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Rising cost of lumber impacting construction and renovations

Whether one is building a house from scratch or a deck in time for summer, lumber prices are up and supply is limited.

The rising cost of lumber during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging builders and home renovators, leading to increased costs and construction delays.

Whether one works in the construction business or is a homeowner building a deck in time for summer, lumber prices are up and supply is limited.

“The price of lumber — there’s no ceiling on this right now,” Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Central Interior president Jere Lorenz said.

Lorenz described a variety of lumber products having tripled and quadrupled in price since last June. Homebuilders use lumber to frame buildings, build walls and construct roofs. It is also the choice material to build a majority of one’s house.

Cost and supply issues, however, are leading some to consider alternatives, like steel studs. The concern is that a run on other materials could drive up those prices.

The problem? Lorenz said amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mills laid off staff and operated at a slower pace. Canadian mills, he said, hired back staff, but took time to ramp up production, while U.S. mills have yet to resume production.

Meanwhile, demand for lumber has been high on both sides of the border, leading to supply shortages and cost increases. A lot of lumber from British Columbia heads south, Lorenz said.

“When we get a truckload of lumber that comes in, it’s gone,” he said. “It’s disappeared because the amount of projects that are going on, not just in Kamloops, but there’s a whole housing industry.”

Lorenz said the problem is being felt throughout British Columbia and spinoff effects impact not only plywood and two-by-fours, but also lumber byproducts. For example, roof trusses, baseboards and cabinets are built with wood and, as a result of rising lumber prices, the cost of those building products has also risen.

Lorenz said Kamloops is a busy market, but noted homebuilders are challenged in maintaining budgets and timelines. He said homebuilders may make a sale and get a price from the lumber yard, truss or cabinet factory, but can only honour prices for a certain number of days. He said price adjustments are occurring because lumber prices are so volatile.

“This is very challenging right now for the homebuilders,” Lorenz said, noting he has never seen anything like this in his long career.