June 20, 2021

Lumber yards say that because of lumber woes, planning ahead is important in home projects

A stud finder is commonly used to find studs in a wall when you want to hang something, but when you go to a lumber yard these days, you may find it’s a little harder to find studs, lumber and other building material due, in part, to the ripple effects of the pandemic.

Local lumber yards say they’ve done OK at keeping things on hand, but that doesn’t mean they’ve seen the impacts of an ever changing market in the last year.

The price of lumber began to elevate very early 2020, they say. It went down for awhile but it’s back up again.

Real reasons for the price hike are logistical in nature, such as transporting the lumber. Wildfires have also taken a toll on lumber supply.

“It just escalated from there,” said Jim Dickerson, manager at Fontanelle Lumber Co.

Lumber costs two and a half times more than when the spike began, Dickerson says. The price of steel held its ground until last fall, however it has now gone up approximately 50% from where it was before then. Dickerson said both steel and lumber, as well as many other building materials, are hard to get right now.

“You can order lumber but you might have to wait four to six weeks to get it. Depending on what you get, you just don’t know. You order it and the heck of it is that they’ll give you a price, but the price is not determined until it’s delivered,” Dickerson said. “If it goes up between now and the time you get it, whatever it goes up you have to pay.”

Jimmy Freeland, owner of Greenfield Lumber, has seen the same thing happening.

Freeland said he saw the challenges beginning when people were staying home last spring and were drawn to working on what he calls their “10-year projects” that they had been putting off.

“That’s what kicked it off, is everyone was demanding that stuff. All the way through winter the prices never came down,” Freeland said.

Freeland said that from what he understands, interest rates are low, meaning that prospective home buyers will oftentimes be able to borrow in order to buy materials for building a home just as easily as they can buy one, so new home builds have not ceased. Dickerson said he has talked to some prospective builders who are becoming sheepish, though, and holding off.

“People can buy at a reasonable interest rate now, so if you can push it out 30 years you could get a pretty good house right now,” Freeland said. “They can get the house they really want instead of the house that’s OK and they’ll make it work for them.”

To combat the long wait times to get materials, lumber yards say industry experts are advising they have 60 to 90 days of stock on hand, but Freeland said those wanting to embark on mid-sized or larger renovations or building projects should plan ahead and speak with a local lumber yard sooner rather than later about their upcoming need.

“The biggest question is when is this going to stop? Probably not this year. I don’t see this slowing down anytime soon,” Freeland said. “There are people who have big projects they’re doing, and I can respect that. You want something? Go after it. We’re trying to do what we can to keep prices down, especially for guys who tell us in advance what they’re working on. We can’t plan in advance for walk-ins. Those are really hard to plan for. Also, you’ve gotta weigh what the cost versus the use is.”