By Robert Dalheim of Woodworking Network,
Lumber prices have hit $1,000 per thousand board feet, an all-time high, according to data from Random Lengths. That's double the price from three months ago.
"Price increases—some to record-setting levels—and long delivery delays are causing hardships for construction firms that are also experiencing challenges in completing projects with crews limited by illness or new work site procedures resulting from the pandemic," the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) wrote in a release.
“The extreme price increases, as reflected in today’s producer price index report and other sources, are harming contractors on existing projects and making it difficult to bid new work at a profitable level,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “While contractors have kept bids nearly flat until now, project owners and budget officials should anticipate the prospect that contractors will have to pass along their higher costs in upcoming bids.”
The AGC has joined the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in urging intervention from President Biden.
"AGC believes the White House can play a constructive role in mitigating this growing threat to multifamily housing and other construction sectors by urging domestic lumber producers to ramp up production to ease growing shortages and making it a priority to work with Canada on a new softwood lumber agreement," the AGC wrote in a letter.
"We also urge the administration to look for ways to facilitate shortening delivery times of lumber to end users. This could include easing cross-border truck and rail shipments, unloading at ports, hauling of logs and other raw materials to mills and engineered-wood producers, and shipping wood products to distributors and construction sites."
The NAHB called on the White House the end tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments last week.
"Lumber price spikes are not only sidelining buyers during a period of high demand, they are causing many sales to fall through and forcing builders to put projects on hold at a time when home inventories are already at a record low," it said in a statement.
Higher prices are likely behind the drop in single-family housing starts for January, which saw a 12 percent dip from December. OSB prices have also tripled since April.
Some of our readers have told us that the rising prices are affecting their woodworking companies.
"The price increases are also crushing the industrial/furniture market," one reader wrote. "As a woodworking company we worry that these prices will tip some of our clients towards tooling wood parts in plastic or other materials. Once that happens the clients are lost forever. Many of our clients don't believe us when we explain the cost of plywood and other sheet products. We send them the invoices so that they can compare what we quoted to what we need based on current plywood prices. Don't forget that the housing market is always at the front of the line and the woodworkers way at the back - even in good times."