Why Is Lumber Hard To Find?

January 18, 2021 By ,

If you started a building project last year, you likely ran into a major problem: there’s hardly any lumber out there! Even if you did find lumber, the prices may have been much higher than usual. What’s been going on with the lumber industry and what can we expect in 2021? 

Supply and demand

When the pandemic first hit, many in the industry expected the demand for lumber to fall. Instead, with vacations cancelled, businesses and offices closed, and nothing else to do, homeowners went into a home improvement frenzy. At the same time, massive wildfires tore through most of the West Coast, drastically increasing the need for supplies to rebuild.  

Consumers and contractors began buying up supplies, and at the same time, manufacturers faced slowdowns. The pandemic not only caused factories to close due to COVID outbreaks and lack of workers, but supply chains were affected when the borders closed. While pressure-treated lumber, dimensional lumber, and deck materials were the first to sell out, other supplies like nails and screws became hard to find, too. Items imported from China took the hardest hit. With all the available inventory being purchased and not enough new stock being replenished, consumers soon found empty shelves at their local big box stores.  

Ipe Lumber

In the 4th quarter of 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI) reported that over 70% of contractors experienced a shortage of at least one material and over 30% reported a shortage of lumber. Nearly 90% claimed these shortages were having a moderate-to-high negative impact on their business. 

Disruptions in supply chains

As mentioned above, supply chain disruptions affecting a variety of industries have been a major issue during the pandemic. Manufacturers and lumber mills have had to reduce capacity in order to operate safely or even shut down entirely during COVID-19 outbreaks. Some manufacturers have been forced to temporarily close if they’ve been deemed nonessential by the government. As countries around the world closed their borders and their ports, it became increasingly difficult to ship materials even if they were able to get produced.   

Skyrocketing prices

As a result of the record-high demand and bare bones supply, prices – you guessed it – rose to unprecedented levels. On average, the price of lumber has doubled over the past year. In one especially surprising example, one contractor in New York state provided an estimate to a client during the spring. Three months later, when the client was ready to proceed, the materials cost had increased from $2,300 to $8,300. Luckily, prices started to decrease in fall 2020 but supply issues remain.  

What will happen to lumber supply this year?

  • Some supplies have slowly started to return and shortages in other areas have popped up. To see a return to normalcy, production at mills and manufacturers will need to stabilize and demand will need to ease to let the supply catch up.  
  • The state of the housing industry is another factor. Housing has been in short supply since the Great Recession caused many small contractors to close their doors. The National Association of Realtors reports that the inventory of homes for sale is at the lowest levels in at least 40 years.  
  • Contractor confidence remains high, though, and with the advent of the COVID-19 vaccines, there is plenty of optimism that supply problems will even out by mid-year.  

Good News: Hardwood Decking has lumber in stock!

If you need lumber for your deck or fence project, contact Hardwood Decking Supply today. We have a great selection of beautiful, high quality tropical hardwoods, like ipe, tigerwood, and garapa. Since we purchase straight from the mill, our ordering process is streamlined and less affected by interruptions in the supply chain. Contact us today to discuss your project needs!  


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Batu Hardwood Decking

Lowest Prices For Tropical Wood Decking Available

At Hardwood Decking Supply, homeowners and contractors receive the highest quality grade-A ipe, batu (mahogany), cumaru, tigerwood, and garapa wood at incredibly low prices and excellent customer service from our decking experts.

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