial, people will toggle back and forth between kind of metal and wood, whether you're actually seeing builders pull back activity at all?

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Mark, it's Nate. In terms of substitution, we haven't really seen anything material in terms of product substitution. I think most products and services kind of tether to housing, specifically single-family is really tensioned up. So in terms of excess capacity anywhere, we just really aren't seeing it across, again, many of the different items that we cover and carry. In terms of people pulling back, maybe some early signals where someone has project flexibility in terms of timing. I think given, to your point, the significant costs that we're seeing on commodities, I think there's perhaps a little bit of hesitation building in the marketplace, not unlike what we saw maybe in the fourth quarter of last year.

But overall, the momentum feels very strong as we stand today. Obviously, we had a bit of a weather disruption last week across several of our markets, but they seem to be returning to normalcy in a very quick order. So, no material substitution that we're seeing and maybe some signs early on maybe a few select projects that people are a little bit hesitant at some of these higher prices. And if they can push a project, they're perhaps looking to do that.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay. And, Nate, is it also possible to talk about through your distribution, what you're seeing in the way of kind of increased imports of lumber and panels. I mean there have been some articles about both in the trade press recently?

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Nick, do you want to walk out that question through?

Nick Stokes -- Executive Vice President of Building Materials Distribution

Good morning Mark. I'll let Nate -- or I'm sorry, I'll let Mike chime in on plywood. I think he's closer to that in terms of some of those dynamics. From the distribution standpoint, on the commodity wood side, the Europeans have always had a bit of a presence. And this is anecdotal at best, but it seems like there's more wood available just given the pricing opportunities that some of those offshore guys might have.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Yes. Maybe. Maybe, Mark, on Brazil, the last numbers I have are from January, and they brought in just under 67,000 cubic meters in January. And if you go back to summer of 2020, at the high point, they exported 148,000 to the U.S. and the January number is actually below December. And that's fairly typical early in the year, they'll direct to Europe a lot of the volume before the tariffs go on. And then we typically see a shift back to the U.S. market in the April, May time frame.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay. All right. That's helpful. And then -- yes, Mike, in the panel market?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. So here's a couple of pieces of anecdotal information. I was told yesterday by somebody that the United Kingdom is sort of hanging out a carrot to the European lumber businesses. And it sort of went like this. Whatever the United States will pay you to send it there will pay you $100 more to send it to the U.K. So, that sort of gives you some flavor of the type of market that we're experiencing. So -- and obviously, Wood Products, Boise Cascade Wood Products are not in the lumber importing business, but that sort of gives you some flavor of the challenges that are presenting themselves on the lumber side of things. To Wayne's good points about Brazil, the volume from Brazil last year was up like 28% year-over-year.

So, quite a significant amount, about 215,000 cubic meters more plywood. And yes, this year has started off at a good lick. So the 67,000 cubes that Wayne spoke of, that's twice as much as was imported in January of 2020. So, it's not that the Brazilian are not sending a lot of plywood because they are. And it's still not enough. And to your point, we have prices that are in sort of the nosebleed territory. So it will be interesting to see whether the volume continues to climb as it did last year. I can't see any good reason why it wouldn't.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay. And then, Wayne, just a couple of quick ones for you. Can you just remind us of sort of where you would want to kind of target leverage? I mean, you're virtually net debt-free at the end of the fourth quarter, you did mention working capital as use of cash in the first quarter. But just help us think a little bit about that kind of going forward. And then also just to maybe remind people a little bit of what you do to kind of manage downside risk from commodity prices at these levels?

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Yes. So on the cash position, normally, pre-pandemic, we would have said gross debt-to-EBITDA somewhere around 2.5 and enough cash to take the net leverage into the high 1s, close to two. And we've been maintaining higher cash balances for really sweep insurance given the uncertainties around COVID and some of the growth initiatives that Nate referred to.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay. And then just to kind of commodity -- just managing the commodity risk.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Yes. I think the thing that we would typically do is shorten up our orders in BMD and try to be very tightly matched in terms of what we're buying and what we're selling. And this is directional as opposed to absolute. But if we -- and a normal commodity environment might have three to four weeks' worth of wood. If we feel like it's getting toppy. We may shorten out to two to three weeks, but it's really focused around trading every day and making sure we're never out of volume because we use that volume in commodities to really be efficient on the logistics side, which is why we keep somewhere around 43-ish percent of our sales in the commodity wood products as we think it gives us a real advantage on filling trucks and service levels to customers.

So we view it as in stock available all the time and don't really try to play the cycles. We may shorten up a little bit, but it's not with strong views on positioning relative to commodity pricing. And frankly, our teams did a phenomenal job in October, November, which is part of why the fourth quarter results were as strong as they were. I realize we had a pricing recovery in December. But they stayed out of the way on a lot of the damage that would normally occur on a sharp sell-off. So hopefully, we'll be able to do the same thing in 2021.

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Okay guys. That's really helpful. Thanks guys. I'll take it over.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thanks Mark.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Reuben Garner with The Benchmark. Your line is open.

Reuben Garner -- The Benchmark -- Analyst

Good morning everybody. Maybe starting on the BMD side. If I'm looking at it the right way, the second and fourth quarters, the pricing environment was kind of I guess, neutral to some extent, maybe correct me if I'm wrong, but your EBITDA margins in those quarters were kind of in the 4.5% to 5.5% range. Is that kind of a new level in the BMD business? Or were there other benefits? Or maybe I'm thinking about the commodity part wrong and you had some benefits on the commodity front. Just talk to us about -- those are, I think, well above where your previous targets were from an EBITDA margin standpoint for the BMD division?

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Yes. Reuben, this is Wayne. And I'll -- Nick can comment after me if he wants to add anything. I would tell you, normally, we would think of somewhere around 3.5% as an EBITDA margin in BMD that may creep up as we continue to grow the general line and some of the things we're doing in the door business that carries more investment. But usually, we're in the mid- to high 11s on gross margin, assuming commodities are somewhere at a normal price level, and it's representing 43% to 44% of sales.

And then the opex would be somewhere in the 8s to get you to the kind of that 3.5% number. And obviously, we're trying to move that number up. But I don't think we're creeping to a 5% EBITDA margin as a normal state of affairs. That is really reflective of the additional leverage we got on expenses. Because of the exceptional margins we had on commodity products in the last 12 months.

Reuben Garner -- The Benchmark -- Analyst

Okay. Great. And then do you guys use consignment much in the BMD division when prices are elevated like this? Is there any protection to your gross margins, assuming that there is some rollover in -- or volatility in the commodity prices in the coming 12 to 24 months?

Nick Stokes -- Executive Vice President of Building Materials Distribution

Reuben, this is Nick. We have selected programs with selected suppliers with selected products. It's not a large chunk of what we do. But certainly, if we get in an environment where we anticipate pretty severe pricing decline in the commodity arena. We'll engage in conversations with suppliers to mitigate the risk associated with that, and that can take many forms, but it's not a big part of what we do, no.

Reuben Garner -- The Benchmark -- Analyst

Okay. And then last one, I'll sneak in. So, can you talk about the capacity utilization in EWP for the industry? I guess the impetus of the question is, I'm a little surprised that maybe there isn't more pricing power in this market given the strength that we're seeing across the housing industry and the kind of growth rates you just saw in the fourth quarter and given how tight, really everything in building products as pricing seems to be up in just about every category on a year-over-year basis. Is it likely that we're going to see more price increases as we move through 2021 in EWP? Or is there something else going on that would limit it.

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. Ruben, it's Mike. I guess I'll try to answer this by component. So, I think, generally speaking, the industry is trying to produce as much EWP as it possibly can. I can certainly state that as a fact for Boise Cascade. And of course, there have been many impacting variables in the last, let's say, six to nine months, of course COVID being one of them. And then other natural disasters, wildfires in the West and hurricanes in the South and to some degree, some downtime at some producers due to other issues. But as time goes on, I think the industry has some incremental, but not a huge amount of incremental supply that they can bring online. As it relates to the pricing power question, this industry, in general, tends to have a more long-term focus.

It's not really a commodity pricing model that's used in EWP. So, as a result of that, the variations in price are up or down, just don't tend to follow the usual commodity, be it lumber or plywood variations. So, will prices go up in the future? Your guess is probably as good as mine. If demand remains as strong as it has been, and supply is sort of where it's at today. I guess the lower of economics would suggest that there is some opportunity for some incremental price increase in the future. But there are many, many contractual-related issues that would have to be worked through with most of the EWP manufacturers. It's just not as easy as walking out and implementing a price increase tomorrow, and setting it to fall straight to the bottom line. It's really just nothing like the commodity side of the business.

Reuben Garner -- The Benchmark -- Analyst

Thank you. I appreciate your answers. Good luck for the rest of the year.

Operator

We have our next question coming from the line of Kurt Yinger with D.A. Davidson. Your line is open.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

I just wanted to start off on BMD gross margins. And just given the persistent inflationary trend here in Q1, I mean do you think gross margins there could kind of approximate the high watermark set in the third quarter of '20? Or are there any big offsetting factors we should be aware of?

Nick Stokes -- Executive Vice President of Building Materials Distribution

Kurt, this is Nick. So, in the third quarter, I'll take them in reverse order there. The third quarter saw, as you can see from the charts in the packet this morning, pretty spectacular increases in composite pricing, both on the panel and the lumber side. Having the expectation that dynamic from here going forward, we don't think we'll get 40%, 50% price volatility increases from where we're sitting today. As we've talked before, our gross margin is a function of the trajectory of price on commodities. Even more than the absolute level of price and the mix between general line and EWP and commodities. And I think Wayne historical guidance is probably appropriate and normalized and what he talked about a few minutes ago. But I don't think you're going to get 40%, 50% price increases from where we're sitting today.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Okay. All right. And just on the LVL volumes in the quarter being down year-over-year. Was your ability to produce the near or I guess, source of a near from a third party, a real constraint in that kind of relative to the growth that you saw in I-joists.

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes, Kurt. It's Mike. I think it kind of went like this, Boise Cascade Wood Products is not 100% self-sufficient in its veneer supply for EWP, but we have a very, very high self-sufficiency level. We do buy a little bit on the outside. And I can tell you that whether it was in the Southeast or the Pacific Northwest, there was no more veneer to be bought because we looked everywhere. If we could, we would have bought some more, I'm sure that is true. So -- and there was, in one particular case, I'm thinking of in the southeast. A third-party veneer supplier that supplies to us as well as a number of other EWP manufacturers had a significant buyer, which reduced their capacity by about 1/3 so that certainly impacted production a little bit.

But it was more than anything else, as you've noted, I think, in the data that there was a very strong push for us to produce more I-joists. So we're a very significant producer of I-joists. And our customer base was searching for I-joist for, I think, pretty obvious reasons. Obviously, a very good product available and the ease of installation and the pricing for I-joist, depending on where and what series and what you have started to, it's still pretty much quite similar to the cost of two times10s. And so all those things led to us shifting our production to where our customers asked us to put it, which was primarily in I-joists.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

The other thing I may add in to Mike's comment is, as a reminder, we have one small I-joist facility that uses a solid-sawn flange up in New Brunswick Canada. But the vast majority of our I-joists are made with an LVL flange. So by increasing our I-joist production and shipments, we would typically use about 1/3 of our LVL capacity for I-Joist plans. So there was actually a fair amount of LVL that went out the door. It just went out the door in the form of an I-joists flange.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. And realizing that the long-term goal is to prioritize veneer production into EWP. I mean just given the plywood pricing environment at present, does that shift the priorities in the near-term at all? Or is maintaining those relationships on the EWP front and making sure you have enough volume there, really the most important factor in your view?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. No. We are focused on the EWP business. As I've explained to a number of our customers over the last month or so, we are not putting stress-rated veneer that we need to put into EWP into plywood. We could make more money making plywood, given the extraordinary prices that are being realized today. But we don't do that because we -- the EWP business is one we built over a very long time, and it's a value-added business, and we are going to put every last piece of stress-rated veneer where we can into an EWP product.

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Okay. Makes sense. And just lastly, sticking with EWP. Could you remind us how you would typically think about incremental margins there? And obviously, with some inflationary pressures do you expect your pricing initiatives can kind of fully offset those items here in 2021 or even be incremental on that margin front?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Well, I guess I'd answer it late this, Kurt. Wayne spoke to our solid-sawn flange I-joists facility in Canada, I think it would be unlikely that we could cover the increase in flange costs in Canada. The cost of the wood, the lumber that we use there has obviously gone through the roof, it's about twice what it used to be. As it relates to the non-Canadian production because we're highly self-sufficient, it's not -- we do have some impact from things like OSB web stock. And as I mentioned earlier, I think when I was responding to a question maybe from Reuben. It will really depend on what's happening in the market in terms of demand and supply as to whether we can find a point in time to realize any increase in price. I wouldn't like to make any comment about whether that would be more or less relative to the change in our input costs.

Operator

We have our next question coming from the line of Paul Quinn with RBC Capital. Your line is open.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Result's pretty good. I'm pretty surprised by the market reaction, but I had a couple of higher level questions for you. Just on the mass timber side, how do you see that growth going forward? And how would you like to participate in that growth?

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

So Paul, this is Wayne. I think one of the key things for us is to try to repurpose veneer into higher and better uses. So mass timber panels, columns, etc, out of veneer will be, we hope, an important part of the mix, and we're doing a lot of work on product innovation and qualification with APA. The other thing is looking at the mass timber market, to the products that seem to be getting a large amount of traction on our GLULAM beams. We have a small plant today in Homedale, Idaho, and there may be opportunities for continued growth in GLULAM.

And then the other product that seems to be getting pretty good traction in the market is cross-laminated timber, which is a lumber-based product and so those would be other potential areas where we could either grow organically or potentially through acquisition. But again, I think we're going to see a suite of products and services. Probably not dissimilar to what we've done on EWP for single-family residential construction. There's a pretty good market opportunity, but it may require products beyond what we currently do that are veneer based.

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Okay. That's helpful. And then if you could assess your overall impact at COVID on wood production in 2020? Was that a material hit?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

If you look at the numbers, Paul, if you look at the amount of LVL or I-joist or for that matter, plywood sales volumes year-over-year, they're not dramatically different, to be honest. Okay. So did COVID or is COVID having an impact? It is. I think that the impact is kind of summarized sort of like this, one of our senior manufacturing managers states that has been -- we have like 80% of the people working 120% of their normal hours to make up the difference. It's not quite that bad now.

Things have improved. But certainly, in the latter part of last year, after the holidays around Thanksgiving, Christmas and what have you, we had a tremendous shortage of people, which has improved coming into the first part of this year. And so today, we're not at full staffing or full production. But we're certainly in a much better position than we were, let's say, in the latter part of last year. And I'm hopeful that as we move through this year with the vaccines and the warmer weather and what have you, we'll see a little bit more relief and things will get somewhat back to what you might call normal.

Operator

We have a follow-up question coming from the line of George Staphos with Bank of America. Your line is open.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

I had a couple here. So I know there's no single answer or number for this question. But if you were running normally and you had normal staffing to the earlier questions, what do you think you could perhaps crank out additionally relative to where you are right now, both on plywood, recognizing you're not really trying to push volume through plywood and on EWP?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. Okay, George. So the -- maybe I'll answer this in two parts. So we would produce some more veneer internally. Clearly, if we had full staffing then we produce a little bit more of veneer. And by a little bit, round number is maybe 5% or so, maybe a bit more than that. But the issue becomes for the EWP side of the business, full staffing and available machine center time is there. I think part of what the industry, in general, is experiencing is that not all veneer is capable of being put into engineered wood products.

And so that particular type of veneer that we call stress-rated veneer is sort of is particularly at the moment at a premium. And I think part of it could be, I don't know, this 100% for sure. That with the very high plywood prices, some third-party veneer/plywood producers can make more money putting veneer into plywood relative to selling the stress-rated veneer to an EWP producer. So we really -- and I think this is true based on commentary I've heard elsewhere. The industry is looking for more stress-rated veneer to increase EWP production. Does that help?

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

It does. And I recognize there are a lot of constraints in terms of the operating model and what it means to answering that question. Mike, I wanted to go back, and you probably answered this a couple of times, and I just don't recall, but at one point in time, during the IPO, I remember Boise saying that it really wanted to be more than self-sufficient on veneer. Correct me if I'm wrong in that recollection, but I remember you saying that, not you, but the company's view being that there would be shortages of veneer at some point. And you want to be in a position to capitalize on that, both in terms of your products and on capacity. If that is a correct assessment has that view changed at all? And if it's incorrect? And remind me that we were incorrect in a recollection here, but how is that view on veneer evolved over the last seven, eight years?

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Yes. No, I think it's a pretty good question, George. So for the last decade or thereabouts, we have been making strategic investments to increase the total amount of veneer we produce and the amount that can be put into engineered wood products. So we spent many tens of millions of dollars, mostly, but not exclusively in the southeastern United States, either installing new dryers, veneer dryers or replacing old dryers with more efficient new dryers. So we can produce more veneer than historically, we're able to. At the same time, we made acquisitions. For example, the be EWP facility has its own veneer production capacity, so it's essentially self-sufficient.

And we made acquisitions at places like Chester to bring on more veneer into the system. So over the last decade or so, we've actually increased our footprint, driving directly toward the stated objective that you mentioned, which I'm guessing either Tom Corrick or Tom Carlile mentioned at the time. So we are certainly on that particular event. There have been some other changes, of course, over that period of time. We used to have an operation approximately 10 years ago in Brazil, which we don't have any longer. And we were bringing veneer from Brazil. And we used to buy considerable amount of veneer on the outside, and we don't buy as much these days because veneer suppliers have diversified and selling to a variety of different manufacturers, EWP manufacturers. I think we can produce, as I've already said, a little bit more veneer.

We have some more dryer work, but only a little bit more that we can do. And that's going to be sort of, I think, the linchpin, as I mentioned earlier, when I was answering, I think, Paul's question as to how much more total EWP can be produced. To Wayne's, I might finish off by touching on what Wayne spoke about with mass timber. There are some other avenues that we're looking at to try and find ways and means of putting veneer today that's not going into EWP into a type of I call it engineered wood product panel. And that may give us some flexibility to hopefully supply some more volume down the road a little bit.

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

My last question, my guess is there's not that much, if any, effect from this. But Mark's question earlier kind of triggered the question from my vantage point. There's been a lot of capacity added by the Latin American companies, both locally in near markets, but also in North America in nonstructural wood panel, so particle board, medium density fiberboard, does that have any effect at all in any of your markets? I wouldn't expect, again, that would be a big deal, but figured I would ask the question. And good luck in the quarter.

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

George, it's Nate. Yes, just in terms of that MBF or that capacity, it really doesn't have any effect on us, either in the Wood Products or BMD side. So while, to your point, that has been a growing theme really doesn't have any connection to Boise Cascade in either division.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back over to Wayne Rancourt.

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thank you, everyone, for joining us this morning, and we look forward to catching up with you after our first quarter. Have a great week.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 57 minutes

Call participants:

Wayne Rancourt -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Nate Jorgensen -- Chief Executive Officer

Mike Brown -- Executive Vice President of Wood Products Division

Nick Stokes -- Executive Vice President of Building Materials Distribution

George Staphos -- Bank of America -- Analyst

Mark Wilde -- Bank of Montreal -- Analyst

Reuben Garner -- The Benchmark -- Analyst

Kurt Yinger -- D.A. Davidson -- Analyst

Paul Quinn -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

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