ProBuild has tripled the stakes in its pending battle with 84 Lumber by making plans to set up three lumberyards in the heart of 84's territory, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewreports.

The newspaper, following up on a March 21 ProSales report that ProBuild was building a branch in Morgantown, W.Va., reported Friday that the Denver-based LBM giant also was opening a store in White Oak, Pa., as well as in Altoona, Pa. The Morgantown location is just 40 miles from 84's headquarters in Eighty Four, Pa., while the White Oak site is even closer at 30 miles. The Altoona location is more than 100 miles from 84's home office but within 50 miles of five other 84 locations.

ProBuild's plans represent one of the most overt challenges in years by one major lumberyard against another. ProBuild is the No. 2 company on the ProSales 100, with roughly 450 facilities and 2010 sales of $3.5 billion, 87% of them to pros. Meanwhile, 84 ranks fifth on the list with roughly 265 branches and $1.45 billion in sales last year, 95% of which went to pros.

The Tribune-Review quoted a ProBuild spokeswoman as saying the company was expanding into the Pittsburgh area "because of the market's dynamics." Data from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI) suggests Pittsburgh certainly hasn't seen its housing market plummet the way other markets nationwide have; the number of single- and multi-family housing permits issued in the metro area last year jumped 33.4% in 2010 from the year before to reach 4,371, HWMI said, and it expects permit issuances to rise another 27.3% this year to reach 5,562.

But there's a personal a personal angle to this story as well: ProBuild president and CEO Bill Myrick spent 25 years at 84 Lumber, rising to the post of chief operating officer before leaving for ProBuild in 2007.

According to the Tribune-Review story, Washco Real Estate purchased a former auto dealership for $1.3 million and leased the site to ProBuild under a 10-year agreement. Washco also owns the Altoona property.

"None of the three sites--White Oak, Altoona and Morgantown -- are yet open to the public for business and an announcement will be made when that occurs," the ProBuild spokeswoman told the Tribune-Review.

On Feb. 14, 84 closed a deal that uses federal and private loans to pay off the final $40 million of a $195 million, 18% interest loan that has hobbled the LBM giant's operations.