The global pandemic has threaded its way into every aspect of people’s lives whether on a physical, emotional, or economic level. One of the adverse effects has been the rapidly increasing price of lumber. Over the past year, the prices have skyrocketed leaving builders and renovators scrambling to find supply and to adjusting prices to accommodate the rising cost of lumber.

When looking to find the precise reason for the extreme hike in lumber prices it seems to be a theory of combined events that have led to the phenomenon. Some may harken back to the first wave of the pandemic and subsequent first lockdown when lumber mills shut down completely. Add in the fact that people were forced to stay home and look at their abodes that, in turn, led to a huge increase in renovation projects inside and out. Some think that the combination of lack of product and increased demand has led to the issue of rising lumber prices.

Brady Whitman with Rielly Homes in Cochrane says the business is always a roller coaster ride which has been amplified by the pandemic. Rielly Homes has been in business for 25 years and Whitman has been involved with the business since 2002, working with his dad and then taking over the business three years ago.  He says, “For our business, it’s hot and cold. It just depends on who wants what and when. […] I’ve been fortunate to stay busy, but it’s been harder to come by materials some of the material costs are out of sight recently which is making it harder for people to do projects.”

Whitman says that although he is not 100 percent sure what is causing the surge in lumber prices, he knows that the demand and price are apparent with the lumber and other building materials.  He says, “I have heard a hundred different reasons why.  Somebody told me that there is a ton of lumber sitting at the factories, but the suppliers just won’t buy it because it is so expensive, they will only buy it as people need it.  So, they don’t want to over-buy with lumber being so expensive, so they aren’t bringing it in.  And then it’s just sitting at the wholesalers waiting to be purchased.”

Whitman’s company is being kept busy with indoor renovations as opposed to new builds and therefore he hasn’t had to purchase large amounts of lumber yet. With people spending more time in their homes, they are seeing projects focusing on kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring. However, with the arrival of spring people turn their sights to the outdoors and the price of the lumber may be putting the deck, pergola, and fence projects on hold until the prices come down. So, the old dodge and weave of avoiding the high lumber prices by choosing a project that takes less wood.

Whitman says that with the rise in lumber prices, he sees and hears of more people choosing composite products for deck and outdoor projects. It used to be that composite was thought to be the rich man’s product but now that lumber has come more in line with those products people are leaning towards the composite choice and increasing the demand there.

Whitman says, there are other items in short supply, including bathroom products and fixtures and such. “One of the biggest things is resin that is used to make plumbing pipe, and all sorts of plastics in the industry like vinyl siding is actually out of supply. They cannot make vinyl siding and plumbing pipe, so these things are going to come into short supply as we move into the summer. With all these things in mind, it is no wonder that the price of building a new house has increased by 20 to 30 thousand dollars in the past year. When a builder is buying lumber in bulk and that price has doubled of course it is going to be reflected in the final price.

As with everything else associated with the pandemic, there is no way of knowing when the prices will come down.  Whitman says, “The lumber prices, even though they’re crazy right now, they’ll come back in line. Or people just get used to paying it and their budgets change for projects.”

So, the gamble is, do you wait for prices to come down or will they simply continue to rise due to increased demand. Whitman says at the moment, he is being kept busy obtaining the products for future projects because of the unknown of whether they will be available in the coming few months.

The fluidity of the global pandemic makes everything a guessing game and will continue to have that effect until it is well behind us.